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Archive for virginia

The Washingtons of Fredericksburg

By Linda Tancs

The land registry of Fredericksburg, Virginia, is brimming with history about George Washington and his family. For instance, there’s the first president’s boyhood home at Ferry Farm, so named because people crossed the Rappahannock River on a ferry from the farm into town. Later, George Washington purchased a home in town for his mother Mary, a white frame house on the corner of Charles and Lewis streets. It’s within walking distance to Kenmore, a Georgian-style mansion that was the home of Mary’s daughter Betty Washington Lewis. Betty’s husband Fielding Lewis once owned land upon which St. James’ House was built, one of the few 18th century frame houses still standing in Fredericksburg. It was owned by James Mercer, a lawyer for Mary Washington. And then there’s the frame home built by George Washington’s youngest brother Charles around 1760. Now known as the Rising Sun Tavern, it became a tavern in 1792 when it was purchased by the Wallace family and operated for 35 years as a stopover for travelers.

Virginia’s Oldest Plantation

By Linda Tancs

Shirley Plantation has survived Indian uprisings, Bacon’s Rebellion, the American Revolution, the American Civil War, and the Great Depression. In the hands of 11 generations of the same family, it’s Virginia’s first plantation and the oldest family-owned business in North America. A National Historic Landmark, it remains a working plantation, a private family home and a growing business, presided over by direct descendants of Edward Hill I, who founded the site in 1613. Lauded as the most intact 18th century estate in Virginia, the Great House is a treasure trove of original family furnishings, portraits, silver, and hand-carved woodwork, and its “flying staircase” and Queen Anne forecourt are the only remaining examples in North America of this architectural style. In addition to a guided tour of the mansion, the self-guided grounds tour includes formal gardens and eight original colonial outbuildings. This unique part of America’s heritage is located in Charles City, east of Richmond and west of Jamestown in the heart of Virginia.

On the Avenue in Richmond

By Linda Tancs

Dotted with Gothic and Classical Revival churches as well as stately homes in the Colonial Revival, Spanish Colonial, Tudor Revival, French Renaissance and Italian Renaissance styles, Monument Avenue Historic District is a leafy enclave in Richmond, Virginia.  One of only two National Historic Landmark districts in the city, it’s the nation’s only grand residential boulevard with monuments of its scale surviving virtually intact. The street, extending for some five miles from inner city Richmond westward into Henrico County, takes its name from a series of monumental statues that mark its major intersections. The statue of Virginia native Robert E. Lee is the largest and grandest of them all, featuring a 12-ton bronze statue that is over 20 feet high sitting on a 40-foot-high granite pedestal designed by French architect Paul Pujot. Although the avenue sports its share of Confederate heroes, a notable exception is the Arthur Ashe statue, dedicated in 1996 to Richmond’s native humanitarian, scholar and athlete.

Books and Brew

By Linda Tancs

There’s certainly nothing special about brew on a college campus.  But when the brew is an 18th century brewery unearthed at the second oldest college in the United States–well, that’s something special.  The discovery was made at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.  And what, you might wonder, comprised a brew of the 1700s?  One concoction was a mix of water, persimmons, hops and yeast.

The United States of North America

By Linda Tancs

Named for its two private owners, the Pope-Leighey House represents renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision to create affordable housing for middle-class families.  The architectural convention is often referred to as Usonian (thought to be an acronym for the United States of North America), characterized by a single-story, L-shaped home crafted with native materials.  Situated in Alexandria, Virginia, the house is part of the Woodlawn estate, which was originally part of George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

The Birthplace of Country Music

By Linda Tancs

Imagine being able to step into the shoes of some of the first families of country music and record your own rendition of the songs that launched their careers.  You can do that at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.  Located at the junction between Bristol, Tennessee, and Bristol, Virginia, it’s officially recognized by Congress as the birthplace of country music.  The museum’s mission is to preserve and promote the 1927 recording sessions of legends like Jimmie Rogers and the Carter family, an event that Johnny Cash hailed as a seminal event in country music history.  Even the Library of Congress has ranked the “Bristol Sessions” as one of the 50 most significant events in the history of recorded music.   A special exhibition honoring the Carters runs through 28 February.

America’s Stonehenge

By Linda Tancs

In Natural Bridge, Virginia, Britain’s Stonehenge meets its astronomically correct rival.  Made entirely of Styrofoam to Stonehenge’s exact measurements, the creation is dubbed Foamhenge.  The “stones” are even painted to appear ancient.  Unlike its more famous counterpart, admission is free.

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