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Mary Washington House

Address: 1204 Charles Street, Fredericksburg, VA 22401
Phone: 540.373.1569
Web site: http://www.washingtonheritagemuseums.org/#!mary-washington-house/cj8e

In 1772, Colonel George Washington moved his mother, Mary Ball Washington, from her plantation home at Ferry Farm in Stafford County to a house he purchased at Lewis and Charles streets in Fredericksburg, in a bit of eighteenth-century "downsizing." An avid gardener who was long used to country life, Mary Washington attempted to recreate her Ferry Farm gardens in a smaller version in this new location, adjacent to her married daughter's home at Kenmore.

This last home of Washington's revered mother was occupied by a number of owners for the one hundred years following her death in 1789 until an attempt to acquire and move the property to the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1890 spurred the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA) to secure the permanent preservation of the house and grounds. The newly formed Mary Washington Branch of the APVA took responsibility for the home, and it was this group that approached The Garden Club of Virginia in the mid-1960s to seek support for the restoration of the gardens there.

In approving the application, The Garden Club again called upon Ralph Griswold to manage this project, ably assisted by W. Thomas Borellis. In the absence of documentary or archaeological evidence, these landscape architects developed a plan based on evidence of Mary Washington's "habits, her likes, and her needs in a garden." The keys to the restoration were a kitchen garden and a pleasure garden, the former being a "practical one where food and herbs had a major place," the latter providing opportunities to indulge in other plantings that added great beauty to the site. Given the proximity to Kenmore, a "brick, boxwood-lined path" was also included, incorporating plantings that may in fact have dated from Mrs. Washington's own time.

The broad lawn situated between the gardens proved to be the perfect setting for an Aquia stone sundial, which may well date from Mrs. Washington's time, too, and which came to serve as a center piece of that area of the grounds. Fruit trees and sweetbay magnolias along the property lines finished off the impression of a country garden that was actually set in a growing urban area, recreating so well an earlier place and time.

Note:
The images presented here record various stages of the property's landscape restoration. Since additional work has been supported by The Garden Club of Virginia at many properties, these images do not necessarily represent the current-day experience. Also, accession numbers reflect the year in which an image was received by the Virginia Historical Society, not the year in which it was taken.

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Description

The vista across the broad lawn toward the rear of the Mary Washington House.

Photographic print, Mary Washington House, Fredericksburg, Va.
Museum Collection
Accession number: 1997.31.18.U

A stone plaque commemorates The Garden Club of Virginia's support of the restoration project at the Mary Washington House.

Photographic print, Mary Washington House, Fredericksburg, Va.
Museum Collection
Accession number: 1997.31.18.A

Looking from the upper story of the house toward the re-created garden.

Photographic print, Mary Washington House, Fredericksburg, Va.
Museum Collection
Accession number: 1997.31.18.B

A view of the sundial, boxwood, and well house from the broad lawn.

Photographic print, Mary Washington House, Fredericksburg, Va.
Museum Collection
Accession number: 1997.31.18.H

The view from the rear porch accentuates the sense of a country setting.

Photographic print, Mary Washington House, Fredericksburg, Va.
Museum Collection
Accession number: 1997.31.18.O

Flower beds ringed with boxwood surround the broad lawn.

Photographic print, Mary Washington House, Fredericksburg, Va.
Museum Collection
Accession number: 1997.31.18.Q

The brick-paved work area between the house and kitchen is screened from the pleasure garden by the simple but attractively designed well house.

Photographic print, Mary Washington House, Fredericksburg, Va.
Museum Collection
Accession number: 1997.31.18.S

Pecan trees shade the central garden, inhibiting the growth of flowers there but providing comfortable locations for visitor benches.

Photographic print, Mary Washington House, Fredericksburg, Va.
Museum Collection
Accession number: 1997.31.18.T

Garden restoration plan, ca. 1968, by Ralph Griswold, including a plat of existing conditions.

Plan, Mary Washington House, Fredericksburg, Va.
Manuscript Collection
Call number: Mss3 G1673 a Section 2

Landscape diagram, 1968 Feb. 18, prior to the initiation of restoration work.

Plan, Mary Washington House, Fredericksburg, Va.
Manuscripts Collection
Call number: Mss3 G1673 a Section 3

Preliminary plan, 1968 April 1, by Ralph Griswold, with annotations.

Plan, Mary Washington House, Fredericksburg, Va.
Manuscripts Collection
Call number: Mss3 G1673 a Section 3

Planting plan, 1968 July 8.

Plan, Mary Washington House, Fredericksburg, Va.
Manuscripts Collection
Call number: Mss3 G1673 a Section 3

Cover letter, 1966 April 14, of Mrs. Levin J. Houston, III, to Mrs. Burdette S. Wright concerning the application for a garden restoration support.

Letter, Mary Washington House, Fredericksburg, Va.
Manuscripts Collection
Call number: Mss3 G1673 a Section 2

Application, 1966, of the Mary Washington Branch, APVA, to The Garden Club of Virginia for garden restoration support.

Document, Mary Washington House, Fredericksburg, Va.
Manuscript Collection
Call number: Mss3 G1673 a Section 2

Letter, 1968 January 30, of W. Thomas Borellis to Mrs. James Bland Martin concerning the need for a comprehensive survey of the Mary Washington House grounds prior to restoration.

Letter, Mary Washington House, Fredericksburg, Va.
Manuscript Collection
Call number: Mss3 G1673 a Section 2
Multiple Page Document:  Page 1  |  Page 2

Letter, 1968 April 3, of W. Thomas Borellis to Mrs. James Bland Martin providing details on the initial garden restoration planning.

Letter, Mary Washington House, Fredericksburg, Va.
Manuscript Collection
Call number: Mss3 G1673 a Section 2
Multiple Page Document:  Page 1  |  Page 2

Letter, 1969 February 25, of Ralph Griswold to Mrs. Wyatt Williams concerning research regarding the sundial in the Mary Washington House gardens.

Letter, Mary Washington House, Fredericksburg, Va.
Manuscript Collection
Call number: Mss3 G1673 a Section 2
Multiple Page Document:  Page 1  |  Page 2

Letter, 1969 March 19, of Mrs. Henry D. Spicer to Mrs. Wyatt Williams enclosing a list of planting specimens for the Mary Washington House gardens.

Letter, Mary Washington House, Fredericksburg, Va.
Manuscript Collection
Call number: Mss3 G1673 a Section 2
Multiple Page Document:  Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9

 

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Last updated March 15, 2011