Stratford Hall (plantation)
usinfo | 2014-06-11 15:33

Stratford Hall Plantation in Westmoreland County, Virginia, was the home of four generations of the Lee family of Virginia, including two signers of the Declaration of Independence, and it was the birthplace of Robert Edward Lee (1807–70), who became the Confederate General-in-chief during the American Civil War, and then became the president of Washington College, which later became Washington and Lee University.

Colonel Thomas Lee (1690 - 1750), a Virginian who served as the acting Governor of the colony, and who advocated strongly for westward expansion, purchased the land for Stratford Hall in 1717, recognizing the potential for the waterfront site both agriculturally and commercially. Construction of the Georgian Great House however did not begin until the late 1730s. Designed by an unknown architect, the brick Great House is a two story H-shaped structure, surrounded on its four corners by attending outbuildings, all of which still stand today. Following construction of the Great House, Thomas Lee expanded the site into a bustling hive of activity, and soon the working plantation became "a towne in itself" as one visitor to Stratford marveled. A wharf on the Potomac River was the destination of a large number of merchant ships; a grist mill ground wheat and corn there; and slaves and indentured servants farmed tobacco and other crops on the thousands of acres of farmland of the plantation. Blacksmiths, coopers, carpenters, tailors, gardeners, and weavers all plied their trades at Thomas Lee's Stratford. Stratford Hall is set in the Historic Northern Neck - a rural peninsula in Virginia where the historic Christ Church is located.

Stratford Hall remained in private hands for more than a century. William C. Somerville of Maryland purchased the property from Henry Lee IV in 1822.[4] However, after his death his heirs discovered that obligations incurred by Henry Lee IV continued to encumber the property.[4] The plantation was foreclosed in 1828 and purchased by Henry D. Storke of Westmoreland County, who was married to Elizabeth "Besty" McCarty, sister of Henry Lee IV's wife, Anne Robinson McCarty.[4] BestyStorke lived on the property until her death in 1879 and was buried there.[4]

In 1929, a group of women dedicated to preserving the memory of Robert E. Lee and the Lee family joined together to form the Robert E. Lee Memorial Association and to purchase Stratford Hall from the Storkes' heirs. These women worked tirelessly to fund the purchase and restoration of the property. Today, the site is still maintained by the Robert E. Lee Memorial Association, and is open to the public.

Visitors today can tour the Great House, numerous outbuildings, the restored working grist mill and can explore the gardens, walking trails, and Miocene Era cliffs found on the site.


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