Tour Old Town Fredericksburg

We will start at the apothecary shop and go to the tavern and Mary Washington house and then possibly have lunch before going to Chatham House, which may not be in walking distance, although it isn't far. The apothecary and tavern are a lot of fun. We can set up carpools along 95, if desired.

Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop  (Admission fee is $5)

1020 Caroline Street  (ca. 1772)

This eighteenth-century building was restored to house the Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop, a museum of medicine, pharmacy, and military and political affairs.  Dr. Mercer served the citizens of Fredericksburg with medicines and treatments of the time. Leeches, lancets, snakeroot, and crab claws made up just some of the remedies.Dr. Mercer practiced medicine for fifteen years in Fredericksburg. His patients included Mary Washington. Dr. Mercer left his practice to join the Revolutionary army and died as a Brigadier General at the Battle of Princeton.

Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop is owned and operated by Washington Heritage Museums which received the building as a gift from Preservation Virginia on January 3, 2013. 

Visitors today can enjoy colorful first-person tours of the Apothecary Shop.

Rising Sun Tavern  (Admission fee is $5)

1304 Caroline Street  (ca. 1760)

Built by George Washington’s youngest brother Charles around 1760 as his home, this frame building became a tavern in 1792 when it was purchased by the Wallace family.  It operated for 35 years as a stopover for travelers in the bustling port town of Fredericksburg.

Preservation Virginia acquired the Rising Sun Tavern in 1907 and completed a series of restorations including the front porch.  Much of the beautiful woodwork in the tavern is original.  

The building is now owned and operated as a museum by Washington Heritage Museums which received the property as a gift from Preservation Virginia on January 3, 2013.  

Visitors to the site will experience a colorful introduction to 18th century tavern life through a lively tour given by costumed interpreters.

Mary Washington House  (Admission fee is $5)

1200 Charles Street  (ca. 1772)

Mary Ball Washington, mother of George Washington, spent her last 17 years in this home. Visitors today can tour the house and see Mary Washington's "best dressing glass." They can explore the garden and visit the original kitchen (a rare surviving 18th-century outbuilding). They can also visit the Mary Washington House Gift Shop which features a lovely collection of gifts to celebrate tea drinking, gardening, 18th-century decorative arts, and Virginia products. 

In 1772, George Washington purchased a house from Michael Robinson in Fredericksburg, Virginia for his mother. Mary Ball Washington spent her last seventeen years in this comfortable home.

The white frame house sits on the corner of Charles and Lewis Streets and was in walking distance to Kenmore, home of Mary's daughter Betty Washington Lewis. Tradition has it that, during the Revolution, General Lafayette found Mrs. Washington in her garden.

The President-to-be came to this home to receive his mother's blessing before attending his inauguration in 1789.
 

In 1890, Preservation Virginia acquired the Mary Washington House and saved it from certain destruction. The house was slated to be disassembled for travel to the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition for display. The house underwent a restoration and was opened to the public in 1931. 


Chatham Manor

120 Chatham Lane, Fredericksburg, VA 22405

This magnificent Georgian mansion, its various outbuildings and dependencies, and the historic ground which surrounds it represent a small preserve in which the entire scope of Virginia heritage can be understood and appreciated. Today Chatham is part of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park. The buildings and grounds are open Monday - Saturday from 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Five of the ten rooms contain exhibits and the rest of the building as well as the outbuildings are park offices.

Below is the text from the park's Chatham brochure.

Chatham History

Few houses in America have witnessed as many important events and hosted as many famous people as Chatham. Built between the years 1768 and 1771 by William Fitzhugh, this grand Georgian-style house overlooking the Rappahannock River was for many years the center of a large, thriving plantation. Flanking the main house were dozens of supporting structures: a dairy, ice house, barns, stables. Down on the river was a fish hatchery, while elsewhere on the 1,280 acre estate were an orchard, mill, and a race track, where Fitzhugh's horses vied with those of other planters for prize money. The house was named after William Pitt, the Earl of Chatham.

Fitzhugh owned upwards of one hundred slaves. Most worked as field hands or house servants, but he also employed skilled tradesmen such as millers, carpenters, and blacksmiths. In 1805, a number of Fitzhugh's slaves rebelled, overpowering and whipping his overseer and four others. An armed posse put down the rebellion and punished those involved. One black man was executed, two died while trying to escape, and two others were deported, perhaps to a slave colony in the Caribbean.

At the time of the slave insurrection, Fitzhugh was living in Alexandria. he had moved there in the 1790's, in part to escape the hundreds of guests who came to Chatham each year. The expense of providing food and entertainment gnawed at the aging landowner's pocketbook and undoubtedly contributed to his decision to move. Although the very idea caused him to "shudder," Fitzhugh left Chatham in 1796 and put the house up for sale.

Major Churchill Jones, a former officer in the Continental Army, purchased the plantation in 1806 for 20,000 dollars. His family would own the property for the next 66 years.

Famous Visitors to Chatham

Robert E. Lee was a guest at the home during the Jones's ownership, though there is probably no truth to the story that he courted his wife here. (The future Mrs. Lee never lived at Chatham and there is no evidence that she visited her grandparents' house). Lee was not the first famous Virginian to visit Chatham. George Washington, had stopped at the house on two occasions in the 1780's (he grew up at what is now called Ferry Farm a few hundred yards south of Chatham). Both Washington and Fitzhugh served together in the House of of Burgesses prior to the American Revolution, and they shared a love of farming and horses. Fitzhugh's daughter, Molly, would later marry the first president's step-grandson (and adopted heir), George Washington Parke Custis, whose daughter in turn would wed Robert E. Lee. The Fitzhughs were also good friends with Thomas Jefferson. Mrs. Fitzhugh was a second cousin of Jefferson. For many years we assumed that Jefferson visited Chatham, but could not prove it. Recent research found documentation that Jefferson visited the Fitzhughs at Chatham on October 27, 1793. President-elect William Henry Harrison was on the grounds of Chatham, but did not come inside. The Civil War would bring more famous Americans to Chatham.

The Civil War

The Civil War, which gave Lee fame, brought only change and destruction to Chatham. At the time the house was owned by James Horace Lacy, a former schoolteacher who had married Churchill Jones's niece. As a plantation owner and slaveholder, Lacy sympathized with the South, and at the age of 37 he left Chatham to serve the Confederacy as a staff officer. His wife and children remained at the house until the spring of 1862, when the arrival of Union troops forced them to abandon the building and move across the river. For much of the next thirteen months, Chatham would be occupied by the Union army.

Northern officers initially utilized the building as a headquarters. In April 1862, General Irvin McDowell brought 30,000 men to Fredericksburg. From his Chatham headquarters, the general supervised the repair of the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad and the construction of several bridges across the Rappahannock River. Once that work was complete, McDowell planned to march south and join forces with the Army of the Potomac outside of Richmond. President Abraham Lincoln journeyed to Fredericksburg to confer with McDowell about the movement, meeting with the general and his staff at Chatham. His visit gives Chatham the distinction of being just one of three houses visited by both Lincoln and Washington (the other two are Mount Vernon and Berkeley Plantation).

Seven months after Lincoln's visit, fighting erupted at Fredericksburg itself. In November 1862, General Ambrose E. Burnside brought the 120,000-man Army of the Potomac to Fredericksburg. Using pontoon bridges, Burnside crossed the Rappahannock River below Chatham, seized Fredericksburg, and launched a series of bloody assaults against Lee's Confederates, who held the high ground behind the town. One of Burnside's top generals, Edwin Sumner, observed the battle from Chatham, while Union artillery batteries shelled the Confederates from adjacent bluffs.

Fredericksburg was a disastrous Union defeat. Burnside suffered 12,600 casualties in the battle, many of whom were brought back to Chatham for care. For several days army surgeons operated tirelessly on hundreds of soldiers inside the house. Assisting them were volunteers, including poet Walt Whitman and Clara Barton who later founded the American chapter of the International Red Cross.

Whitman came to Chatham searching for a brother who was wounded in the fighting. He was shocked by the carnage. Outside the house, at the foot of a tree, he noticed "a heap of amputated feet, legs, arms, hands, etc.-about a load for a one-horse cart. Several dead bodies lie near," he added, "each covered with its brown woolen blanket." In all, more than 130 Union soldiers died at Chatham and were buried on the grounds. After the war, their bodies were removed to the Fredericksburg National Cemetery. Three additional bodies were discovered years later. They remain at Chatham, their graves marked by granite stones lying flush to the ground. Recent research also associates Dr. Mary Walker with being at Chatham. Walker was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the only woman from the Civil War to be so recognized.

In the winter following the battle, the Union army camped in Stafford County, behind Chatham. The Confederate army occupied Spotsylvania County, across the river. Opposing pickets patrolled the riverfront, keeping a wary eye on their foe and occasionally trading newspapers and other articles with them by means of miniature sailboats. When not on duty, Union pickets slept at Chatham. As the winter progressed and firewood became scarce, some soldiers tore paneling from the walls.

Military activity resumed in the spring. In April, the new Union commander, General Joseph Hooker, led most of the army upriver, crossing behind Lee's troops. Other portions remained in Stafford County including John Gibbons' division at Chatham. The Confederates marched out to meet Hooker's main force and for a week fighting raged around a country cross-roads known as Chancellorsville. At the same time, Union troops crossed the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg and drove a Confederate force off of Marye's Heights, behind the town. Many of the 1,000 casualties suffered by the Union army in that engagement were sent back to Chatham.

The Postwar Years

By the time the Civil War ended in 1865, Chatham was desolate. Blood stains spotted the floors; graffiti marred its bare plaster walls. Outside the destruction was just as severe. The surrounding forests had been cut down for fuel; and the lawn had become a graveyard. Although the Lacys returned to their home, they were unable to maintain it properly. They moved to another house they owned called Ellwood and sold Chatham in 1872. The property languished under a succession of owners until the 1920's when Daniel and Helen Devore undertook its restoration (and made significant changes). As a result of their efforts, Chatham has regained its place among Virginia's finest homes. Today the house and 85 surrounding acres are open to the the public thanks to the generosity of Chatham's last owner, industrialist John Lee Pratt. Mr. Pratt purchased Chatham from the Devores in 1931 and in 1975 willed it to the National Park Service. Five of the ten rooms in the 12,000 square-foot mansion are open to the public. From the entry hall, visitors are encouraged to begin their house tour in the dining room. Here, exhibits depict Chatham's fifteen owners. Across the hall, displays in the parlor describe the property's role in the Civil War.

CHATHAM GARDENS

Visitors are also free to wander on the grounds, in the gardens, and among the outbuildings at their leisure. The interiors of the outbuildings are not open to the public, so please view these structures from the outside only. 

The National Park Service began the restoration of the 1920's colonial revival east garden in 1984. The walls, statues, and Ionic columns, represent this period. At the front of the building, the original entrance road winds its way down the bluff to the river. The front terraces offer a panoramic view of Fredericksburg landmarks on the city skyline, and a model pontoon bridge section recalls the nearby Upper Pontoon Crossing, where Union engineers erected their pontoon bridges during the Battle of Fredericksburg.

On the river side of the house, the outline from the two-story Greek revival porch, which graced the front entrance for nearly 100 years, is still visible. The present limestone entrances were added in the 1920's.

If you walk the grounds at Chatham you will see that several ornamental cast concrete pineapples adorn the landscape. This colonial decoration served as a symbol of hospitality, a tradition which the National Park Service strives to continue.




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  • Gail B.

    Excellent tours. Beautiful weather. Great group who managed to get there in spite of the traffic.

    2 · August 18

  • Steven W.

    I sorry I ment to mention that had to drive back to Woodbridge or Manassas and needed gas. That a short drive to my neck of woods in Spotsylvania gas was $3.02 at Wawa then from Court House Rd. Rt 208 you could go to Hoads rd that takes you back to rt1 you take a right if you want to go back on I95 left to go north heading back towards Washington. Well next time remeber gas is cheaper out here but for the best price you either have to look around or check out gas budy after downloading the AP. for it also one on AAA aps to.

    August 17

  • Steven W.

    This was very fun and I learned things I would have never known. Maybe we can go back and finish the rest of the tour thinking Sunday would be a better day for traffi although it sounds like what on 95 was a one time thing. Thanks Gail for setting this up yesterday.

    August 17

  • A former member
    A former member

    Beautiful day - nice event! Great to meet new people - thank you for organizing, Gail!

    August 17

  • Mark K.

    This was a nice event. Great day to spend with some new people.

    August 17

  • Mark K.

    This was a nice event. Great day to spend with some new people.

    August 17

  • A former member
    A former member

    Really nice day, so much to see and do

    August 17

  • A former member
    A former member

    Thanks Gail. It was well worth the drive, as bad as it was. At least going home wasn't as bad.

    August 16

  • Jillian W

    Not going to make it 2 hrs so far still 16 miles to go

    August 16

  • A former member
    A former member

    At the visitors center

    August 16

  • Steven W.

    There are 3 of us here on Coroline

    August 16

  • A former member
    A former member

    I'm in downtown too. are we meeting at the visitor center at 11ish?

    August 16

    • Steven W.

      I at the place on caroline Street 1020

      August 16

    • A former member
      A former member

      I am at the meeting place on Caroline St.

      1 · August 16

  • Steven W.

    That is why I hate I95 but since I live in Spotsylvania it was bot to bad but still took longer then it should have. I am in front of buildig fir niw on Caroline Street

    August 16

  • Jillian W

    Still tryin to get thru triangle

    August 16

  • Steven W.

    I am down town now.

    August 16

  • Jillian W

    Is anyone on rt 1? Is it as bad as 95. I dont seem to be moving

    August 16

    • Chris

      Gail is on route one. Looks like were closer till 11am

      August 16

  • Tom K.

    Moved 3 miles in 20 Min. Went home! Sorry to miss the group, hopefully see some of you at Morais Vineyards Wine dinner on 22 Aug.

    August 16

  • Jillian W

    Might be closer to 11am at this pace!

    August 16

  • Mark K.

    Glad to her that . C'yall about 10:30.

    August 16

  • Gail B.

    Since it looks like 95 is plugged, I'm going to move this back some to 10:30 or a little later. Get off 95 and try Rt. 1.

    1 · August 16

    • Steven W.

      That is fine I am a little behind getting ready to leave now about a 20 something minute drive but have to swing by bank for more cash. Rt1 will be just as bad as I95 with all red lights makes it worse.

      August 16

  • A former member
    A former member

    I was really looking forward to today's outing. However, something has come up and I will not be able to attend. Enjoy your day!

    August 16

  • Doris

    I'll be interested to travel along 95 and help with gas, I live in Woodbridge.
    Thanks

    August 14

    • A former member
      A former member

      I just saw this email exchange. I would also be interested in meeting at Cracker Barrel to carpool. What time would

      August 15

    • Gail B.

      Okay. We can do Cracker Barrel. About 9:30 if you get this. Sorry. Just got on here.

      August 16

  • A former member
    A former member

    Ouch, 1-1/2 hours of bumper to bumper from Springfield to Fredericksburg. Sorry.

    August 16

  • Wendy L

    Gail, sorry to cancel, but work commitments and afternoon commitment are making this not work out. And I was really looking forward to it!! Have fun.

    August 16

  • Deb P.

    Well, this is awkward but I have a last minute change and cat make it. Have a great time.

    August 16

  • A former member
    A former member

    Anyone leaving from Alexandria, that I can meet up with? Thanks.

    August 15

  • Deb P.

    Just a note for those driving. There is parking by the visitors center, but if that's full you can take a left on Charlotte (just across from the VC,) another left on Sophia and there's another lot on the right.

    August 15

    • Steven W.

      Good to know reminds me of Alexandria where I was born and grew up lot of restricted parking or metered parking. Thank vou Deb.

      1 · August 15

  • A former member
    A former member

    Anyone in Maryland want to carpool?

    August 12

    • A former member
      A former member

      Hi Donna. I live in Gaithersburg/Rockville area. Where do you live? Maybe it would be possible to carpool

      August 15

    • A former member
      A former member

      Jeri - That would be great. I am still at work. Can you call me this evening and maybe we can think of a place that I can drive to in Rockville to meet you. My cell is[masked]

      August 15

  • Gail B.

    My cell # is[masked]-0424. We will meet at the visitor's center around 10am. If you aren't there at that time, call or text my cell. BUT, if we are with a docent, I will not respond until the tour is over, so you may have to wait a while. We will likely start at the Apothecary and then go to the Tavern. They are a couple of blocks from each other. And then head to Mary Washington's house, which is one street over. We'll decide then whether to go to lunch or Chatham House first.

    August 15

  • Wendy L

    Hi Gail. I would like to go, but have another commitment later in the day...do you have an idea of approximately how many hours the full tour will be? i.e. leaving Fredericksburg at 1:00? 2:00? I could drive solo and leave early on my own if its going to be too late. Thanks! Wendy

    August 10

    • Gail B.

      I imagine we'll get through all but Kenmore by that time and then we'll have lunch and whoever wants to go to Kenmore after lunch can do so. But you can peel off at any time so come and join us. It's a fun day.

      1 · August 10

    • A former member
      A former member

      Gail...can we get your ph #? I'd like to keep up w/your location and especially where you decide to dine?

      August 15

  • Steven W.

    I am excited about this tour around Fredericksburg. It is kind of like being in school taking a field trip to learn the history of Fredericksburg. Which I never new about when we studied Virginia history in grade school. I read up some online since I moved to Spotsylvania and have lived here about 14 years now. Bur failed to learn about these places. It will be fun to do this all minus having to go back to school after, ha ha. I am free all day so I would love to do all the place including Kenmore if we can go there too. What will we be doing for lunch are we going to one of the many restaurants there or are we having a picnic lunch bringing our own food for it? Again very excited about this thanks Gail for setting this up never heard of Fredericksburg when I was in school. They missed all the battles that happened there and in Spotsylvania and Chancellor then. So I get to go back and learn about all of these places we will visit. I hope one day to do the battefeilds to.

    2 · August 15

    • Steven W.

      Good on returaunt and hopefully I can do one of the battefeilds in the future.

      1 · August 15

    • A former member
      A former member

      I've enjoyed all those sites. Recommend experiencing all that this town has to offer in history. Hope to catchup w/you all.

      1 · August 15

  • Tom K.

    I live in Dale City and can give up to three people a ride. Lust let me know if you are interested.

    August 15

  • A former member
    A former member

    Does anyone want to carpool from Gaithersburg or Rockville? I can drive.

    August 15

  • Kerrie C.

    I was planning on coming, but now I have car repairs on Saturday morning- by the time they're done it will likely be too late to join you! ENJOY!

    August 15

  • raaj

    Gail,
    great job ,you do with these meet ups;so much in fredericksburg to see.I cant make it to this one, but i will see at another time.

    1 · August 12

  • A former member
    A former member

    Unfortunately, I have to cancel. I have family coming into town on Saturday.

    August 11

  • A former member
    A former member

    I live in the Cascades in Sterling. I am able to take 3 other people comfortably in my Prius. Please email me if you need a ride.

    August 11

  • A former member
    A former member

    Just an FYI: At the visitor's center downtown, you can purchase a $16.00 day pass that will get you into the Apothecary shop, Rising Sun Tavern, Mary Washington House, and many other historic sites. For example, Kenmore has a fee of $10.00. If we did the first three sites and Kenmore, we'd save $9.00 off the individual ticket prices. If there are places you'd like to visit outside of what the group is visiting, that may be the ticket you'd want to purchase.

    1 · July 29

    • Gail B.

      Not sure if we'll get to Kenmore, but we can leave that option open. Thanks for the info. I had it wrong on the admission fees. So we'll meet at the Visitor's Center.

      2 · July 30

    • Laura M.

      Boo....I am out of town for the event. Will miss catching up with you Kim. Haven't seen you since Antietam.

      August 11

  • Wendy L

    Thanks for getting back to me...I will do that. Ride solo :( so I have flexibility on the time. See you then.

    August 11

  • A former member
    A former member

    I believe all, but Chatham, charge a $5 fee. I've been thru all of them sev times. Would love to meet-up and visit and enjoy the walk around town!

    July 26

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