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The Lees of Virginia

By Linda Tancs

A successful tobacco planter and land speculator, Thomas Lee purchased property in Virginia in 1717 and began construction on a large brick Great House that survives today. Named Stratford for his grandfather’s home in London, the family homestead gave rise to a series of illustrious family members, counting among them two brothers who signed the Declaration of Independence, diplomats, a women’s rights advocate and one of the first judges elected to the commonwealth’s supreme court. But perhaps the most famous occupant of Stratford Hall Plantation (as it’s known today) is Robert E. Lee, the future General of the Confederate Army, who was born there in 1807. In addition to a tour of the Great House, visitors will enjoy the formal East Garden, restored to a typical 18th century English style. Nature trails follow the garden past the north gate. The south entrance to the house is equally impressive, described by General Lee himself as opening up to a row of poplars. The south lawn terminates in a ha-ha wall, an 18th century device which permits an uninterrupted view of the plantation while preventing the encroachment of livestock.

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