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Mary Washington House

ca. 1760
1200 Charles Street, Fredericksburg, VA 22401

Mary Washington House

Now owned and operated by Washington Heritage Museums.  For information on hours and admission, please visit their website.

In 1772, George Washington purchased a house from Michael Robinson in Fredericksburg, Virginia for his mother. Mary Ball Washington spent her last seventeen years in this comfortable home. The white frame house sits on the corner of Charles and Lewis Streets and was in walking distance to Kenmore, home of Mary's daughter Betty Washington Lewis. Tradition has it that, during the Revolution, General Lafayette found Mrs. Washington in her garden attending her favorite hobby. The President-to-be came to this home to receive his mother's blessing before attending his inauguration in 1789.

In 1889, Preservation Virginia acquired the Mary Washington House and saved it from certain destruction. The house was scheduled to be disassembled for travel to the Chicago World's Fair for display. The house underwent a restoration and was opened to the public. The house was operated by the Mary Washington Branch of Preservation Virginia.  In 2013, Preservation Virginia offered the opportunity for local ownership of its Fredericksburg sites.  As of January 3, 2013, Washington Heritage Museums (formerly Mary Washington Branch Preservation Virginia) officially assumed responsibilities to continue oversight of these properties.    Preservation Virginia memberships will be honored throughout 2013.  For more information visit their website.

Visitors today can tour the house and see Mary Washington's "best dressing glass." They can explore the garden and visit the original kitchen (a rare surviving 18th-century outbuilding). They can also visit the Mary Washington House Museum Store which features a lovely collection of gifts to celebrate tea drinking, gardening, 18th-century decorative arts, and Virginia products.

Mary Ball Washington

The stories of George Washington's youth are well documented. The stories of Mary Washington's life are less so. Mary Ball was born in 1708 to Joseph Ball and Mary Johnson. Her father died only a few years after his daughter was born. Soon after, Mary Johnson Ball married Richard Hewes. Mary Ball grew up learning those lessons every lady should know--sewing, knitting, and cooking. Her mother also instilled in her the lessons of the Church. By the time Mary Ball was 13, both of her parents had died.

Mary spent the next nine years dividing her time between the homes of Elizabeth Bonum, her half sister from a previous marriage, and Colonel Eskridge, her guardian. Little is known of these years, but Mary Ball may have been tutored in some studies with the other children on the Eskridge plantation.

It is likely that George Eskridge introduced Mary to Augustine Washington, the man who would become her husband.  He had family ties by marriage to both Mary and Augustine and was likely in the company of both frequently.  Mary had most likely been living with her sister Elizabeth after her parent’s death.  There she would have continued to learn domestic tasks and how to run a home.  Mary also owned land adjoining the Accokeek land that Augustine owned.  She had inherited this land from her half brother at his death in 1720.   These would have made her very attractive to the widowed Augustine Washington.  The two were married in 1730 in Virginia.

The Washingtons made their home at Pope's Creek Plantation on the Potomac River. The new Mrs. Washington undertook to raise her husband's three children from a previous marriage (His daughter Jane died in 1735; Lawrence returned from school in England in 1738  and Augustine Jr. returned from school in 1742.). On February 22, 1732 Mary gave birth to a son who she named George after her guardian. Mary and Augustine Washington had five other children: Betty, Samuel, John Augustine, Charles and Mildred.

In 1738, Augustine Washington purchased Ferry Farm on the banks of the Rappahannock River, south of Fredericksburg. Four years later Augustine Washington died leaving Mary to raise the children.

The relationship between mother and son was often tempestuous, but Washington did care for his mother in her later years. In 1772, he purchased the house in Fredericksburg and moved Mary Ball there to be closer to her daughter Betty. Mary Washington was sixty-four years old and a house in town meant her needs could be looked after. Because of its location on the Post Road, communications were easy to maintain in Fredericksburg.

Mary Ball Washington lived to see her son elected President. George Washington visited his mother on March 12, 1789 prior to his election.  He was notified on April 14, 1789 that he had been elected President and set out for New York (the Capital at that time) on April 15.  Mary Ball Washington died on August 25 that same year.

The Garden

Mary Ball Washington was said to be an excellent gardener. She grew flowers and boxwoods. When Preservation Virginia acquired the house, the garden was also in disrepair. A few of the boxwoods stood as reminders of the beauty of the original garden. Through the aid of the Garden Club of Virginia, the garden has been replanted and restored. Today it is a beautiful setting for a wedding, party or just an afternoon stroll.

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