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Mary Washington Monument

Address: Washington Avenue, Fredericksburg, VA 22401
Phone: 540.373.3381

The burial site of Mary (Ball) Washington, the revered mother of General George Washington, attracted great numbers of visitors within a generation after her death. Located on the property of Kenmore, the home of Fielding and Betty (Washington) Lewis, it had been marked by a memorial stone ordered by George Washington within months of her demise. The stone was so ravaged by souvenir hunters that a movement began as early as 1826 to erect a more elaborate monument. Not until the 1890s, however, did two groups -- the Mary Washington Monument Association of Fredericksburg and the National Mary Washington Memorial Association -- achieve success.

The successor group, the National Mary Washington Monument Association of Fredericksburg, approached The Garden Club of Virginia in 1937 with a request to landscape the grounds around the monument, now located within the boundaries of the City of Fredericksburg. The club again turned to Alden Hopkins, a recent recipient of the Garden Club of America's fellowship to the American Academy in Rome, to formulate a plan.

Initial activities, which required close cooperation between the architect and the city, included grading the property, building brick steps and walks, and extending or constructing brick walls to create a visual sense of unity to the property.

Hopkins, considering suggestions from a number of interested parties, adopted an approach that emphasized "a dignified setting for the Monument, attractive in any season with atmosphere, a feeling that it is surrounded by plants that belong because they are native [to Virginia] and of Mary Washington's time." He designed the planting beds to include Laurel, Mountain Andromeda, Azalea, and Virginia Rose, recommending specimens that "will take the least amount of care and attention and do best if undisturbed, yet will give a fine effect in color of foliage, scent, flower or old time atmosphere." Boxwood accented the approach to the monument, while Hopkins envisioned such trees as Flowering Dogwood, Honey Locust, American Holly, Resinous Pine, and Red Oak for the surrounding grounds. All work was completed and dedicated in 1939, capturing the spirit of Herbert A. Claiborne's earlier suggestion that the "surroundings should be simple and dignified and not over done."

As usual, The Garden Club of Virginia retained its interest in the maintenance of the property. Along with regular oversight, a special effort in 1987 involved the planting of ornamental trees to replace lost vegetation and long overdue grooming of the boxwood, a project in which the club was joined by the City of Fredericksburg in completing extensive tree work and a general tidying of the property.

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

Main view of the monument from Charles Street showing steps, brick retaining wall, and bordering boxwood.

Photographic print, Mary Washington Monument, Fredericksburg, Va.
Museum Collection
Accession number: 1997.31.28.A

Side view of the monument with its surrounding plantings and foliage.

Slide, Mary Washington Monument, Fredericksburg, Va.
Museum Collection
Accession number: 1997.31.28.D

The architect's conception of the monument site following grading and plantings.

Drawing, Mary Washington Monument, Fredericksburg, Va.
Manuscript Collection
Call number: Mss3 G1673 a Section 3

Alden Hopkins's landscape planting plan.

Drawing, Mary Washington Monument, Fredericksburg, Va.
Manuscript Collection
Call number: Mss3 G1673 a Section 3

Letter, 1937, of Charles Moore, chair of the Commission of Fine Arts of the United States Interior Department, to Mrs. Fairfax Harrison.

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

Letter, 1938, of building contractor and historic brick expert Herbert A. Claiborne to Mrs. Thomas Boggs, with sketch of recommended enclosures.

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

Letter, 1939, of Alden Hopkins to Mrs. Harrison with enclosed list of proposed plantings.

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

Report, 1939, of Mrs. Ralph T. K. Cornwell to The Garden Club of Virginia.

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

Letter, 1987, of W. Vernon Edenfield, director of the Kenmore Association, Inc., to the editor of the Free Lance-Star of Fredericksburg.

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

 

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Last updated March 15, 2011