Underground Railroad Guide

In Northern Virginia, the Underground Railroad is defined as resistance to slavery through flight. Jenny Masur, manager of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom in Washington D.C., explains: “Anyone who up and left is part of the Underground Railroad. We don’t have safe houses in Northern Virginia, but what we do have are documented escapes from plantations in the area.” In honor of the 150th Civil War celebration, here are a few historical highlights which are open to the public.

By Shannon McNeely

Moncure Conway House
Located in Rappahannock County, the Moncure Conway House was home to Moncure Conway during the time of the Civil War. Conway denounced slavery and became a leading abolitionist. After becoming a minister, he vigorously helped escaping slaves achieve freedom. Today, the house holds significance as a preserved Underground Railroad site that is open for public viewing. / Moncure Conway House, 305 King St., Falmouth; www.moncureconway.org.

Arlington House
The home of the late General Robert E. Lee, the Arlington House was also the home to over 65 slaves. Located in Arlington County in the Arlington National Cemetery, the house was used for a number of purposes over the course of the last 200 years. Most importantly, it was utilized as a community for emancipated slaves. Today, the Arlington House serves as part of the George Washington Memorial. Daily tours and visits are permitted for the public. / Arlington House, George Washington Memorial Parkway, McLean; 703-235-1530; www.nps.gov.

Rippon Lodge
Once a large plantation which served as a major transportation route between the North and South, the Rippon Lodge is now a restored historic site. The plantation can be found in Prince William County, and has been documented as a place that was escaped by slaves. The lodge is open to the public for tours Thursdays through Sunday, during the months of May through October. / Rippon Lodge, 15500 Blackburn Road, Woodbridge; 703-499-9812.  

Sully Plantation
Another documented Underground Railroad site, Sully Plantation is located in Fairfax County. This particular plantation was built in 1799 by Richard Bland Lee, who was Northern Virginia’s first congressional representative. Many slaves lived at this estate, and a “representative slave quarter” has been built to accurately represent the slave’s historical significance. Guests are invited to tour the plantation, and may tour the plantation house from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Monday. / Sully Plantation, 3650 Historic Sully Way, Chantilly; 703-437-1794; www.fairfaxcounty.gov.

Freedom House An example of the reverse Underground Railroad, Freedom House in Alexandria was once the source of the largest slave trading company in the United States. The reverse Underground Railroad often occurred when free men were captured and sold into slavery. Freedom House now serves as an informative and educational purposed museum. Visitors will be enlightened about the experiences that slaves were forced to endure during this time. Exhibits detailing slave trade, way of life and treatment are showcased. Freedom House is open for tours Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. / Freedom House, 1315 Duke St., Alexandria; 203-836-2858; www.freedomhousemuseum.org.

Other historic sites included in the Underground Railroad:
Fairfax County
Gunston Hall:
Gunston Hall, 10709 Gunston Road, Mason Neck; 703-550-9220; www.gunstonhall.org.

Prince William County
Brentsville Courthouse:
Brentsville Courthouse, 12229 Bristow Road, Bristow; 703-365-7895; www.pwcgov.org.

Loudon County
Loudon County Court House:
The Loudoun County Courthouse, 18 E. Market St., Leesburg; 703-777-0100; www.loudoun.gov.

Potomac Waterfront

(April 2011)