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Colonial Williamsburg offers lone bid for Carter's Grove, returning plantation to old owner

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RICHMOND, Va. - Carter's Grove is returning to Colonial Williamsburg after a wealthy Virginian whose fortune went bust had to abandon the centuries-old plantation.

Colonial Williamsburg submitted the lone bid of $7.4 million Wednesday for the 400-acre property on the James River in Virginia's Tidewater region. The bid was subject to U.S. Bankruptcy Court approval.

The property is valued at just under $15 million.

The court-ordered sale attracted strong interest but only Colonial Williamsburg qualified to bid, trustee Stanley J. Samorajczyk said in an interview.

To qualify, bidders had to submit a $250,000 deposit and proof they were financially qualified to purchase the plantation with more than a mile of river frontage and an historic, fully restored mansion.

Samorajczyk blamed the still-dicey economy for the dearth of qualified bidders. "I think it's a function of today's marketplace," he said.

Colonial Williamsburg said it would have no comment on the purchase until the court approved the sale later Wednesday.

The 18,700-square-foot plantation house, considered among the best examples of Georgian architecture in the U.S., was built in 1755 and has ties to the very earliest European settlers in Virginia. It's only miles from Jamestown, the first permanent European settlement in America.

The Rockefeller Foundation donated the property to Colonial Williamsburg in 1969 and it was open to tourists until 2003.

In 2007, Halsey Minor, a wealthy dot-com entrepreneur from Charlottesville, purchased Carter's Grove for $15.3 million. He planned to live there and use the property and its stables as a thoroughbred horse farm.

In a Fortune magazine article shortly after the sale, Minor bragged he had purchased the "most historic property in America."

But Minor lost his riches in the recession and he never lived at Carter's Grove. He filed for personal bankruptcy in 2013.

In a separate proceeding, Carter's Grover was placed under bankruptcy protection in 2011 after Colonial Williamsburg closed on the property.

Colonial Williamsburg's bid equals what remains on the property's mortgage, Samorajczyk said.

But he said the final purchase price will balloon because of "significant" other costs related to the sale. More than $600,000, for example, was spent on repairs of the mansion since Minor purchased it.

The closing on the property is by month's end and Samorajczyk is hopeful a buyer will come forward before that.

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Steve Szkotak can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sszkotakap .

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