Fredericksburg's Mary Ball Washington was an intrepid 18th-century woman who raised five children alone. The oldest became the first President of the United States.
Mary Washington's name and heritage are alive and well in the Fredericksburg area and beyond. Her home is at the corner of Lewis and Charles streets; the Mary Washington Monument is on Washington Avenue, which was originally Mary Washington Avenue.
This article first appeared in the Fredericksburg Times magazine. It was later rebound with a collection of other articles on archaelogy by Mr. Butler and others as the book, Fredericksburg Underground. It is reprinted here with Mrs. Elizabeth Butler's permission.
When we think of Fredericksburg history as it relates to Sophia Street, we immediately bring to mind a few specific remaining structures and sites as we see them today: The Toll House at the foot of Rocky Lane; the present Half Way house at Wolfe and Sophia Streets, once an early tavern. The Center for the Creative Arts, referred to as the Silversmith's House; and the Sandstone Warehouse at the bridge at Sophia and William Streets.
In 1852, Fredericksburg business men were concerned with the failure of the Rappahannock Canal (see Fredericksburg Times, Jan., 1978), the impassability of the turnpike, the incomplete state of the plank road and the loss of county trade to the Alexandria markets via the railroad.
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.
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.
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.
Beneath the silt of the Rappahannock and its shores lie objects and structural remains related to the earliest periods of Leaseland and Fredericksburg activity.
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.
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.