The 75,000 square foot St. Francis de Sales building rests on a 25 acre parcel overlooking the James River in Powhatan Co., VA. The Sisters of The Blessed Sacrament still own this property, as well as the 2265 acres which surround it.
St. Francis de Sales building and 25 acre parcel
St. Francis de Sales is hidden from view from State Route 684 by woods, adjacent farmland and a mile long approach. The building, with its size, bell tower and Baroque Greek Revival, 3-story chapel, has a commanding presence. The craftsmanship and detail are remarkable. Most of the materials used for construction were milled or quarried from the property.
In over 30 years the main building has been largely untouched, with the exception of necessary repairs. More repairs are desperately needed. No new construction or mechanical upgrades to the building have been made since the early 1950’s.
Surrounding St. Francis are lawns, playing fields and open pasture, Other buildings include a former boiler facility with attached classroom, a tenant house and a Quonset hut.
The Adjacent Property
Deep Creek, a tributary to the James, divides the overall property into a1585 acre western parcel named Belmeade, and an eastern parcel of 680 acres named Rock Castle, (formerly, Mt. Pleasant). St. Francis de Sales sits on the Rock Castle side.
St. Emma's Military Academy was located on the Belmeade side. Plans to redevevelop the parcel of land surrounding the mansion (approximately 30 acres) and the the mansion, are under consideration.
The Conservation Easement
The Comprehensive Plan developed by the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, the Virginia Property and Steering Committees and partners calls for approximately 2000 acres of the original land to be placed in a conservation easement. As Powhatan Co. continues to develop, this property, one of the largest of its kind remaining in Central Virginia, will be restricted from future development. This easement will forever preserve and protect the delicate balance of the land and the beauty it holds.
Activities and structures which are allowed on the land include:
- hiking and and exercise trails with handicap accessibility
- canoeing with structures available to promote access
- picnic areas
- nature observation and environmental study