A favorite place: the “back path” at Chatham


From John Hennessy:

[A new occasional feature, “Favorite Places.”  If you have one in the park, let us know–either in the comments or through email–and we’ll pass it along.]

Few people know of it (until now), and fewer still use it (it’s just as well), but it is one of my favorite places in the Fredericksburg region: the so-called “back path” at Chatham, just south of the Big House.  It is cloaked in what a soldier might have called “a dark, close wood,” and descends Stafford Heights to River Road by ancient steps haphazardly and occasionally dug into the hillside. In my hundreds of passages of the back path, I have never–not once–passed another person.

We know little of its origins, but both logic and appearance suggest it’s been used a very long time. Local legend is that Chatham’s last private owner, John Lee Pratt, used the path for his walks into town every day.  It’s hard to imagine that hundreds of others used it, too, for it is the easiest way from Chatham down to River Road, and thence into Fredericksburg across the Chatham Bridge.

If you have such a favorite place, let us know…..

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One thought on “A favorite place: the “back path” at Chatham

  1. For some years I was a volunteer historian at Chatham. On particularly nice days I would offer visitors some extra tours to the “front yard” (riverside) at Chatham. I always stopped at the top of what John Hennessy chooses to label as the “back path” to offer a bit of commentary. My particular name for the path was the Pratt Fall. “Pratt” from the lore about John Pratt’s daily walks and “Fall” for the likelihood of slipping on the leaves and undergrowth while descending to the river road.

    It is a marvelous experience to take the path to the bridge crossing, except for the slight unease of traversing the segment of the road between the lower gate and the bridge. From the bridge you can go into Fredericksburg for a lunch or more history. Alas, despite offering the opportunity as often as possible, I only had one report of a tourist family actually taking the trek.

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