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Venerable LaVue looks healthy after 194 years
Historic LaVue, looking good at 194 years old, is on the market.

 Here's a view of LaVue from the back that shows where the original 1818 house meets the 'L' addition.
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Date published: 9/28/2012

BY RICHARD AMRHINE

It is called "LaVue" because of the view; the name was bestowed on the property by the first owner's wife, who was of French Huguenot descent.

That first owner was John Alsop, a familiar name in the annals of Fredericksburg-area history, and it was his father, George, who is credited with building the brick mansion in 1818.

The hilltop site on which it was built was chosen because of the view and the beautiful, gently rolling land that surrounds it. It must have been a clear choice, because back then there were 1,500 acres worth of possible sites to choose from.

LaVue is off U.S. 17, Mills Drive, in Spotsylvania County and is listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register. For the past 25 years it has been owned and cared for by Carole Boniface, whose background in interior design and adaptive reuse has come in very handy. She has made a few strategic interior upgrades and nursed the house through a 1996 tornado, a couple of hurricanes and last year's earthquake.

The house, the surrounding grounds and the 60 acres of the estate that remain are impeccably well-kept. Though she seems to manage the maintenance and upkeep quite well, Boniface has decided to let someone else take over. She listed it for sale with Janel O'Malley and Robin Marine of Coldwell Banker Carriage House Realty in Fredericksburg. The asking price is $1.75 million.

The location is remote, but conveniently close to stores and what will be the Spotsylvania VRE station.

FEW CHANGES MADE

One might think that drastic changes would have been made to a house over the course of 194 years, but in this case one would be wrong.

The original house was a typical antebellum four-over-four with a full basement, built on a large scale suggesting the owners enjoyed significant wealth. Large as it was, by 1834 the growing family needed more space, and an L-shaped addition was built.


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On a nearby hill a short distance from the house is the Alsop family plot. It is filled with gravestones dating back to the late 18th century. There are Alsops galore there--including James, William, a couple of Johns, Elizabeth, Martha, Mary and Sue.

The property was home to five generations of the Alsop family; the last member of the family to live there was the wife of Herman Swanson, who died in 1972 and is interred in the mausoleum he had built adjacent to the graveyard.

Swanson and Olive Alsop were married at LaVue in 1919. She was a direct descendant of Thomas Royston, who, with John Buckner, received the 1671 land grant on which the city of Fredericksburg would be built.

A gate to the plot refers to Prospect View, the name given to the property for a period of time. Current owner Carole Boniface brought back the name LaVue.

She also brought back LaVue itself during her 25 years of ownership. It had fallen into neglect between Herman Swanson's death in 1972 and the Boniface purchase in 1987.

--Richard Amrhine