From Hennessy: (Click on images to enlarge them.)
Update: As noted in the comments, I took a look at the Michler Map of Fredericksburg, 1867, and to make it legible I have overdrawn the buildings shown on the map.
The mystery building, in all its mass (seemingly bigger than the adjacent Gordon House, as the photos suggest), is clearly shown.
Original Post: I know in the big scheme, this is not a big deal. But, I am bothered by things that make no sense. And being able to see in multiple images what was clearly one of the largest buildings in Fredericksburg (in an area of intense military activity on December 11, 1862) and not being able to figure out what it was makes no sense to me. So, I throw additional information and ruminations out there in the hopes maybe someone knows something we do not.
Since my first post on the mystery cupola (here), I have gathered up three additional views and done some calculating. In the first, taken in 1863 from above the upper pontoon crossing, the mystery building is stunningly obvious.
An 1863 sketch drawn just a few yards downstream from the location of the camera in image 1 likewise shows the cupola—and indeed offers the clearest view of all.
This view clearly shows the Gordon House–a look at the house yesterday confirmed that the fenestration as shown on the sketch matches precisely the building as it stands today. Note too that both the photo and the sketch show the same tree blocking part of the view of the Gordon House. By the way, the building in the upper right of this sketch is likely the Scott Duplex at the corner of Charles and Fauquier–a building I once theorized might be the home of the cupola. Clearly not.
A second photograph from across the river (taken on the grounds of Pine Grove, about a quarter mile north of the vantage point of the wider panorama we shared last week) shows the cupola on the extreme right. This image offers no new details, but does give us an additional resource to help locate the mystery building.
I have taken the three photographs (including the one from the post the other day, which you can find here), marked their vantage points on the map (1-3 north to south), below, and then I have drawn a line linking the vantage point with the spot on the map that corresponds with the location of the cupola in each image. Using the upstream image to triangulate, the location of the building is clear: somewhere near the Gordon House, Jane Beale House, and the Thomas Knox House (today’s Kenmore Inn) on upper Princess Anne Street.
After dispensing with the theory that the cupola matched the Scott Duplex on Charles Street, then I theorized it was, perhaps, the Gordon House itself, with a roof radically different than the one on the house today. But, as you can see, the sketch clearly shows the Gordon House sitting next to the cupola. Moreover, there is no indication anywhere that the Gordon house was ever altered as radically as all that.
Adding to the mystery is that neither property tax records nor Mutual Assurance Policies indicate a building of this magnitude in this area. It’s possible that a quirk of perspective makes us think the building is closer to the camera than it really is—that it is farther west on Prince Edward Street. But, the downstream images strongly suggest that could not be so, and besides, there are no obvious candidates along Prince Edward Street either. Too, the 1863 sketch seems to place it squarely on the same block with Gordon—nearer to the artist than the Scott duplex, which is a block farther west.
So, we are left with a mystery–one to me that is now even more intriguing and bothersome than it was last week. I have proven myself adept at missing the obvious, and so won’t be surprised if the answer to this is right in front of all of us, seen to all but me (if so, I will be humbled—if not humiliated—but still grateful). And it may be that the only person on earth who cares about this piece of esoterica is me. Nonetheless, I throw the issue out for public consideration, with an ardent call from those who know Fredericksburg’s history to weigh in.