Friday, April 24, 2009

Stratford Hall

Stratford Hall, one of the great houses of American history, is known for the family of patriots who lived here. The mansion sits atop steep cliffs above the Potomac River in the Northern Neck area, some 40 miles southeast of Fredericksburg.

Thomas Lee purchased the land in 1717 and built the brick Georgian Great House in the 1730s. A successful tobacco planter and land speculator, Lee owned more than 16,000 acres, distributed between Virginia and Maryland. In a single generation during the 18th century, six Lee brothers lived here. Two became members of the Virginia House of Burgesses; two others were signers of the Declaration of Independence; the other two represented Virginia in Europe. General "Light Horse Harry" Lee, a relative, lived at Stratford Hall; his son, the great Confederate general Robert E. Lee was born here, January 19, 1807. The estate was owned by the Lee family until 1822.

Stratford Hall is preserved essentially the way it was 250 years ago. The plantation still operates as a farm, on 1,670 of its original acres. Visitors can tour the Great House, outbuildings and the plantation grounds and gardens. The “H” shaped edifice features a distinctive tapering exterior staircase, hip roof lines and eight massive chimneys. Its bold architectural style and complex brickwork set it apart from other Virginia plantation houses. The home is furnished with an outstanding collection of 18th-century American and English decorative items.

Four out buildings (including a kitchen) flank the corners of the Great House, and the estate is complete with a mill, farm buildings, coach house, stables and slave quarters. Visitors may stay overnight on the estate grounds in cabins and guest cottages.

Stratford Hall is open daily from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm. (admission charge). From the Visitor Center guests can take Great House tours (on the hour) from 10:00-4:00 and visit museum exhibits. Gift shop on premises. Dining room open Tuesday-Sunday 11a-3:00p.

Stratford Hall is on the National Register #66000851, and also a National Historic Landmark.

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