Background:

Historic “Fairfield” Estate in Berryville, VA, To Be Auctioned (and yes, George Washington Really Slept Here)

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George Washington didn’t just sleep here . . . he reportedly visited the place a lot.  And it’s recorded in his diaries. It was, after all, the home of a cousin of his, Warner Washington. Warner built this grand mansion, called “Fairfield,” in 1768 — just a few years before the Revolutionary War propelled his younger cousin George into international fame.  Decades later, Fairfield was also owned by Anne Lee Page, the aunt of General Robert E. Lee and the sister of Virginia governor “Light Horse” Harry Lee.  So lots of other historical figures probably slept here, too.

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And . . . as it turns out . . . you, too, could sleep at Fairfield. In fact, you could live there, since this historic estate will be auctioned to a lucky new owner on Thursday, May 25, 2017, at 12 pm.  This is remarkable because, since 1768, Fairfield has been owned by only three families: the Washingtons, the Lee-Pages, and, for the last 187 years, the Richardson family.

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Built in 1768, Fairfield sits on 35 beautiful acres. The sprawling property features many other buildings besides the mansion, including two rental cottages, a summer cabin, an historic smokehouse, a garage/shop, and a greenhouse.

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The driveway winds into the estate over a small stone bridge, offering a glimpse of the manor across the front lawn upon approach.

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The grounds are landscaped with lovely old trees, boxwood and stone walls. There are four levels of terracing to the east of the manor, defined by plantings, stone walls and ledges. One of the terraces is noted for its “Green Room”, formed by century-old American boxwood, with a small fountain at center. Other interesting terrace features include the sundial yard and sunken ovals.

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The Long Marsh Run, a year-round stream traverses the property and there is an ever-flowing spring which spawns a small stream feeding into the Long Marsh. Looking to the west, the gentle contour of open pasture stretches out beyond the front lawn. Hay is produced on approximately 25 acres of the property. The property enjoys unencumbered vistas.

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The mansion house is a two-and-a-half story Georgian manor, built of native limestone, with single-story wings and “transverse” end wings. The residence includes seven bedrooms and four and a half baths, with approximately 8,000+/- square feet of living space. There are eight fireplaces. In other words, it’s a sprawling mansion by the standards of any era. The first floor plan below gives you an idea.

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Yet, as grand as this mansion is, I have to admit that if I were its new owner, I would be most excited to immediately show every visitor something quite small: original inscriptions discovered on the mansion’s exterior stone walls. These inscriptions are (essentially) signatures that may have been left behind by members of the Washington family.

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Hand-carved markings like these were not uncommon on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century stone and brick houses.  The inscriptions were usually created by either the owners of the house, the masons who built the house, or sometimes, just people visited and chose to leave a mark.  There is speculation that the above “monogram”-style inscription (which is usually an 18th century thing) might read “BW”, and if so, it might be Betty Washington’s mark. Betty was George Washington’s sister, and she was the wife of Warner Washington’s good friend, Fielding Lewis, who owned the Kenmore estate in Fredericksburg.

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Another inscription (above) likely reads “F.W.” (which, if you look carefully, appears to be surrounded by a circular design with leaves or flowers surrounding it).  I suspect this inscription was carved by Fairfax Washington, who inherited the property after his father, Warner, passed away. Based on the style of the lettering, I think this signature certainly could have been made around the time Fairfax was coming of age (he was 13 when he inherited the house, and would have been 22 years old in 1800).  There are apparently other inscriptions at the property, and I’d love to see them all.

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The architecture of Fairfield is distinctive and stately. Its five-bay central block, the heart of the original mansion, has a hipped roof with ten barrel-vaulted dormers — which were added in 1919 when the mansion was expanded. There is a Greek Revival porch at the west entrance (below), and a three-bay screen porch on the eastern garden elevation. It is easy to see why architectural experts from places like Colonial Williamsburg and the Decorative Arts Trust have come to see Fairfield. Notable original features include a doorway framed by fluted Doric pilasters below a half-round transom, raised panel wainscot, four-panel overmantels, paneled window reveals, and a substantial box cornice. The main staircase is U-shaped and decorated with carved brackets in a floral and scroll pattern. There is a well-preserved, vaulted wood ceiling hidden above the existing ceiling in the Grand Library, formerly known as the Master’s Retreat. The English Basement is located below this wing. Colorful half-round transoms adorn both the east and west entrances.

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As you walk into the house, you immediately notice the lovely, detailed woodwork, large rooms, and flowing layout — featuring both formal and casual living and dining spaces.

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It is the perfect property for entertaining be it a large group or a smaller gathering. It would make a great family home or the perfect country retreat.

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Located off Lord Fairfax Highway (RT 340) in Clarke County, VA the property offers horse country living yet is only a 15 minute drive to Winchester, 30 minutes to Leesburg, 40 minutes to Middleburg and 50 minutes to Dulles Airport.

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Want to be the next owner of this historic estate, adding a new chapter to its renown story?  The auction is May 25, 2017 at 12:00pm EST.  There is a lot of information available on the auction house website, and the contact for the auction is Jeff Stein at 703-539-8111 or jstein@tranzon.com.

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