HOLMBERG: Meg Ryan filming in a very special part of the Richmond area

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HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Route 5 – Osborne Turnpike in eastern Henrico County - is one of Richmond’s best kept secrets, hugging the James River like a lover and offering beautiful rural living within minutes of downtown.

It’s the perfect place to hide a Hollywood movie production. In this case, Meg Ryan’s directorial debut (which will star her and perhaps – MAYBE - Tom Hanks) is filming at the historic Tree Hill Farm there after leaving production in downtown Petersburg.

Ryan’s movie, “Ithaca,” is a coming-of-age story about a 14-year-old bike messenger taking care of his widowed mother and family while his brother is off fighting in World War II. It also stars Sam Shepard, Melanie Griffith, her son Jack Quaid and this beautiful farm where Virginia horse racing began.

Caterers and host of other crew members and their circus-like tent can be seen from Route 5.

But the filming is going on down at the farmhouse and barn areas, away from public view, in the heart of this 530-acre farm that has been active for more than two centuries and was one of the area’s largest plantations.

Richmond Mayor Joseph Mayo surrendered the city to advancing Union Forces in 1865 under a majestic roadside oak on Tree Hill. That tree was blown down during a thunderstorm two years ago, although parts of the “Surrender Tree” were saved for posterity.

You can get a few glimpses of the farm in my video here.

It’s a good thing someone is filming it, because images of this historic, off-the-road farm are as rare as hen’s teeth.

And it’s a going to be changing in a major way. A carefully planned development, similar to, but more extensive than Rockett’s Landing, will be coming to Tree Hill Farm, although it’s unclear when construction will actually get underway.

You can check it out the planned development here: http://www.treehillva.com/

This part of the Richmond area is a very different place. The two marinas in the area are largely unknown to most Richmonders, even though this is a city that exists because of shipping.

Many property owners in this area have gamely fought development and the widening of Route 5, which is perhaps the most beautiful stretch of two-lane road this close to the city.

But there are already several developments that have been approved for the area, most stalled by the recession.

For now, mostly, it has remained a hideaway suitable for filming 70 years in the past.

It you haven’t seen it, take a drive on a nice day, or even better, a motorcycle or bicycle ride. Head out east on Main Street, past Rockett’s Landing, up the big hill and take the right fork at the 7-Eleven.

You might see skunks, deer and other wildlife. And you’ll certainly see a sweet slice of the river and a stupendous row of cedar trees. Drop in at the Lily Pad on your right for lunch or a drink, or picnic in the county park next door. There are battlefield parks for lazing through.

Just don’t expect to see any movie stars.


  • lori tanner

    Henrico county wont be happy until every big old tree is gone and every stretch of open field is paved. I guess they ARE that desperate for tax revenue. I hope this area never does get “developed.” Its criminal what Altria/Wal-mart did to the speciem trees at Reynolds crossing on Broad.

    • Linda

      Lori – I remember when the storm took out the Surrender tree. If it had not,I would hope the bike path would have gone around the tree instead of it being knocked down.

  • John

    I think it is awesome that famous celebrities are filming movies in Richmond. I like the fact that everyone is respectful of their privacy and allowing them to get their job done.

    • angel2

      Good point, DH. Columbia is rich in history, and the $$ from movie-making could spruce up the town…but hopefully not invite unwanted paving, building, etc.

  • Jim

    I agree, Plunder and Pillage every piece of open space until it is all gone and nature has been paved over with ugly cookie cutter style development. Who cares for the natural habitat and wildlife ? If Henrico had any sense they would leave parts of the County zoned for rural use and off limits to commercial development.

    • brandon

      I think every county should have rural preservation areas. This should be on televised news and the county zoning board needs to be challenged. It is not too late. The greed and gluttony of the developers and the county have gone too far it is time to stand up for what’s right and keep virginia beautiful…for shame Henrico for shame

  • vacountrygirl

    They should keep the plantation the way it is. We do not need anymore shops. Leave it as it is! If we keep tearing down historical places we won’t have any historical things left! I am furious about how people do not care about restoring historical places.

  • Johnnie G

    John hit the nail on the head. Hopefully folks will not stare and intrude on the Celebs. I recall the Boss was in town and was eating at Mama Zu’s, some Pinhead alerted folks to this on social media…so much for a quiet dinner.

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