The Fredericksburg Waterfront–A.P. Rowe’s Outhouse

From Hennessy:  

Here is another segment of the great waterfront panorama of Fredericksburg  (see below), recorded in the spring of 1863.

This blowup focuses on the home and yard of Absolom P. Rowe, a cattleman and future mayor of Fredericksburg.  Several interesting things here.  The house, which no longer stands, is on the left, its front perpendicular to Sophia Street (or as it was more commonly referred to then, Water Street).  Between the house and the river is a line of earthworks constructed by the Confederates during the winter of 1862-1863.  This line, in fact, runs virtually the entire length of the larger panorama.  But most amusing is what appears to be Mr. Rowe’s outhouse, perched on the slope leading down to the river–separated from the main house by the Confederate works (something that would likely to have been a major inconvenience during any nighttime forays). 

A couple of larger points.  First, Sophia Street was then, as it is today, a jumble of things, many of them short-lived, some of them unsightly, some beautiful.  The rhythmic floods that inundate that part of the city rendered permanence there rare.  Indeed, the city has, at least for the moment, surrendered to the forces of nature and is now creating a park along much of the riverside on Sophia Street.  The character of Sophia Street is changing dramatically.

A.P. Rowe, the owner of the house in the image, was the son of George Rowe, (the elder Rowe was a prominent cattleman and, later in life, ordained pastor of the African Baptist Church–more on that church in a later post).  The younger Rowe entered the cattle business, and during the war was a buyer for the Confederate Commissary Department. 


 Rowe owned a slaughterhouse whose waterside fencing is also plainly visible in the panorama just above the ruins of the railroad bridge.  Not too the soldiers fishing in the river just below the outlet of the flume to Marye’s Excelsior Mill (which, by the way, was brand new at the outset of the war). 


6 thoughts on “The Fredericksburg Waterfront–A.P. Rowe’s Outhouse

  1. Wonderful! I appreciate your pointing out the details of the photos – such as the outhouse in this photo – details I would otherwise have missed.

    Is there any word on when/why the Rowe house disappeared?

    • Carolyn: I don’t know the precise date it disappeared, but we do know it was there in the 1930s, when HABS photographed for their survey work. My guess it was a casualty of the floods in 1938 and 1942–the latter completely covered the site of the A.P. Rowe house.

    • Yes. Once it crosses the river into Stafford, its route has shifted some since the war, but at the bridge and through the town, yes…it is the same. Thanks Dennis.

  2. As a (late!) follow up to this thread, just found a newspaper notice confirming that the Rowe house was demolished in 1973 to make way for the existing city parking lot that now covers that area. A sad end for a beautiful building…..

  3. Probably the Rowes would not have had the inconvenience of using the out house at night. They likely would have used potty chairs that held ceramic or metal chamber pots. They would have taken, or had their servant take it to the outhouse to dump the next day. Sometimes the chamber pots were quite beautiful.

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