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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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Vakos and the architectural firm he hired worked closely with Susan Ford Johnson, then the executive director of HFFI, to make additional improvements to the interior by replacing plumbing, heating and electrical systems and stripping inside walls down to the nogging beneath the weatherboards. Changes such as these had to be approved by the Standards Committee of Historic Fredericksburg Foundation in accord with the preservation easement that HFFI imposed, in perpetuity, when it sold the building to Vakos. The architectural firm also sent the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission drawings of proposed changes.
Two archaeological surveys had been performed when HFFI owned The Chimneys. These were done by the Virginia Research Center for Archeology, a division of the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission. In the meantime, Vakos allowed HFFI's director, Susan Ford Johnson, to set up temporary offices in the basement of his Dominion Bank Building while she waited to conclude dealings with the City Council on taking over the old City Hall for its museum and offices. The organization stayed at Vakos' building for more than a year.
In the following years, a succession of tenants and restaurants leased the property, and ownership passed to Robert Mitchell III in 1985. In 2000, Fredericksburg entrepreneur Tommy Mitchell purchased the building from Robert Mitchell (no relation) and owns it to this day. Future plans for the building are to continue to lease it as a restaurant, providing continued public access for the historic structure. Eileen's restaurant is currently there.
Historic Fredericksburg Foundation takes particular interest and pride in The Chimneys due to its long association with the building as owner, tenant, restorer and museum operator.
ELLEN MAKARECHIAN of Spotsylvania County is a freelance writer and an interpreter at Kenmore Plantation.