Monday, July 27, 2015

Mary Washington House, Fredericksburg, Va.

Mary Ball was no wilting flower even though as a young woman she had been known as the Rose of Epping Forest. She married a widower, Augustine Washington 14 years her senior when she was 23. At his death, 12 years later, her 11-year-old son George inherited Ferry Farm. She remained there running the farm for 29 years. It was only at the importuning of George that in 1772 she allowed him to buy her a house in Fredericksburg and she moved their to be closer to her only daughter Betty Fielding.

In an age where women were encouraged and expected to remarry quickly Mary was a standout, not only did she not remarry quickly, she never remarried. She was financially independent through inheritances from both her parents and brother and she cherished that independence.

The house that George purchased for her was a two room cottage on a half acre of land. He purchased an additional half acre of land, added the porch and greatly increased the size of the house. When Mary moved from ferry farm she brought with her a cow, a dog, two horses, and six servants. Actually they were six slaves and at her death she still had six slaves which she willed to members of her family.

The house must be visited on a guided tour, and since it was a rainy day they escorted us to the rear veranda overlooking the garden to await the beginning of our tour. The garden was redone in the late 1960s to be an English Garden. The sundial in the garden made of Acquia stone belonged to Mary and came with her from Ferry Farm.

After Mary died in 1789 her daughter Betty held a public auction to sell the items in the house. The list of the items auctioned still exists and it has help the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities identify items to be acquired for the house. Some things have been donated back to the house and some have been purchased and some are on loan. Everything else is of the period.

After Mary’s death the house was turned into a school for boys, and the Association purchased the house in 1890 to keep it from being dismantled and taken to the St. Louis World’s Fair for $4,050. It took 40 years to open it as a museum.

We begin our tour in the parlor where we are shown the chair rail and the crown molding made in the candle and flame pattern by indentured servants. Mary’s original teapot is in the parlor. Upstairs there is a case of personal items as well as the Washington family genealogy.

The most historic room in the house is Mary’s bedroom. George came here to get her blessing shortly after he was elected president and shortly before she died. She was too sick to understand the significance. In that room be sure to look for her "very best dressing glass ".

I could not find my photos of this part of our trip. This photo is from Wikipedia  "Closeup of Mary Washington House, Fredericksburg, VA IMG 3997" by Billy Hathorn - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Closeup_of_Mary_Washington_House,_Fredericksburg,_VA_IMG_3997.JPG#/media/File:Closeup_of_Mary_Washington_House,_Fredericksburg,_VA_IMG_3997.JPG

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