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The Chimneys at 623 Caroline St., a mansion that dates to 1772, is a Historic Fredericksburg Foundation restoration project that has had many uses. By Ellen Makarechian
During the porch restoration of 1977, sandstone foundation blocks and remnants of the original stone front steps were revealed. The brick nogging is visible
Photos courtesy of HISTORIC FREDERICKSBURG FOUNDATION
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During the turbulent years prior to the American Revolution, John Glassell's loyalties were with England. He therefore never returned after leaving for Scotland in 1775. Since he had left the Colonies before the Confiscation Act, his lands in Virginia were not seized by the new Virginia government. He gave power of attorney to William Glassell, whose relationship to John has not been verified. In 1792, William Glassell was listed as the owner in an insurance policy with the Virginia Mutual Assurance Society.
Through the 19th century, the house was sold numerous times and had numerous tenants, serving at one period as the childhood home of Ellen Lewis Herndon "Nell" Arthur (1837-1880), wife of U.S. President Chester A. Arthur. Existing additions to the house were completed by 1912. In 1908, Ella St. John sold the house to Mary E. Norris (Buff- ington), whose executors, Ralph R. Buffington and Sally Norris Scott, would offer it to HFFI.
In 1966, the president of HFFI, George D. Williams, and its board agreed to purchase The Chimneys from Dr. Buffington for the sum of $55,000. A mortgage loan for $41,200 was arranged with the National Bank of Fredericksburg. The remainder would also be available from that bank if personal endorsers could be found. Lillian Reed, in a letter written on June 2, 1966, referred to these endorsers as "Angels" of Historic Fredericksburg Inc.:
"I feel we have just made it possible to shore up a bit more history, beauty, architecture, and culture for 'America's Most Historic City' and all of you 'Angels' can take great pride in the doing," she wrote.
In the following years the foundation initially rented out the building for income, but moved its own offices and the HFFI-run Fredericksburg Museum into The Chimneys in 1975. The Chimneys was entered into the Virginia Landmarks Register on Dec. 17, 1974, and into the National Register of Historic Places on July 11, 1975.
Following extensive repairs to flood damage in 1972, the foundation was responsible for restoration of the front porch, entrance and balcony. The foundation also took advantage of the land behind the house when it saved and moved the historic George Gravatt house to its present location at 108 Charlotte St. in 1977.