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June 7, 2006
If you only visit one thing in Fredericksburg it just might have to be Kenmore. Not that it is the most perfect, most beautifully furnished, most historic, though it will be all of these things. It is a house in the process of being renovated and watching the work in progressive is absolutely fascinating.In 1752 Fielding Lewis bought the first parcel of land that would make up his eventual plantation. In time, through inheritance the size would rise to 1300 acres. The main house was constructed in 1775. The only buildings that survive from the Fielding period are the house and a store by the river. The other building which would have been numerous were wooden. There is archaeological work going on at the site to determine where and what some of the buildings which didn’t survive would have been.Betty Lewis was George Washington’s sister, that of course is part of the attraction of visiting here. You begin your visit in the visitors center where you can watch a short video about the work that is ongoing. At the moment the gift shop is non existent but it will be back soon. Tours of the house are guided and take place every 45 minutes. In the visitor center there is a museum with furniture, pictures and other items from the Fielding/Washington families. You will find Betty’s resemblance to her brother George striking, she was a statuesque woman with distinctive features.The name Kenmore was not applied to this property until it was owned by the Gordon family in the 1820s. Fielding Lewis spent most of the money he had in the cause of the Revolutionary War. He died shortly before the war ended and the plantation was sold after Betty’s death by his eldest son John Lewis Over the years, through several different owner the plantation became Kenmore Farm and was subdivided. The house was used as a hospital during the Civil War and did sustain some damage especially to the plaster work. In 1881 Kenmore came into the possession of the Howard family who lived here for several generations. In 1922 in danger of being torn down some very determined Fredericksburg women raised the money to purchase the house and history was preserved. The work has been ongoing but they are presently in a major renovation of the house to return it to the days of the Fieldings.What the tour will show you is how the work of restoration is progressing. The plaster work is amazing and just learning about the re-mortaring of the brick exterior is interesting. Our guide was Becky Toney, and she gave an excellent tour. There were 10 people on our tour and you need to be able to climb stairs.
The Four Season ceiling is amazing and the glimpses that we can see into the life of Betty and Fielding Lewis are worth the price of admission which by the way is $6.
From journal Fredericksburg Va- Americas Most Historic City
December 14, 2004
You learn, for example, about how paints and wallpapers were used to decorate a wealthy gentleman's home in 1775 and how those items were accurately recreated for the current restoration. Kenmore is famous for its plasterwork ceilings (amazing!). They were created by a craftsman known only as the "stucco man." Kenmore and one room in Mount Vernon are the only known legacies of his work. One great thing about the house being unfurnished is that the rooms aren't blocked off by ropes, so you can really get a close look at the plaster ceilings and other decorative work throughout the house.
The gingerbread and gift shop mentioned by another reviewer are unavailable now because of the restoration. The restoration is supposed to be finished in late 2005 or 2006. In the meantime, Kenmore offers a most unusual and highly interesting tour.
From journal Historic Kenmore
South Florida, Florida
November 9, 2000
From journal A weekend in Historic Fredericksburg