2022 Candlelight Tour Neighborhood History
The location for Candlelight Tour 2022 is in the College Heights sections of Fredericksburg. This is a new locality for tour-goers and Historic Fredericksburg Foundation, Inc. The early history of this location can be traced to an 1816 subdivision called Byram Hills. Originally owned by John Thornton, the 15 large lots passed through many owners. Byram Hills encompassed nearly all of today’s University of Mary Washington’s main campus and more than half of College Heights, proper.
By the late 1800s, this neighborhood became part of the Fredericksburg Development Company. The FDC was chartered in 1890 and was comprised of a group of local and New York investors that acquired approximately 1,500 acres in and around Fredericksburg. It was their intent to bring “more than 50 factories to Fredericksburg by 1895, and double the population.” (1) Instead, the FDC was bankrupt by 1893.
College Heights is located on a plateau that was outside Fredericksburg city limits until 1955. The once rural landscape was a popular hiking and picnic destination. In 1891, streets and lots were laid out with College Avenue (at that time called Avenue C) a dirt road. With the opening of the State Normal and Industrial School for Women in 1911, the neighborhood streets saw improvement. The 1920s saw the construction of homes in College Heights that were affordable to middle-class families. These homes reflected the increased popularity of the automobile with garages included in the construction. By 1928, the population of this area supported the construction of the College Height Elementary and High School. Growth in College Heights diminished during the Depression, but there was rapid development between the 1940s and the 1970s. A new post office was opened in 1941 in the 1600 block of College Avenue. A new water tank was constructed on Powhatan Street to replace the old water tank that could no longer support the College Heights community. By 1949, there was a bus route that connected this area to Fredericksburg. A community swimming pool was constructed in 1958. Since 1961, the residents of College Heights have been battling mixed-use zoning ordinances. The residents of College Heights want this area to remain residential and there have been on-going issues with businesses on Route 1, the University of Mary Washington, and the Catholic Diocese of Arlington. (2)
1. Corey Crompton, “As it is Today: A Series on our Architectural Heritage,” Front Porch, (Fredericksburg, Virginia), Nov 1997; “Fredericksburg Development Company,” vertical file, Virginiana Room, Central Rappahannock Regional Library.
2. Kimberly Packett, “Cultural Resource Survey of College Heights in Fredericksburg, Virginia,” Historic Preservation Capstone Projects, Paper 14, (Master’s thesis. Roger Williams University, 2016), pp. 9-18; http://docs.rwu.edu/hp_capstone_project/14 : accessed 10 Jan 2022.
Each of the properties on this year’s tour, in its own, unique way, promotes HFFI’s mission of “working to preserve, protect, and revitalize the distinctive historic environment and cultural resources of the Fredericksburg area.” In the 1950s, a nationwide preservation movement began work to preserve historic areas. The local Fredericksburg League of Women Voters began work on the creation of a Fredericksburg historic district. In 1955, “a group of local citizens alarmed by the destruction of several architectural and historical landmarks in the city” created the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation. [For more information on the creation of HFFI and the Candlelight Tour, please read (purchase) Homes for the Holidays: Historic Fredericksburg’s Candlelight Tradition.]
2022 Walking Tour Credits: Thank you to Sue Stone, Bill Shorter, Helen Ross, Danae Peckler, and Prof. Michael Spencer.