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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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The Chimneys acquired its name from the massive flanking stone chimneys on both sides of the house. This Georgian home is an unusual survivor in the predominantly 19th-century neighborhood of downtown Caroline Street. Particularly important are the paneling, millwork and moldings of the mantels and overmantels in the rooms that take us through architectural styles from the mid-18th to late 19th century.
The house is built of heavy timber, nogged (rough masonry set in between the walls, filling the space between the studs) with brick in all exterior and interior walls. Homes such as this were found in the Netherlands and England, eventually making their way to the Tidewater and across to West Virginia. It is constructed with a mortise-and-tenon system, pinned with hardwood, with each member identified with Roman numerals cut with chisels. It was clearly the home of a citizen of substance in an economically
If we remember that Fredericksburg was considered one of the top 10 port cities in the Colonial period, we will not be surprised to learn that many boat-building techniques were used in its construction, notably in the roof framing. It is similar to the type of framing used by shipwrights in the construction of hulls.
In 1982, Historic Fredericksburg Foundation sold The Chimneys and the George Gravatt House at the rear of the property for $225,000 to William J. Vakos. The new owner secured permission from the city's Architectural Review Board and Board of Zoning Appeals to convert the building into a Colonial-style restaurant to be called "The Chimneys Publick House."
The architectural firm of Browne, Eichman & Dalgliesh PC was hired to refit the historic building. Changes to the structure included scraping the cracked paint off the weatherboarding in order to repaint the building in its original colors. Porches were added at the rear near the kitchen, next to HFFI's former offices.
On the Charlotte Street side, a two-story porch was added, with a stairway that doubled as a fire escape. On the south side, a one-story veranda was added looking out over the English garden. A sign advertising the "Publick House" was approved and erected in 1982.