Stratford Hall, the grand house built by Thomas Lee on the south bank of the Potomac River in Westmoreland County, Virginia, marked a new style of architecture that made its appearance in eighteenth-century Virginia. The surrounding grounds complemented the great plantation house, providing remarkable vistas, broad lawns, a generous garden plot, and even an orchard. Here it was that Anne Carter Lee, the wife of the third owner of the estate, Governor Henry Lee, gave birth to a son who would come to be permanently associated with the house, Robert E. Lee.
Stratford passed out the hands of the Lee family in 1822, and through a succession of owners gradually fell into disrepair. A group that came to be known as the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation purchased the property in January 1929 and began the re-establishment of the property as a working plantation. In June of that year, the group approached the Garden Club of Virginia about restoring the Stratford gardens. The Club enthusiastically accepted the challenge, raising funds for the project through individual gifts and the proceeds of its Historic Garden Week tours of 1930 to 1932.
The Garden Club first engaged Arthur Shurtleff (who later changed his name to Shurcliff), a Boston landscape architect working on the Colonial Williamsburg restoration, to undertake initial archaeological investigations. In his December 1929 report to the Stratford Committee, he declared "there is no ancient place in Virginia which would be more interesting to restore or more fruitful of results." Subsequent survey work was conducted by Herbert A. Claiborne of Richmond and by Harvard School of Landscape Architecture associate Morley J. Williams, who in 1932 was hired to draw plans for the restoration. The basic restoration work was complete by 1936, although additional restoration managed by Alden Hopkins, a later landscape architect at Colonial Williamsburg, occurred during the mid-1950s.
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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View of the east facade of Stratford Hall revealing the shaded lawn and terrace
Slide, Stratford Hall, Stratford, Va. Museum Collection Accession number: 1997.31.2.A
View of the tree-lined walk through the east garden