History Feature Articles

The Fall of the Bastille

 On July 14, 1789, a Parisian mob broke down the gates of the ancient fortress known as the Bastille, marking a flashpoint at the beginning of the French Revolution.

"What is the third estate? Everything. What has it been up till now in the political order? Nothing. What does it desire to be? Something."
--Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes, French political activist

Market-House/Town Hall

Beginning a three-month tour of the Southern states in April of 1791, President George Washington came, unannounced, to Fredericksburg from Mt. Vernon.

Without delay, all forces were organized and an elegant dinner was prepared at Fredericksburg's Market-House/Town Hall to honor the hometown boy. The principal inhabitants of the corporation amassed at the brick building at the west side of Caroline Street, just below Market Alley.

Coaching Day at Stratford Hall

 On Sunday, April 24, 2005, the parade of 19th-century-era coaches came again to historic Stratford Hall, once home to two signers of the Declaration of Independence, a Revolutionary War hero, and Robert E. Lee. The triennial event is a major fundraiser for the National Historic Landmark in Westmoreland County.

A Return to Sunken Road

On May 29, 2005, a public dedication ceremony was held at the Richard Kirkland Monument, adjacent to the newly restored Sunken Road. Workers spent months burying power lines, removing pavement, and restoring the stone wall. All of this recreated the look and feel of what became one of the bloodiest pieces of ground in the Civil War.

Waterfront Story

Beneath the silt of the Rappahannock and its shores lie objects and structural remains related to the earliest periods of Leaseland and Fredericksburg activity.

John Lee Pratt's Frigidaire

 This sizzling summer seems a fitting season to recall the almost forgotten story of John Lee Pratt and the Frigidaire, one of the first "mechanical" refrigerators.

In 1919 Mr. Pratt, a King George County boy who would become a multi-millionaire and owner of Chatham Manor, was a General Motors engineer.

That same year GM had produced the Frigidaire, one of the first mechanical refrigerators for home use. They were called "mechanical" because some were powered by electricity, others by gas.

Downtown Hotels Abounded in the 19th Century

Today, Fredericksburg ponders the building of a single downtown hotel, but during the 19th century, Fredericksburg was known as a town of hotels.

Some were large and elegant. Some catered to specific clienteles. All left their mark on Fredericksburg’s history.

Most people traveling from Washington to points south stopped over in Fredericksburg. So did those who were on their way to the Virginia springs.

Saturday Night on Pleasure Island "Where the Birds Sing and the Cool Breezes Blow"

There are Fredericksburgers living today who well remember the carnival activity of Scott's Island. Most of those interviewed had difficulty pinpointing the exact dates of its beginning and end; however, judging from a handbill from the 1920s, the emphasis appears to have centered around Saturday night.

William Forrest Halsey: Silent Scenarist of Fredericksburg

Forrest Halsey (who did not utilize the "William" assigned by his parents at his birth in New Jersey on the ninth of November, 1878) was a grandson of John and Martha Whittemore, onetime residents of Fredericksburg's imposing Hanover Street mansion, Federal Hill.

Well-known both in Fredericksburg and in international literary circles during the two decades of 1910-1930, he is to most--like his silent movies--a nearly forgotten shadow.

Fighting for Civil Rights: A Battleground in the Old Dominion

From October through the end of December, 2006, the Fredericksburg Area Museum hosted a traveling exhibit, Civil Rights in Virginia.

Teachers were encouraged to bring middle and high school students to the museum to come face to face with this turbulent time in the state's history. An excellent exhibition curriculum guide, The Story of Virginia: Becoming Equal, is available for educators.