For two days this summer, one of Virginia’s hidden historic gems will be open to the public.
Salubria, an almost pristine 18th-century manor house built for Colonial governor Alexander Spotswood’s widow, will welcome visitors on June 21 and July 5.
A first for Salubria, it is part of the Public Access Days being hosted by the Germanna Foundation, a nonprofit group that preserves a nationally significant handful of historic sites in the state’s northern Piedmont.
The Culpeper County home’s steward also announced it will open the site of Fort Germanna, the wooden-spike enclosure near the Rapidan River in Orange County that Germanna settlers built in 1714 to protect themselves from Indian attack. Both sites, which are the focus of ongoing archaeological digs, normally are closed to the public.
The days will primarily be focused on archaeology, but time will tell if visitors to Salubria are more interested in the imposing house’s Flemish-bond brickwork and unfurnished but impressive interior than the property’s below-ground historic resources.
Eric Larsen, Germanna’s director of archaeology, will guide visitors around digs at both places.
Local lore holds that the Rev. John Thompson built Salubria when he married Butler Brayne Spotswood, widow of the ambitious, crafty and colorful leader who named the Rapidan River and for whom Spotsylvania County is named.
In 1802, Culpeper County resident James Hansbrough bought the property and named it Salubria, Latin for “healthful.” It was the birthplace and family home of Adm. Cary T. Grayson, personal physician to President Woodrow Wilson.
The oldest brick dwelling in Culpeper, the Georgian-style, whose interior retains its handsome wood paneling, is on the National Register of Historic Places.
For Public Access Days, the foundation’s archaeology staff and summer field-school students hope to have some active excavations open at circa-1757 Salubria for people to view.
Salubria will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Friday, June 21, and Friday, July 5.
Visitors can stroll the grounds, which has graves, terraces and garden ruins, for free. Germanna staff will offer 45-minute tours of Salubria’s interior, limited to 15 people at a time, starting at 11 a.m., noon, and 1 p.m.
Tours cost $10 per person; children aged 6 and under are free.
Salubria sits a short distance south of State Route 3, at 19173 Salubria Lane, not far east of Stevensburg and York Road where it meets Route 3. If you are traveling east from Culpeper, Salubria will be on your right. On the roadside, a silver-and-black state historic marker indicates the lane, which is seven miles east of the town of Culpeper.
The special events at both historic sites will be family-friendly, with hands-on activities for children.
Fort Germanna is where Lt. Gov. Spotswood—the British crown’s top representative in the colony—brought the first German settlers to the frontier, forged an iron-making industry and built one of the grandest homes in the land, which wealthy Richmond planter William Byrd II waggishly dubbed the “Enchanted Castle.”
Visitors will be able to tour the archaeology dig sites with Germanna’s top archaeologist, learn about Colonial frontier life inside Fort Germanna, and talk with archaeology field-school students and interns about their recent finds and experiences.
Fort Germann will be open on Thursday, July 18, from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Thursday, Aug. 1 from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Before proceeding to the out-of-the-way dig site, be sure to stop by the Fort Germanna Visitor Center on Route 3 next to Germanna Community College’s Locust Grove campus and pick up a booklet and map.
For more information, call the foundation staff 540-423-1700 or email Ashley Abruzzo at email@example.com.
If bad weather forces a cancelation, the foundation will post an advisory on its website, germanna.org, and its Facebook page.
A tax-deductible nonprofit, the foundation explores the Colonial Virginia frontier via its historic sites, their German colonists and the settlers’ descendants. It conducts archaeology, genealogical research and publishing, and historic preservation and interpretation.
The foundation’s properties include the Fort Germanna Visitor Center, Museum & Genealogy Library, the Germanna Memorial Garden, the Siegen Forest hiking and nature trails, the Fort Germanna/Enchanted Castle archaeology site, and Salubria.