Before the house, the land was the site of Martin’s Hundred plantation and Wolstenholme Towne, an ill-fated English settlement founded in 1620, just a few years after the establishment of Jamestown five miles upriver. Wolstenholme was destroyed during a native Powhatan massacre of English settlers in 1622.
But Carter’s Grove had better luck. For 260 years, it steadfastly survived looting, flood, hurricane, earthquake, a Hollywood crew filming a now-forgotten Cary Grant movie, and a marauding Revolutionary War colonel who billeted his Redcoats there and, legend has it, rode a horse up the main staircase, hacking the grand railing with his sword along the way. A 1928 renovation diminished the Palladian perfection of its exterior, but still, it endured.
Carter’s Grove may have finally met its ruin, however, in the unlikely form of Halsey Minor, a brash 40-something technology investor living in San Francisco.
Minor bought Carter’s Grove from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in 2007 and vowed to restore it to its former glory as a palatial private home. It was a suitably high-profile homecoming of sorts for Minor, allowing him to reassert his family’s long history of prominence in Virginia.
The Minors are an old Charlottesville family, and sitting near the center of the University of Virginia campus are Minor Hall (named for John Minor, an early law professor) and Halsey Hall (named for Minor’s relative, World War II Adm. William “Bull” Halsey). Around the same time as his Carter’s Grove purchase, Minor broke ground on a luxury hotel in downtown Charlottesville. In many ways, the local boy made good was returning to his native soil.
Minor made a large fortune in the first Internet boom. Shortly after graduating with an anthropology degree from U-Va. in 1987, Minor set out for San Francisco to stake a claim in the nascent Internet industry. He and another U-Va. grad, Shelby Bonnie, co-founded CNET, an Internet media company that went public and was eventually acquired by CBS Corp. Minor went on to cannily fund start-ups such as Salesforce.com and the company that became Google Voice. He had a knack for spotting good talent and good ideas.
Many of these investments yielded spectacular financial returns. The young entrepreneur beamed from the cover of Forbes in 1998 as one of the “Masters of the New Universe.” Fortune celebrated him as one of the wealthiest Americans younger than 40, along with fellow phenom Jeff Bezos, and ahead of Tiger Woods and tech investor Marc Andreessen. Minor opined on technology for Charlie Rose, and the Clintons dined at Minor’s house in San Francisco while in town to drop Chelsea off at Stanford.