DeShields Fisher’s Will Leaves Town Property … and a Dilemma



Henry DeShields Fisher died June 21, aged 93.

Henry DeShields Fisher died June 21, aged 93.

Henry DeShields Fisher left one last surprise for Tappahannock Town Officials when he passed away in June.

Fisher’s will, which has been filed with the Essex County Circuit Court Clerk’s office, leaves his property at 218 Newbill Drive to the town, but there are conditions.

First, there is the reverse mortgage on the property that needs to be paid off. The clerk’s office has re- cord that a home equity line of credit was issued in 2007 in the amount of $790,000, but it is unclear how much of that was used or what is currently owed on the property.

If Town officials decide to pay off that loan and take possession of the property, Fisher’s will makes additional stipulations about how it could be used. The property, which includes a 3,300 square-foot house with a smaller guest cottage out back, overlooks the Rappahannock River from a bluff adjacent to the town park on Newbill Drive.

Fisher’s will instructs that the property, which he calls Willowgreen, is to become part of that adjacent park. In addition, the park itself is to be renamed in honor of Fisher’s grandfather, the first official mayor of Tappahannock, the Henry C. DeShields Park and signage with that name is to be prominently displayed.

Fisher also stipulates that the residential building on the property is not to be razed, but rather should be used as a wedding and meeting venue or as a yacht club or restaurant, with any income to be set aside for maintenance of the property. He also suggests the town rent out the on-site cottage, with the revenue again being used to maintenance costs.

Additionally, the acceptance of the gift would forbid the property from ever being further conveyed, other than to a 501(c)(3) non-profit or another government entity.

Less costly stipulations are also tied to the gift to the Town of the Wharf Lot, which is adjacent to the location of the old Tappahannock Wharf. Fisher’s will would only require the Town to place a sign on the lot commemorating the historic wharf and the steamboats it hosted, as well as again not conveying it to any group or individual other than a nonprofit or a government agency.

There is little indication what town officials plan to do in response to these conditional gifts.

Town Manager Eric Pollitt said the town is still in the process of gathering information and examining the facts, with the goal of making the best decision for all stakeholders.

Time is winding down for them to make that decision. Fisher’s will stipulates that the Town has 120 days from the date of his death to accept the gifts and their terms, or reject them.

If Town officials choose to take a pass on the properties, Essex County is named as an alternate beneficiary, with up to 120 days to accept or reject the same stipulations.

If neither government entity chooses to accept the terms of the will, the Willowgreen property will be conveyed to the lender whose interest it secures. The Wharf Lot will become part of Fisher’s residuary estate and will be distributed by a trustee.

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