["Berry Hill Version 2"] by Kenneth H. Cook.
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Berry Hill stands virtually alone in the architectural history of the United States. For while there are other noble examples of the Classic or Greek Revival style across the country, man of them in Virginia, where the style originated, this fine mansion, with its great octastyle portico, is justly considered to be the greatest of them all. The mansion was built by James Coles Bruce, regarded as America's largest slaveowner, holding over 3000, on land which he purchased from his cousin, General Edward Carrington, in 1841. Just when actual construction began is not known; in fact, family tradition holds that it commenced in 1833 and was completed in 1841. Whether or not Mr. Bruce would have built such an imposing residence on land not then belonging to him is open to speculation. It is known that General Carrington was forced to sell all his Halifax County lands because of debts, so perhaps Mr. Bruce had accepted the land long before the actual deed was written. In any event, the plans are said to have been drawn by a close family friend, John Evans Johnson, who would later design Staunton Hill, the Charlotte County home of Mr. Bruce's half-brother Charles. Mr. Johnson, though not a trained architect, was trained in engineering at West Point, and later worked with Alexander Jackson Davis, the great architect of the Gothic Revival period. Among his many accomplishments, Mr. Johnson was in charge of the redesigning and rebuilding of the buildings at the Virginia Military Institute after they were burned in the Civil War.