[A note before we get to our main topic: when you get a chance, jump over to Fredericksburg Remembered for a post about a new volume of Fredericksburg letters debuting to the public on Sunday, October 27. You're invited. Good reading for a good cause.]
Today we had the chance to revisit Sherwood Forest, one of the great houses in the region–and certainly one of the greatest house sites anywhere, perched atop a hill overlooking the broad Rappahannock plains at what was known as Fitzhugh’s Crossing (written about here and here). As many of you know from our previous visits to Sherwood Forest, the site is slated for development. The house and immediate grounds are planned to be preserved (about 40 acres), while the surrounding 1,100 acres will be turned into housing. The developer, the Walton Group, plans to retain the historic core of the property and is doing stabilization work on the big house and kitchen now. They offered us the chance to take a look–the first chance we have had to go inside the big house and the adjacent kitchen, and so we share some photos. Our thanks to Kevin Crown of Walton for inviting us over.
The place was built about 1838 and retains a good deal of integrity, though years of abandonment have taken its toll. Still, the interior is impressive. Beyond the addition of a kitchen and bathroom, little has changed since Henry and Jane Fitzhugh built the house after their marriage in 1837. Water and termites have been destroyers, but the house, while not livable, is certainly salvageable.
[A historical note: Brad Forbush, who maintains an outstanding site on the 13th Massachusetts, has posted some wonderful material about Sherwood Forest. Click here and scroll down for the story of John Fay and Sherwood Forest.]
The entrance foyer.
The SE room downstairs, with its pocket doors.
Stabilization work is also going on in the kitchen.
The twin hearths on the first floor are truly impressive.
The second floor of the kitchen is badly rotted and presents a real challenge.
And what of Sherwood Forest’s much publicized duplex slave cabin? We fear the news is not good. Nature has taken a heavy toll in just the last few years. There is, frankly, little left that can be saved, especially on the left side of the cabin.
Here’s a close-up of that collapsing corner.
A recent public meeting held by the developers revealed among many a fierce devotion to Sherwood Forest. The developers certainly heard that and seem intent in their efforts to get the big house and kitchen stabilized so that at some point it can be adaptively reused. Here is some news coverage of that meeting.