In 1996, the Trustees, Regents, and staff of The George Washington Foundation, known then as the Kenmore Association, were part of a large and vocal group of concerned citizens that banded together to save the site of George Washington’s Boyhood Home from commercial development. While all the Washington-era structures, yards, and fences vanished almost 200 years ago, it was critical to preserve this significant place in our nation’s history—where beginning in 1738 young George and his family called home.
After years of meticulous research and planning by historians, architects, archaeologists, and curators, the Foundation is fulfilling that goal. Up to this point Ferry Farm has been an archaeology park known for its grassy fields, beautiful views of the Rappahannock River, large-scale archaeology excavations, and an amazing and extensive collection of Washington artifacts. Today with the beginning of the construction of the interpretive replica of the Washington house and the surrounding landscape Ferry Farm is beginning its transition to an outdoor living museum.
George Washington lived at Ferry Farm from age 6 to around age 22. The Cherry Tree and the Stone Throw legends were set here. He learned to survey, joined the Masonic Lodge, read his first book on military adventurers, copied the Rules of Civility, and petitioned colonial Virginia’s British Governor for his first military office at Ferry Farm. This is the landscape that was formed by the Washingtons and their enslaved workers, and George Washington’s years on this ground were essential to his development into an extraordinary man.
Starting with stone masons, who are now working on the site, the construction process involves a succession of skilled artisans, employing a mix of modern and traditional techniques, including brick masons, blacksmiths, carpenters, joiners, plasterers, and painters, who together will produce the rich detail and beauty of a colonial home.
Once the replica house is in place, the Foundation will reconstruct the support buildings, fences, and yards, informed by archaeology and historical research, that surrounded and served the house. To date, we have unearthed remnants of a kitchen, slave quarter, trash yard, work yard, hen yard, and storehouse from the Washington period. As archaeology continues to reveal additional structures and other elements, they will be added to the landscape until we create a place that evokes early Virginia and portrays what life was like for young George Washington. Because the house is a reconstruction, we look forward to presenting colonial America in ways not possible for most historic house museums. We will light fires in the fireplace, open windows, and invite visitors to sit in the chairs. This unique environment will let guests experience eighteenth-century life with all their senses.
As Ferry Farm transitions from grassy fields to construction site, please stop in and witness the making of history up close. George Washington’s Boyhood Home in Stafford County, Virginia, is open Monday through Sunday. We invite you to explore Ferry Farm with the self-guided iPad tour, “Uncovering George Washington’s Youth,” or participate in a dynamic educational program relating to archaeology, history, and the natural environment. The Foundation also offers special events and tours at its sister site, Historic Kenmore Plantation in Fredericksburg. You can follow the progress at Ferry Farm on this blog, as well as the Foundation’s Facebook page and website, where we will offer glimpses into eighteenth-century construction techniques and address historical issues. We hope you will visit George Washington’s Ferry Farm soon.
Director of Archaeology
Learn more about building George Washington’s boyhood home in Clint Schemmer’s article, “George Washington Really Did Sleep Here”, on the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star’s website.