Upper Caroline Neighborhood History

Researched by Jan Waltonen & Roger Engels, HFFI Marker Committee

Written by Jan Waltonen

Article compiled for the 2019 Candlelight Tour. Properties on the tour included the Rising Sun Tavern, 1308, 1309, 1310, 1513, and 1517 Caroline Street.

This year’s Candlelight Tour (CLT) explores a neighborhood whose history began more than a hundred years before the American Revolution. Before about 1779, “Land Patent” documents conveyed land in the royal colony of Virginia from the colonial governor in Williamsburg—in the name of the King of England—to individuals who could pay their passage to America. This “headright” system rewarded persons with 50 acres of land if they sailed to Virginia to “inhabitate.” However, if new immigrants could not afford to travel to Virginia, others could finance the cost of transporting them, receiving 50 acres for each person they imported. Designed to attract colonists to Virginia to work for its benefit and provide revenues for the Crown, the system successfully encouraged settlement and increased the colony’s population. Both Fredericksburg and the area encompassing this year’s Candlelight Tour owe their beginnings to the Land Patent system.

In 1662, a large Land Patent of 812 acres was granted to Captain Thomas Hawkins, a close friend of the earliest Washingtons, who paid to transport 17 persons to Virginia. Seventy years later, Hawkins family descendants sold their Patent in two equal parts. The 406 acres that Francis Thornton of King George County purchased extended north from Lewis Street—the original boundary of Fredericksburg—to present-day Hunter Street, embracing all the properties on this year’s CLT.

Seven years later, in 1742, Colonel John Lewis (1694–1754) bought the Thornton “half tract” for £500. Lewis’s purchase, adjoining the upper end of town, supported his new and ambitious business enterprise. As a prominent merchant, he was shipping goods to the West Indies, London, and other trans-Atlantic ports. Within 1 year of acquiring the Thornton tract, Lewis had built and was operating a store, warehouses, and a shipyard, all located at the site of the present-day Fredericksburg Library. To oversee the mercantile extension of his shipping business, he enlisted his second son, Fielding, and in 1749, built the Lewis Store on the west side of Caroline Street just outside the town line. (Today, the Lewis Store, one of the oldest surviving urban retail stores in the United States, is headquarters for HFFI.) As the store’s manager, Fielding Lewis sold items such as rum, buttons, gloves, sugar, coffee, “brest” buckles, and “soop” spoons. His customers included George Washington, who, in a letter to his mother, requested she buy cloth, hose, and thread for him from “Mr. Lewis’s store.”

Although all this year’s CLT properties lay outside the corporate limits of Fredericksburg in Spotsylvania County before 1759, several factors fueled Fredericksburg’s growth and expansion to include new land. Founded in 1728 as a shipping port, Fredericksburg became an important center of trade. Ships brought European goods for sale in local stores, and tobacco, the basis of Virginia’s economy, was exported to England and Europe, solidifying Fredericksburg’s prominence as a center of commerce. Owing to its standing as a major port and seat of justice, the fledgling town grew rapidly. In 1759, to accommodate the burgeoning population of merchants and tradesmen, court justices, tavern keepers, and enslaved and free blacks, the Virginia General Assembly expanded the town limits to include present-day Dixon, Winchester, and Canal streets—bringing all of this year’s CLT properties within town limits.

A beneficiary of Fredericksburg’s prosperity was merchant Fielding Lewis (1725–1781). By 1754, the year his father died, Fielding had amassed an estate of 1,300 acres, including the Thornton tract he had inherited. It was said he owned “half the town” in the days before the War for Independence. In 1775, on the eve of the Revolution, he and his second wife, Betty, George Washington’s sister, moved into their newly constructed Georgian mansion (now called Kenmore). Lewis, a patriot of the American Revolution, established a weapons factory in Fredericksburg. By May 1777, the Gun Manufactory was producing about 20 muskets weekly. Lewis spent £7,000 of his own money, which was never repaid, leaving the family to struggle financially after the war.

When Lewis died in 1781, his son John inherited not only his father’s lands in Fredericksburg but also his substantial debts. To pay them down, John sold three town lots in 1785 to Henry Fitzhugh of Bell Air, Stafford County. Lot 178, site of two of this year’s CLT homes, marked the northernmost boundary of Fredericksburg and was considered a “suburb” of the town. (The term “suburb” was commonly used then as now to refer to an outlying part of a town or city.) In the early nineteenth century, a number of planned suburbs were laid out on the fringes of Fredericksburg and named after the land speculators who developed and financed them. Henry Fitzhugh, member of one of the “first families of Virginia,” was among those investors. He divided his new acquisitions into residential lots, naming the area “Fitzhughtown” after himself. Two houses on this year’s Candlelight Tour, 1513 and 1517 Caroline Street, are on Fitzhughtown lots. By 1787, Fitzhugh was renting his land to “sundry free Negroes and whites.”

The 1300 block of Caroline Street was also under development during the late eighteenth century. In 1761, Warner Lewis, Fielding’s older brother, sold George Washington’s younger brother, Charles, the lots where Charles would build his private residence in 1762. Thirty years later, the building was sold outside the Washington family and converted to a tavern. Today, Washington Heritage Museums operates the Rising Sun Tavern as a living history museum to showcase Fredericksburg’s colonial history.

Upper Caroline continued to develop as a diverse neighborhood in the 1800s. The United States Censuses are organized in order of households visited. The 1860 Census reveals that individuals working as shoemakers, “washwomen,” plasterers, weavers, and stone masons lived side by side with more affluent residents: a carriage maker, barrel maker, “loom boss in a factory,” and a dry goods merchant.

The impact of the Civil War on the upper Caroline neighborhood was devastating. On December 11, 1862, Union engineers attempted to build three pontoon bridges. The northernmost crossing site terminated at Hawke Street, just one block south of this year’s CLT properties. Ordered to delay the Union troops, General William Barksdale’s Mississippi riflemen, positioned along Sophia Street, fired on the bridge builders, preventing them from completing the northern pontoon bridge. Union commanders responded by ordering a massive artillery bombardment. The shelling of Fredericksburg destroyed about 100 structures—10% of the city. Two beams in the Rising Sun Tavern’s roof were cut through by artillery fire.

Despite the fire of 150 cannons, the Mississippi sharpshooters, entrenched in cellars and doorways, could not be dislodged. Union infantry finally crossed the river and ultimately cleared away the snipers, although they fiercely contested every block. Among the streets most closely associated with the street fighting were the streets on this year’s CLT—Fauquier, Hawke, Pitt, and Canal. The cost was great. In gardens and backyards, graves of the dead were scattered across the city.

The area comprising this year’s CLT was also hard hit with indiscriminate destruction and looting the day before the Battle of Fredericksburg. Argalus E. Samuel, a carriage maker owned the lot on which 1513 Caroline now stands. He was just one of several residents who filed “A Memorandum of Losses in the Shelling & Since” with the Common Council of the town, which passed the following resolution on January 10, 1863: “Resolved that the funds now being raised by the voluntary contributions of the Army for the relief of the citizens of Fredericksburg who have suffered so severely by the bombardment & sacking by the abolition Army shall be received and disbursed. . .” Receipts collected totaled a remarkable $32,292.60. Samuel’s inventory of losses included “provisions on hand and groceries stolen” worth $96.60—much more than the value he placed on any of his furniture or even his “working tooles” [sic].

The war continued to be a harrowing experience for A.E. Samuel. Following the Battle of the Wilderness in May 1864, about 60 Union soldiers—many slightly wounded—made their way to Fredericksburg, seeking to return to Union lines. Placed under citizens’ arrest, they were sent to Richmond as prisoners of war. In retaliation, federal authorities arrested a corresponding number of local citizens to be held as hostages until the Union soldiers were released and returned. Samuel was one of 57 men sent to the military prison at Fort Delaware. After 3 weeks, Fredericksburg’s mayor and Common Council sent an appeal to the Confederate Secretary of War in Richmond: “Surely the matter of a few [federal] prisoners cannot be allowed to interfere with the humane and generous work of restoring to those desolated homes and those mourning women and children, the only source of comfort in this war-ravaged and desolated town. . .” Samuel was subsequently exchanged in July, only to find that his sister had died during his imprisonment.

After the war, Fredericksburg’s residents were left to rebuild in a shattered economy. It took nearly a generation for the town to begin to prosper again. The houses on this year’s CLT—built between 1870 and 1911—echo that slow recovery. They illustrate not only Fredericksburg’s eventual renewal but also the contrasts that came to define Upper Caroline’s character. 1513 Caroline, constructed shortly after the war in 1870, was built for James Ryan, an Irish immigrant and stone mason. Assessed at only $350.00 at the time, it represents the many post-war working class residences of this diverse neighborhood. In contrast, in 1911, the Victorians at 1308 and 1310 Caroline were built by G.B. Wallace, a prominent Fredericksburg citizen who served as the Commonwealth’s Attorney for 20 years. These three CLT properties symbolize the wide diversity of architectural styles and residents’ socio-economic levels, offering a vivid glimpse into a rich history. Welcome to Upper Caroline!

Good-bye Summer (thanks for 200 years of hard work!)

By Danae Peckler, Architectural Historian / HFFI Board Member

Damaged summer beam prior to replacement.

If you have visited the Lewis Store at any point in the past couple of years, you might have caught a glimpse of it. Exposed, sagging, and broken. The building’s old summer beam, that is. Defined by preservation professionals in An Illustrated Glossary of Early Southern Architecture and Landscape (Lounsberry 1994), a summer is “a large bearing beam running the length or breadth of a building that provides support for the floor. Summer beams are support by either ground sills or girders and have the ends of common joists set into them at regularly spaced intervals.” Back in 1807, this beam was installed at the Lewis Store to support the addition of the second story to the building.

HFFI began rehabilitating the Lewis Store at the turn of the twenty-first century after it had sat vacant for a time with holes in the roof. Great lengths were taken to preserve what professionals refer to as the historic fabric of the building at all stages of the rehabilitation. This work ranged from simple (sistering damaged framing members to preserve them in place) to fairly complex (enclosing a new truss system within the floor at the second story to allow for office space upstairs), adhering to the Secretary of the Interior’s (SOI) Standards for the Rehabilitation of Historic Properties [https://www.nps.gov/tps/standards/rehabilitation.htm] at all times and gaining approval from staff at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR) [https://www.dhr.virginia.gov/].

In recent years, cracks in the plaster ceiling of the first floor drew attention to the aging summer beam above. Following the removal of portions of the circa-2000 ceiling along the beam’s path and thoughtful inspections from no fewer than a dozen different professionals with experience in historic preservation, structural engineering, timber-framing, and general contracting, HFFI crafted a plan to replace the beam using in-kind materials as noted in SOI Standard 6:

New summer beam being installed inside the Lewis Store.

Deteriorated historic features shall be repaired rather than replaced. Where the severity of deterioration requires replacement of a distinctive feature, the new feature shall match the old in design, color, texture, and other visual qualities and, where possible, materials. Replacement of missing features shall be substantiated by documentary, physical, or pictorial evidence.

To make a long story short, HFFI hired licensed timber-framer Allen Anderson and his team to carefully remove a deteriorated portion of the 1807 summer beam that had been left in place during the store’s rehabilitation despite no longer carrying the load of the second floor. The section removed has been saved, while a new beam of the same dimensions and wood species–carefully selected, felled, and cut by Mr. Anderson–was put back in the same place as the original. The Lewis Store’s new summer beam is open for viewing as it dries in place for now—stop by and check it out, if you’re interested. We’ll be plastering the ceiling again soon! 


Lounsberry, Carl (editor). 1994. An Illustrated Glossary of Early Southern Architecture and Landscape. University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville.

Historic Bricks and Mortar 

by Natalie Chavez and Danae Peckler; edited by Linda Billard

The Lewis Store, HFFI’s headquarters, is the embodiment of honest brick construction in a classic Georgian architectural style from the mid-eighteenth century. This mass masonry brick building has multiple wythes, or vertical sections of brick wall, laid in two different bonds. The Lewis Store’s elevation showcases the stylish Flemish bond, while the interior wall of the building showcases the stronger English bond. Most of the building’s brick dates from its original construction in 1749 and added second story in 1808, although some minor repairs were made to damaged areas during its rehabilitation in 1999 and 2006. Contributing to the Lewis Store’s durability is the craftsmanship and skills of its builders and the make-up of its mortar. 

Figure 1: Brick Bonds from Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 4, Part 3, 1911.[1]

All mortars are composed of three main ingredients: a binder or cementing material, an aggregate such as sand, and water. Prior to the late nineteenth century, lime was used as the binding agent. It was created by crushing stone or oyster shells and burning the resulting material to create quick lime that was later mixed with water and sand. Traditional lime mortars are remarkably forgiving of both the weathering of time and the environment, allowing for “some movement in the brickwork without showing signs of cracking under normal seasonal conditions.”[2] This differs greatly from the rigidity of Portland cement, which became commonplace by the early-20th century. Owners of historic brick buildings make a crucial mistake by repairing mortar joints using a Portland-based mortar. While Portland cement has many benefits, its use in historic masonry creates long-term problems, even inducing decay of the bricks themselves. 

Figure 2: Image from Colonial Williamsburg Showing Oyster Shells After Burning.[3]

Experts in the field of preservation advocate for using the gentlest techniques in the maintenance of historic brick. Such work is only needed every 100–150 years and, in most cases, a sensitive repointing with lime mortar will last another 100 years unless the repair is addressing the symptom of a larger problem that has gone unaddressed.

You can find more information about taking care of historic brick buildings on HFFI’s website and review Cristine Lynch’s 2012 National Register of Historic Places nomination for the Lewis Store to learn more about our great building!

Other great resources

Traditional brick construction: https://www.buildingconservation.com/articles/traditional-brickwork/traditional-brickwork.htm

Efflorescence https://johnspeweik.com/2011/11/17/efflorescence-of-masonry/

How to identify lime mortar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fh0Ad3FKDrE

Importance of lime mortar: https://www.ncptt.nps.gov/blog/podcast-episode-33-andy-degruchy-on-the-historic-uses-of-lime-mortar-and-its-continuing-importance-today/ Finding the right mason for the job: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TmW8ZvsBUs

[1] The Project Gutenberg EBook of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition,Volume 4, Part 3. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/19699/19699-h/19699-h

[2] Geoff Maybank, “Traditional Brickwork.” https://www.buildingconservation.com/articles/traditional-brickwork/traditional-brickwork.htm

[3] Image from Colonial Williamsburg’s Richard Charlton’s Coffeehouse blog: https://research.history.org/Coffeehouse/Blog/index.cfm/2009/3/4/Lime-Burn

Cooperation for Preservation of Historic Properties

Cooperation for Preservation of Historic Properties

by David James, HFFI Board President

Since 1955, the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation, Inc. (HFFI) has been devoted to protecting and preserving historic structures and landscapes of our city that give it a true sense of place and authenticity. Recognizing that each modification of an historic building could impact the integrity of our architectural heritage, the organization takes proposed changes very seriously. Therefore, HFFI has decided to appeal a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) approved by the Fredericksburg Architectural Review Board (ARB) on December 10, 2018.

The ARB approved replacement of a wooden front porch at the home on 129 Caroline Street with concrete, brick and tile. HFFI has held a restrictive preservation covenant on the property since 1974. It has worked with the current owners on several occasions, including on a well-designed, historically sensitive, and substantial addition made in the early 1990s.

The ARB, HFFI, and many other preservation commissions and organizations are charged with the review of alterations to significant historic resources. They draw from the same professional standards and guidelines, known as the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. The modifications proposed are in clear violation. These Standards specify that:

— “The distinguishing original qualities or character of a building, structure … shall not be destroyed.”

—“The removal or alteration of any historical material or distinctive architectural features should be avoided when possible.”

—“Deteriorated architectural features shall be repaired rather than replaced, whenever possible.”

In a previous application some time ago, the property owners sought to make similar changes, proposing to replace the wood front porch with brick. This portion of the application was denied by the ARB on grounds that the porch was an important architectural feature of the house.

Because it holds a restrictive covenant in the deed to this property, HFFI has standing in this matter. The homeowners have attempted to void the covenants, but HFFI holds that the covenants cannot be modified or terminated except by the agreement of all parties entitled to enforce the covenant.

Moving forward, HFFI asks that:

—The wood front porch remains in place and be repaired using in-kind materials as the Historic District Handbook and ARB guidelines require, unless the property owners work with HFFI to establish a mutually agreed upon alternative compatible with preservation practices and ARB guidelines in a new COA.

—The ARB adheres to the Secretary of Interior Standards detailed in the Historic District Handbook and articulated by the design standards and guidelines therein.

—The ARB provides HFFI with notice when a request for alteration is made on property covered by one of its covenants.

—It be an active partner in any revision of ARB guidelines.

—City Council reviews its 2012 Memorandum of Understanding with HFFI to clarify the organization’s role in protecting structures in the historic district.

Besides enforcing its restrictive covenant, HFFI hopes that the City Council would give it standing to appeal to the Circuit Court on decisions to raze, demolish, or move any structure in the city. Unfortunately, in the last few years, we have lost historic properties that should not have been destroyed. This is why HFFI was formed in the first place, and so HFFI wants the right to stop this injustice.

Homeowners and building owners are temporary stewards of these unique properties. The organization has partnered with them throughout its history to preserve, protect, and revitalize this great city. With support from the community, HFFI has led the effort to preserve Fredericksburg for the past 64 years. The organization wants the tools to continue these efforts.

1210 Sophia Street


1210 Sophia Street – Can it be Saved?

By HFFI Staff

(Updated 5/1/2017)

1210 Sophia Street is in danger of being demolished. If the clock runs out—it will be gone. But there is a chance to relocate this 100+ year old property to a new location. YOU can help save it!


1210 Sophia Street

1210 Sophia Street – Photo Credit: Fredericksburg City Staff

Located within Fredericksburg’s Downtown Historic District, 1210 Sophia Street is a contributing resource. This modest building, situated along the Rappahannock River, is an example of housing used by Fredericksburg’s working class residents at the turn of the twentieth century. It is in good condition and structurally sound, but the only option besides demolition is relocation.


The City of Fredericksburg has offered up to $20,000 to aid in the costs of moving the house to an open lot within the city, but no matter of its location it will remain under the purview of the city’s Architectural Review Board and the city’s historic district overlay. But there is a deadline, so don’t delay! Help us get the word out, and this 1890’s house may once again be called a home.


Built in 1894, this two-story house was built for Gilbert C. Walker, an iron worker, and it remained in the Walker family for almost 100 years. The rear addition was added in 1953, (identified through an independent archive of city records), and Sanborn Maps as well as census records round out the history of the house and its residents. (Special thanks to Kate Schwartz, Historic Resource Planner—City of Fredericksburg, for her efforts in researching the history of this home. – Read more about the history of this home here.)


1210 Sophia Street Interior

1210 Sophia Street Interior – Photo Credit: Fredericksburg City Staff

Do you own a lot that this building could be moved to? Or perhaps you know someone who does? This is a chance for us to save a historic building from demolition, and HFFI is happy to see the city contributing funds from the Blight Abatement Fund to assist in the project.


Learn more and read the city’s Memorandum to the Architectural Review Board about 1210 Sophia Street (including additional history and applicable Historic District Design Standards & Guidelines).


Also online, read The Free Lance-Star article about the city’s decision to remove the building.


For UMW student, and HFFI intern, Kiernan Ziletti’s perspective on the situation, read his article featured in the March issue of Front Porch Magazine.


Questions or ideas on how to save this historic building?  Contact us at [email protected] or 540-371-4504, or Kate Schwartz at [email protected] or 540-372-1179.


UPDATE: An open lot near downtown has been located, further details to be worked out. Are you interested in taking on this project? Contact HFFI at 540-371-4504 to learn more.


UPDATE – 5/1/2017:

The official RFP for the sale of this building has been released and can be seen on the Fredericksburg website at http://www.fredericksburgva.gov/bids.aspx?bidID=82

Closing date/ time – 9/21/2017 2:00 PM

Pre-bid Meeting – May 4, 2017, 10AM at site

Contact Person – Lynn Enders
[email protected]




A Lesson in the Benefits of Restoration: St. George’s Episcopal Church


A Lesson in the Benefits of Restoration: St. George’s Episcopal Church

By Sam Biggers

As we celebrate Historic Preservation this May, it is worth remembering the benefits Fredericksburg has seen from the preservation of our built heritage. There are numerous preservation success stories, and one need not look far to see the benefits of preservation in our community. One of the most prominent buildings in Fredericksburg, St. George’s Episcopal Church, is a superb example of the positive effects of preservation. In 2009, St. George’s completed a seven-year restoration project, restoring the interior to its former glory. Though the official project lasted seven years, efforts to preserve the church have been ongoing since the late 1990s.

St. George’s Episcopal Church can lay claim to having a church on their lot for almost as long as Fredericksburg has existed. The current 1849 church is the third on the site, and was built as the congregation grew immensely during the 1830s and 1840s. The church was built in 1849 in the Romanesque Revival style, with decoration an obvious aim. Though it is not clear if decorative paint was present when the church was built, it existed sometime before 1894, when an account lamented that “a good deal of the frescoing was peeling off.”

It appears that the issue of peeling decorative paint was rectified in 1906, when a renovation sought to accentuate the interior of the church through new decorative paint. An article in The Free Lance from November 1st, 1906, describing these changes, reads:

“It would be difficult for any one not an artist to describe the improvements that have recently been completed in St. George’s Episcopal church.

The entire vestibule has been tiled with grey and brown tiles, and its walls have been tinted a very deep cream color, while the celling has been finished in small rolled iron squares.

The body of the church has been frescoed throughout. The wainscoting is a Nile green, the walls the yellow green now the favorite color of some of the principal church decorators in the country. The ceiling has been smoothed into broad panels by the campo board and tinted in delicate green with gold borders. The divisions between wainscoting and walls are marked by dotted bands old rose, and the overhead sides, above the gallery and under the cornices with a deep border of intricate cross design.

The arches are centered with medallions in which the symbols of the name of our Lord are wrought in gold.

The chancel (1) has its memorial window blended in one group by diaper work (2), and on each side are the Easter lilies in faces. The general effect of the color scheme is quiet and restful to the eye, not elaborate or ornate, but wrought out in exquisite taste by the artist, G.M. Strueby, of Washington.”

A series of renovations from the 1920s to the 1950s eliminated much of the interior decoration of St. George’s. The decorative paint, which had served to beautify the church for almost a century, was painted over in favor of a stark white color. Whereas the 1906 renovation’s goal was “putting the Church in order and the beautifying [of] the Church,” less than twenty years later much of the decorative paint was removed. A 1954 renovation removed the intricate wood paneling on the wall behind the alter, believed to be original to the 1849 building.

The wood paneling, original to the 1849 church, shown here during its restoration. Circa 2000.

The wood paneling, original to the 1849 church, shown here during its restoration. Circa 2000.

By the 1990s, the interior of St. George’s was a shadow of its former self. Recognizing this, the church began the process of returning the interior of the church to an appearance comparable to its original 1849 look. One of the first charges of the restoration effort was the reinstallation of the historic wood paneling. Still in storage since their removal in 1954, the church hired Mark Moyers, a local wood restoration expert, to restore, assemble, and install the paneling. For four months, Moyers painstakingly refinished and assembled the more than 1,500 pieces of wood that comprised the paneling. Following their reinstallation, the church began its seven-year restoration effort.

When St. George’s undertook the restoration project, the church understood that planning would be crucial before changes were to be made. The church recognized their building’s rich history, and made the preservation and commemoration of it central to the restoration plan. Changes to paint in the nave (1) from the 1920s to the 1950s had left the interior whitewashed, eliminating much of the original decorative paint. The discovery of a 1906 photograph served as the basis for the reapplication of the decorative paint. The 1906 picture was taken during a renovation whose aim was very similar to the one undertaken in 2002—to recapture the church’s former interior appearance.

The aim of the restoration was not to return the church’s interior to a single point in the past. Rather, the restoration attempted to upgrade the church with a strong understanding of the history of the interior. Much of the interior decorative paint had been lost, and despite having the 1906 photograph as a record of what existed, the church chose not to replicate the lost paint. Instead of reapplying paint motifs visible in the 1906 picture during the new restoration, they instead moved them to the vestibule. The new motifs for the interior were chosen because of their symbolic ties to the Episcopal Church. The use of new paint motifs gave reference to the church’s rich decorative past, while moving the church forward with a modern design.

The addition of decorative paint was complemented by the installation of improved lighting to transform the nave and chancel areas (1). Additionally, the church updated crucial infrastructure, including electrical wiring, handicap accessibility, and fire suppression. While the restoration project was projected to cost $4 million, the church utilized Virginia Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits, which allowed the church to finish under budget. The seven-year restoration effort by St. George’s Episcopal Church resulted in a completely transformed interior. The picture below perfectly summarizes the changes in the church’s interior. The story of St. George’s is a common one in Fredericksburg— renovations completed with a view to the past.



Sources Consulted

“A Beautiful Church,” The Free Lance (Fredericksburg, VA.), Nov. 1, 1906.

Interview with Ben Hicks, Business Manager, St. George’s Episcopal Church, April 21, 2016.

Interview with Mark Moyers, Owner, Mark Moyers Antiques, May 2, 2016.

Quenzel, Carrol H. The History and Background of St. George’s Episcopal Church, Fredericksburg, Virginia. Richmond, VA: Clyde W. Saunders and Sons, 1951.

St. George’s Episcopal Church documents (accessed at St. George’s Episcopal Church)


  1. Learn more about the parts of a church on Wikipedia
  1. Diaper is any of a wide range of decorative patterns used in a variety of works of art, such as stained glass, heraldic shields, architecture, and silverwork. Its chief use is in the enlivening of plain surfaces.” – Wikipedia

To read more about the history of St. George’s Episcopal Church and its architectural details visit www.stgeorgesepiscopal.net/about-us/history/


Oh Hear That Train Whistle Blowin’


Oh Hear That Train Whistle Blowin’

By Olivia R. Blackwell

Puffs of smoke billowed up from the engine toward the sky and a cheering crowd gathered around the train as it came to a rumbling stop. It seemed as though everyone in town was gathered at the station, eagerly awaiting the door to open. It was October 23, 1886, and President Grover Cleveland stepped off the train to greet the citizens of Fredericksburg.(1) Only two decades prior, the North and South battled over this rail line chartered by the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad (RF&P). The line that ran through Fredericksburg sat on a strategic point during the Civil War, with both armies laying track to move supplies and then burning it after it was no longer needed. President Cleveland’s stop in Fredericksburg was welcomed by all that day and over 100 years later Fredericksburg came together again to welcome another train’s arrival.


1926 construction of the train bridge across the Rappahannock River.

The turn of the century was the beginning of an exciting new era for train travel in Fredericksburg. Built in 1910 by the RF&P, the Georgian Colonial style train station was a gem standing proudly downtown on what was then known as Prussia Street. The street name paid tribute to the German State of Prussia, which was ruled by Frederick William I in the early 1700s. However, Anti-German sentiment took over when the U.S. entered World War I in 1917 and Fredericksburg demanded a change. City Council voted to rename the street Lafayette Boulevard in 1918, honoring Marquis de Lafayette.(2) A friend of George Washington, Lafayette fought alongside the United States during the Revolutionary War. In 1907, an additional set of tracks connecting Washington, D.C. and Richmond was completed by the RF&P, though Fredericksburg would not join the line until 1927.(3) Along with the new tracks, the bridge over the Rappahannock was finally replaced in 1927.(3) With these additions, the bustling station needed more room to grow. On May 1st, 1927, the citizens of Fredericksburg celebrated the arrival of their new train station; additional wings and a raised platform allowed the station to handle the increased traffic.(3)

The train proved to be a vital asset during wartime. The government relied on the RF&P heavily during WWII to move soldiers and supplies, so much so that traffic on the rails at this time was at its highest point in RF&P history.(3) After the war was won and soldiers returned home, the automobile quickly found its way onto America’s growing stretches of roadways. The average American family now owned a car and no longer wanted to sit on a train to get where they needed to go. The station held on for a few more decades, but eventually faded into the background. In December 1976, Amtrak closed the ticket office and the station became unmanned. With only a caretaker on site only on weekdays (locals may remember caretaker Archie Elder), the station soon fell victim to neglect. Paint peeled off of the walls, the roof leaked onto the few passengers who continued to use the station, and dark corridors became a haven for unlawful activity and vandals.


Broken window at Fredericksburg Train Station before renovation.

The first big break in the journey to a rehabilitated station was Amtrak’s allocation of $50,000 for a new passenger platform roof in 1980. Amtrak was confident that the station rehabilitation might not cost as much as originally thought and that no other major work was needed.(4) Work on the roof was to begin in August of that year, but was delayed as the roof, and the riders, would have to wait. During the years that followed, riders were left to defend themselves against both the criminal and decaying structural elements that were making the station an eyesore on the historic downtown. To make matters worse, the station was not regularly inspected. In order to be inspected, the city had to declare it unsafe. To answer the public safety outcry, Amtrak and the RF&P teamed up with local police in 1988 to patrol the station daily.(5) The patrols were a success, but the floors were still crumbling, graffiti covered the walls, and corridors remained dark at night.

In June 1989, RF&P and Amtrak put an additional $200,000 toward the rehabilitation effort. These funds were only allocated to cover the bare bones of the building. The leaking roof, crumbling concrete, broken lights and windows would be fixed, but all cosmetic needs would have to wait.(6) Both the RF&P and Amtrak’s initial plans for the rehabilitation of the station did not comply with the city’s regulations for the renovation of a building in the historic district. The Architectural Review Board refused to permit the changes both companies proposed for the station, due to alterations such as removal of the original canopies over the passenger platforms and installation of modern glass shelters.(7) The RF&P claimed that they were not familiar with regulations for buildings in historical districts when they made their initial plan.(7)


Interior photo of the Fredericksburg Train Station before renovation.

Throughout the 1980s and 90s, the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation, Inc. regularly advocated on behalf of the Fredericksburg train station. HFFI worked with city entities, ranging from City Council to the Architectural Review Board, to gather support and momentum for the preservation and rehabilitation of the station. The Foundation stressed rehabilitation and staying true to the historic design of the building, as opposed to a complete overhaul and modern redesign. HFFI was not only concerned with conserving the historical integrity of the building, but was also worried about the growing safety threat the decaying station had on the downtown community. Train riders and City Council members alike were eager to say goodbye to the crumbling train station and the dangers that came along with it. However, getting Amtrak, the RF&P, and local entities to agree on a deal to bring the Fredericksburg train station back to life would prove to be more difficult than any party imagined.

During this same time period, the RF&P reviewed the possibilities of turning the train station into a bustling center of commerce and downtown tourism; retail and factory outlet stores and tour coaches.(8) However, the RF&P was never able to negotiate a deal for redeveloping the station for retail. With no plans in place, the station continued to decay. Members of City Council grew impatient and made their voices heard. In the winter of 1989 Councilman Robert C. Wheeler referenced the large amount of money the RF&P spent on rail facilities in Richmond and Northern Virginia and urged the RF&P that it was time to invest in Fredericksburg.(9) Councilman H. William Greenup said it was “high time” that the station get restored and pressed for a time frame to hold all parties accountable.(8) Former Councilman W. Sidney Armstrong was disillusioned with the project, telling The Free Lance-Star in January, “I’m not sure there will ever be a whole lot done.”(9)

When work on the passenger platform roof finally started in 1990, things got off to a slow and frustrating start. After Amtrak and the RF&P removed the roof, work slowed to a halt. Upon spending roughly $65,000 on asbestos removal and setting aside another $135,000 for stabilizing the platform, both companies wanted to trim costs. (10) They hired inexpensive labor and sourced volunteer work from the community, to even include new cornice work done by a James Monroe High School shop class. Riders were still able to use the station during this time, but unfortunately, there was no roof to protect them from the elements. Councilman Gordon W. Shelton told The Free Lance-Star, “Stupidity tore the roof off before they had a plan in place.”(11)


Volunteers donate their time to bring the neglected Fredericksburg Train Station back to its previous glory.

The Virginia Railway Express (VRE) commuter rail was another issue hanging in the balance in 1990. City Council approval of a line through the town meant more riders and increased cooperation from Amtrak and RF&P to invest in Fredericksburg’s historic station.(10) Though downtown citizens, HFFI, and city entities were eager to bring more visitors to their historic town and revitalize the area, there were still concerns to be had, given the companies’ reluctance to fully support the station’s continued use. Chief among them, parking and traffic, which had to be carefully planned for and accommodated without significantly changing the character of the area.(12) To help fund the project, the city started collecting a 2% tax on gasoline in August 1990. By September 1991, the tax raised $800,000 for the city to put toward construction costs.

In early 1992, things were finally starting to look up. The Architectural Review Board had approved a design for a new VRE passenger platform adjacent to the old station and the first commuter train was scheduled to arrive in town June of that year.(13) Executive Director of HFFI, Catharine Gilliam, was pleased with the plan, which included new windows and lights in the passenger shelter that reflected the original design. Unfortunately, the initial bids on the project came in $350,000 too high, forcing the city to take a step back.(14) The platform design was revised, and work got off to a late start in April 1992. Construction crews worked around the clock during the weekend leading up to the opening of the station. The new VRE platform had ticket machines and was handicap accessible. On July 20, 1992, excited commuters left on the first VRE train out of Fredericksburg at 5:29 a.m.(15)

Though this was a hard-fought victory for Fredericksburg, both HFFI and citizens still hoped that something would be done with the old station across from the new VRE line. In 1992 the city submitted a proposal seeking federal grant money to aid in the rehabilitation of the station.(16) With $500,000 eventually awarded from the federal government to use on the rehabilitation, Fredericksburg was ready to make their station dreams a reality. Three years later, the station finally had a buyer. Business owners Gary and Catherine Musselman moved to Virginia in the early 1990s to find the old station in a sorry state. Inspired by the building’s history and potential, they signed a deal to buy it from the RF&P in 1995.(17) Joined by restaurant owner Claiborne Thomasson, the three put one million dollars toward the project, in addition to the $500,000 federal grant, and got to work.(18) Claiborne’s opened in October 1997 to great acclaim, ushering in a new era of fine dining in Fredericksburg, and breathing new life into the train station.

Today, the train station is once again the pride of Fredericksburg. Serving 117,423 riders annually, the station is a hive of activity in the historic downtown.(19) The station connects Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Washington, D.C., giving commuters and travelers alike an alternative to the gridlock on Interstate 95. Amtrak runs six trains through the station daily. Weary train riders searching for a bite to eat need not look far. The Bavarian Chef, a restaurant specializing in authentic German cuisine, is housed in the interior of the old train station. Although Fredericksburg Amtrak train riders can no longer buy a ticket to their destination at the old station, they can still admire the historic building and hear the train whistle blow as it rolls into town.




  1. 2015-06-01-01-014

    A young helper does his part during an HFFI volunteer clean-up day at the Fredericksburg Train Station

    Wrenn, Tony P. “Tracking train station’s history.” The Free Lance-Star, February, 1999. Accessed April, 2016. https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=3wMzAAAAIBAJ&sjid=iAgGAAAAIBAJ&pg=3630%2C1271095

  1. Alvey Jr., Edward. The Streets of Fredericksburg. Fredericksburg: The Mary Washington College Foundation, Inc., 1978.
  1. Pearce, John N. and students. “Gateway and Focal Point: Preservation Planning for Fredericksburg’s RF&P Station and for the Area Adjacent to it.” Mary Washington College Department of Historical Preservation, 1987.
  1. Giegerich, Steve. “New Roof tops train station needs.” The Free Lance-Star, May, 1980. Accessed April, 2016. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1298&dat=19800530&id=jfpNAAAAIBAJ&sjid=gIsDAAAAIBAJ&pg=1994,4682880&hl=en
  1. Toler, Jim. “Station showing its age.” The Free Lance-Star, January, 1989.
  1. Hedelt, Rob. “Rail lines agree to fix station here.” The Free Lance-Star, June, 1989.
  1. Toler, Jim. “Preservation dispute delays station project.” The Free Lance-Star, July, 1989.
  1. Toler, Jim. “Councilman seeks action on station.” The Free Lance-Star, January, 1989.
  1. The Free Lance-Star, “‘Eyesore’ station stirs vote for action.” January, 1989.
  1. Toler, Jim. “Railroad trying to stretch its repair dollar.” The Free Lance-Star, June, 1990. Accessed April 2016. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1298&dat=19900605&id=IfxNAAAAIBAJ&sjid=kIsDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4627,850490&hl=en
  1. Toler, Jim. “Renovations stalled; Fredericksburg train station continues to deteriorate.” The Free Lance-Star, August, 1990. Accessed April 2016. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1298&dat=19900816&id=WftEAAAAIBAJ&sjid=BowDAAAAIBAJ&pg=5440,2763360&hl=en
  1. Catharine Gilliam to Tony Hooper, memorandum, December 18, 1991.
  1. The Free Lance-Star, “Design for commuter rail station approved.” January, 1992.
  1. Burke, Robert. “City races to finish station.” The Free Lance-Star, July, 1992. Accessed April, 2016. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1298&dat=19920718&id=Uf9NAAAAIBAJ&sjid=w4sDAAAAIBAJ&pg=5924,2824985&hl=en
  1. Lease, Daryl, and Jim Toler. “Commuters climb on board.” The Free Lance Star, July, 1992. Accessed April, 2016. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=9fRKRCJz75UC&dat=19920720&printsec=frontpage&hl=en
  1. Toler, Jim. “Commuter rail seeks federal funds to add service.” The Free Lance Star, May, 1992. Accessed April, 2016. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1298&dat=19920508&id=DOJLAAAAIBAJ&sjid=1YsDAAAAIBAJ&pg=1453,4291912&hl=en
  1. Dennen, Rusty. “Would be buyers want fix station.” The Free Lance Star, June, 1992. Accessed April, 2016. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1298&dat=19960606&id=AtYyAAAAIBAJ&sjid=ywcGAAAAIBAJ&pg=6407,1015165&hl=en
  1. Byrd, Ted. “A railside renaissance.” The Free Lance Star, October, 1997. Accessed April, 2016. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1298&dat=19971010&id=jS4zAAAAIBAJ&sjid=eAgGAAAAIBAJ&pg=4247,2270020&hl=en
  1. “Station Facts.” Great American Stations. Accessed April 2016. http://www.greatamericanstations.com/Stations/FBG.


From Great Virginians to Gloria Swanson: A History of Smithfield and the Fredericksburg Country Club


From Great Virginians to Gloria Swanson: A History of Smithfield and the Fredericksburg Country Club

By Deborah Walters Pederson
(Abridged version—for the full article, see The Journal of Fredericksburg History, Volume 11)


Mannsfield-HABSIts tree-lined driveway hints of something from Gone with the Wind. The place has hosted presidents, first ladies, and movie stars. Union generals held council, slaves toiled, and both Union and Confederate wounded received succor there. Royalty, statesmen, Olympic champions, and George Washington visited—the latter running his greyhounds in the fields along the Rappahannock. Music from grand balls floated through its rooms.

The property known as Smithfield underwent a transformation common to many of the region’s plantations. In 1753, on the original Crown-issued patent given to Lawrence Smith in 1671, the Brooke family built the first great mansion—Smithfield—by the Rappahannock River. John Pratt, Jr., purchased Smithfield in 1813, but had to rebuild the house on the same location after the great fire in 1819, where it stands today. During the Civil War, Thomas Pratt was the owner of Smithfield—just a stone’s throw away from the Union front line during the December 1862 and May 1863 Battles of Fredericksburg. The Pratt family owned the great mansion until 1905.

The house was the site of a hospital serving the wounded of the Union First Corps’ First Division. Here, General Franklin had his headquarters and watched the 32,000 men of his Grand Division hurl themselves time after time at the lines of Stonewall Jackson, breaking the lines and thrusting through the gaps with victory in their grasp, only to be driven back. In front of the mansion house, General Doubleday moved with his division of infantry, and to the left, General Rufus Dawes made the charge against Jackson’s lines. Nearby, the Union army threw two pontoon bridges across the Rappahannock River to allow the army to cross. Today, within walking distance, are several gun pits in original condition.

A member of the Second Pennsylvania Reserves recounted the seizure of Smithfield on December 12, 1862: “Our regiment was sent to occupy the buildings and out-houses at ‘Smithfield,’ and to hold the bridge across Deep Run actually another, unnamed creek, which had been dammed to create the pond. The main building was Dr. Thomas Pratt’s large brick house, which, being unoccupied, we entered through a window, and found it very handsomely furnished. Colonel McCandless caused the arrest of the overseer and two other white men and sent them off to be detained until the battle as over.”

Smithfield was subsequently converted to a hospital. Another Union infantryman penned this account of his unnerving sojourn near the building later that day: “We came to the halt near a large brick plantation house that was being used for a field hospital. It was an awful sight to see hosts of wounded men being brought there, the ghastly amputating tables, the surgeons at work and the piles of arms and limbs and the poor fellows laid in rows in and around the house and outbuildings. We stopped here but a short time, but all of us were not sorry when we got orders to move.”


Page from a 1926 Mannsfield Country Club publication highlighting visitor Gloria Swanson.

From 1866 to 1868, workmen disinterred the remains of 78 Union soldiers at “Pratt’s Farm” (Smithfield), and moved them to the Fredericksburg National Cemetery.

The next owner was Conroy Vance. He bought adjoining property and renamed his home Mannsfield Farm. He was a banker and valued member of the community. In 1922, after he and his wife died in the Knickerbocker Theater in Washington, DC, when the roof collapsed due to heavy snow. Vance’s greatest wish had been for the area to have a country club. His dream came true after his death; in May 1925, several local businessmen got together and formed the Mannsfield Hall Country Club. It was the grandest of openings, with the Sid Shannon Serenaders band, Japanese lanterns glistening, and the townspeople dressed in their best formal clothes dancing till dawn. The Club became a social hub of the community as it is today.

On October, 19, 1928, the nearby battlefields were dedicated on the front steps of Mannsfield Hall Country Club. What a day it was—President Coolidge and many prominent figures came to the Country Club to formally dedicate the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. More than 5,000 people attended, including many luminaries, as recorded by The Free Lance-Star.

During the ceremony, the United States Marines from Quantico were placed in charge of securing the city streets and escorting the presidential party. Representing the South during the unveiling was Miss Rebecca Mason Lee, great niece of General Fitzhugh Lee and a great granddaughter of Captain Sidney Smith Lee, Robert E. Lee’s brother. Representing the North was Miss Clem, daughter of General Clem, USA (Retired). During the ceremonies, while the President was speaking and the tablet was unveiled, cameras clicked and movie cameras filled the air with the sound of their cranks as thousands of people watched.

Unlike many historic houses in the region, Smithfield/Mannsfield Hall Country Club/Fredericksburg Country Club still lives. The echoes of those who trod the halls and grounds before us still reverberate— the Brookes, the Pratts, their slaves (names unknown, quarters vanished, and burial places unrecorded), soldiers by the thousands, the Vance family, golfers by the foursomes (including Gloria Swanson), and even a president. The story continues, but what a good thing it is to pause and remember, as Judge Francis Brooke mused: “Tis pleasant to recall our former days, what we have been, and done, and seen, and heard, and write it down for those we love, to read.”


Click image to view film footage of the President Calvin Coolidge's visit to Smithfield and downtown Fredericksburg in 1928.

Click image to view film footage of the President Calvin Coolidge’s visit to Smithfield and downtown Fredericksburg in 1928.



Francis H. Brooke, A Family Narrative (New York: The New York times & Arno Press, 1971)

Free Lance-Star, November 23, 1909, January 31, 1922, May 14, 1925, May 13, 1932

Gershon Fishbein, “A Winter’s Tale of Tragedy,” Washington Post, January 22, 2009

Noel G. Harrison, Fredericksburg Civil War Sites, December 1862-April 1865 (Lynchburg, 1990)

Virginia Gazette, November 15, 1770, August 1, 1771, September 2, 1773

Virginia Herald, April 3 and July 10, 1804, May 15, 1819, April 20, 1833, April 22, 1835


For the complete bibliography see the full article in The Journal of Fredericksburg History, Volume 11
Read more about the easement that HFFI holds on the Fredericksburg Country Club in the following Free Lance-Star articles from March, 2016.

March 14, 2016 Free Lance-Star article
March 18, 2016 Free Lance-Star editorial