Chatham Manor in southern Stafford County has topped a “15 for ’15” list of tourism sites to visit throughout the commonwealth.
The state tourism website Virginia is for Lovers (virginia.org) posted the annual list this week of the top 15 places for history lovers to see in 2015.
Chatham Manor, the 1771 Georgian mansion overlooking the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg, was chosen because it was once also a magnet for famous guests such as George Washington, Robert E. Lee, Thomas Jefferson and William Henry Harrison.
Today, Chatham is the headquarters of the National Park Service’s Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.
Peter Maugle, a historian at Chatham, said visitation there is up, coming off the sesquicentennial commemoration of the Civil War.
About 15,000 to 20,000 people visit the mansion off Chatham Heights Road annually.
But Maugle called Chatham a “hidden gem,” because many people miss it when visiting the area’s four battlefields, not realizing the historic significance of the house.
For those who visited previously, the historic site is worth another look now that the Park Service has cleared some trees and underbrush on the slope below Chatham and in the floodplain along the river.
This spring, he said the Park Service will seed and do additional maintenance in that area.
Maugle said the cleared view offers visitors a chance to see the cityscape all the way up to Marye’s Heights, just as the Union army had during the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862. During the Civil War, it was used as the headquarters of Union Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell, whom President Abraham Lincoln visited there.
It is the only private home in America to be visited by both Washington and Lincoln.
Poet Walt Whitman and Clara Barton, founder of the American chapter of the Red Cross, graced the home as volunteers when it became a makeshift field hospital during the Civil War.
Other top sites included on the state list are: Hatton Ferry in Scottsville, Lynnhaven House in Virginia Beach and Smith’s Fort Plantation in Surry.