While Mount Vernon is his most famous abode, Ferry Farm in Stafford County highlights George Washington’s early years.
The winding roads that lead to Ferry Farm offer visitors a first glimpse of the bucolic landscape Washington knew as a child. In 1996, a foundation acquired the property and funded archeological research to understand how the homestead looked and functioned in the 1700s.
“We found details of where the house was situated, the outbuildings where enslaved people lived, and agricultural buildings,” says Dave Muraca, Ferry Farm archeologist and vice president of museum content, about the Chesapeake-style home that overlooks the Rappahannock River. By comparing the details with Washington’s surveyor’s notes, they uncovered the farm’s layout, fences, and a small graveyard where his sister Mildred was buried. A reconstruction features a replica house.
“Ferry Farm is different than most house museums. The windows open. There’s a fire in the fireplace. You can move items around the desk and sit on the chairs,” says Bill Garner, president of the George Washington Foundation. “You sense the way the Washingtons would have experienced it.”
During the tour, interpreters explain how each room was used. They describe the lifestyle of Washington’s siblings, and his mother Mary Ball Washington’s contributions. “It’s important to consider what his mother meant to him. He lost his father at age 11,” says Garner. “She shapes him and his siblings and raises all five children to be outstanding people.” The farm was left to George, and his mother would deter him from joining the British Army.
“George became the man of the house, and this place illustrates the setting and material circumstances of his youth where he developed the personal characteristics and values that drove the decisions he made, and the actions we see him take during the Revolutionary era and his presidency,” says Garner.
Ferry Farm is where Washington began a life of purpose and consequence. The rest, as they say, is history.
Plan Your Visit:
Open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Guided house tours daily, tickets $6–$12. Ferry Farm: 268 Kings Hwy., Fredericksburg; kenmore.org
Ferry Farm Events:
Gingerbread House Workshop, December 18, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Mini-Mornings: Gingerbread kids’ activities, December 13–14
Where to Eat and Drink:
Six Bears & a Goat Brewing Company is a lively spot to grab a housemade brew and hearty bar food. Founded by retirees of the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy, the pub has a nautical theme. Pair the Sailor’s Knot soft pretzel or Devil Dog kielbasa with sauerkraut with the Eagle Aye-P-A. 1140 International Pkwy., Fredericksburg
Feature image by Renee Sklarew
This story originally ran in our December issue. For more stories like this, subscribe to Northern Virginia Magazine.