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I cannot tell a lie. Fredericksburg, Virginia is one of those rare places that immediately charms you with its quaint storefronts and tree-lined, cobbled streets. Its authentic, 1700s homes and beautifully preserved Main Street welcome you to another time in American history. And for the fans of the father of our country, Fredericksburg spotlights the Washington family legacy. It’s George Washington’s boyhood home!
Few spots can claim such a distinguished association as Fredericksburg. The Washington family’s presence here is strong with many stories to tell. We’ve picked a few Washington Heritage favorites for you to explore when you visit Fredericksburg.
George Washington lived on picturesque Ferry Farm from the time he was six until he was about 22 years old. If he really chopped down a cherry tree, it would have been on these grounds!
Take a guided tour of his perfectly replicated home while learning about his life, the lives of his family members, and the enslaved community here. Countless intriguing artifacts have been excavated that give visitors a peek into daily colonial and civil war era life.
Historic Kenmore was built by George’s sister, Betty, and her husband Fielding Lewis. Betty was Washington’s only sister to survive to adulthood. She and Lewis were also fervent patriots and used their wealth and status to support the war efforts.
Kenmore House offers guided tours of the Lewis’s Georgian-style mansion, which reflects their wealth and status during this time. You’ll learn about the family, their contributions to the revolution, and the women who led the 1922 charge to preserve Kenmore House.
The Mary Washington House was home to George’s mother, Mary, during the last 17 years of her life. Her son, George, purchased the house for her in 1772, and she lived here when he was inaugurated as the nation’s first president in 1789.
The little white house sits at the corner of Charles and Lewis Streets (just a short walk from Kenmore.) It has been beautifully preserved and is available to visit every day but Tuesday.
Just a stone’s throw from the Mary Washington House is the 1772 Hugh Mercer Apothecary. Dr. Mercer was a Scottish-born physician and former Jacobite (Outlander, anyone?) who served the residents of Fredericksburg for 15 years before joining in the fight for freedom.
Unfortunately, the good doctor lost his life at the Battle of Princeton, but his apothecary remains at 1020 Caroline Street.
Charles Washington was George’s youngest brother and an active member of the Fredericksburg community. He married Mildred in 1757 and had four children. He served as a trustee for the town and as a magistrate for Spotsylvania County. He also bought several properties in town.
In 1760, Charles built a lovely home on Caroline Street close to family. In 1792, he sold the property to the Wallace family, who opened the Rising Sun Tavern in bustling Fredericksburg.
Today you may not be able to rent a room, but you can still stop by the museum for a lively, interactive look at 18th-century tavern life and most of the structure’s magnificent original woodwork.
Let’s not forget the family lawyer! In 1768, James Mercer built a frame house on the land once owned by Washington’s brother-in-law, Fielding Lewis. Mercer was a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, the first judge of the General Court in Fredericksburg, and the attorney who drew up Mary Washington’s will.
The St. James’ House is one of the few colonial frame houses still standing in Fredericksburg. It has an impressive collection of antique furniture and decorative arts.
Note: St. James’ House is only open seasonally. Please check the website for hours of operation.
Of course, there’s so much more to do in Fredericksburg! Shop in Old Town, visit the battlefield, stop at the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library, hop on a tour, or sit back and relax at one of the many local watering holes or restaurants.
Haley Backlund and Victoria Matthews from the Fredericksburg Department of Economic Development and Tourism recently revealed a few hidden gems on the most recent episode of Destination Dispatch.
Check it out below!
The Washington family certainly knew what they were doing when they put down roots in Fredericksburg. And while it might be missing a few cherry trees, Fredericksburg is packed with historical highlights and colonial charm!
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