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Hartwood House has a story to tell
Saving the barn, which dates to around 1780, was a key part of the restoration project at the Hartwood property.
Photos by SCOTT NEVILLE/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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By RICHARD AMRHINE
F THE MOTORISTS who drive by Hartwood House everyday notice it at all, what they probably see is a handsome old house along the highway. They would have no knowledge of the history it has seen or the efforts that have saved it from destruction.
It was built in the first quarter of the 19th century, and the brick structure's location along U.S. 17 amid the rolling hills of western Stafford County has always been part of its identity.
Thanks to its most recent owner, Charles E. Hudson, its identity today is that of a beautifully restored and expanded homestead on 21 acres, with many modern amenities. Outbuildings include a guest house, a shed and a barn. It is listed for sale with Jamie Pangretic of Long & Foster Realtors in Fredericksburg. The asking price is $1.5 million. Hudson died last year.
Historians point out that the Federal-style house has carefully crafted brickwork, molded corners and other architectural qualities that set it apart from others built around the same time.
The builder, William Irving (or Irvine), was an Irish immigrant who sited the home at the center of a 5,000-acre parcel between the Rappahannock River shoreline and the Fredericksburg-Warrenton road, now U.S. 17. A small creek to the rear of the house bisects the property.
The property's first 50 years were typical for such a plantation. Irving reportedly owned between 100 and 125 slaves. Some of them worked in the original basement kitchen, which was connected by tunnels to the slave quarters behind the house.
Research has determined that a long-gone cabin near the site of the present house had been built in the late 1700s. That's when the big barn that sits alongside U.S. 17 was built. The barn was used as a hospital during the Civil War and was part of Hudson's restoration project. It has several stalls, a tack room and an expansive hayloft. It's painted a cream color and has a red, standing-seam metal roof.
As the Civil War unfolded, Hartwood House found itself with a front-row seat to one of the region's key transportation corridors. As such, it was a favored headquarters location and changed hands a few times between Union and Confederate troops. The family managed to live there through it all.