The Mystery Building (Faintly) From Another Angle

In the wake of John’s explorations, here’s another photographic perspective on the mystery building, looming in the left background with its distinctive cupola.

The view looks northeast from the southern tip of Marye’s Heights in May 1864.  This detail is from an original image credited to the National Archives, and published in the Fredericksburg volume of Time-Life Books’ Voices of the Civil War series.

I’ve included in the detail the roof and upper story of the brick Stratton House, which stood and still stands a short distance in front of the famous stone wall, at lower-left corner for orientation.

(Unfortunately, a better resolution of the Archives photo is not readily available at present, while a print of the same view, posted online at the Library of Congress’ Prints & Photographs website, appears to offer even less resolution.)

The grainy, distant aspects of this perspective notwithstanding, it offers a different angle on and yet more evidence for the prominence of the mystery building.



6 thoughts on “The Mystery Building (Faintly) From Another Angle

  1. Please consider posting “then and now” photos of all these wonderful civil war photographs. I always want to know how the same camera shot looks today!

  2. We will–good suggestion. You can be sure if ever we figure out this mystery building, I’ll be posting a modern photo as soon as I can get my camera out to the site…. Thanks. John

  3. A note on the image posted by Noel: tracking the perspective on the 1860 map, the building once again aligns with the Gordon House block between Princess Anne and Charles Street–consistent with the other plottings done in our earlier post.

  4. Wouldn’t the city have a description of the building in it’s property tax assessment records? Sorry if I am asking the obvious “we did that already, guy” question.

    • The tax records from that period don’t include descriptions of any of the buildings being taxed, only their value. It was this that helped Eric Mink put together his post yesterday (
      –his observation that the assessed value of the property increased dramatically in 1868, which implies new construction. The one place we have not looked yet is in the deeds, but that’s something that requires time I just haven’t had time to devote yet. Thanks for reading and writing….

      • But a deed search would still not solve the conundrum, would it, since the cupola building was in place at least 5 years before the property assessement in 1868 that indicates new construction?

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