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Venerable Dick house long a city landmark page 2
City's historic Charles Dick House on the market

 A barrel ceiling follows the contour of a half-round window in the master suite.
REBECCA SELL/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 5/29/2009

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Felder reports that Dick first came to the neighborhood in 1744, buying a portion of lot 51 on Caroline Street from developer John Allan. Dick would put his new store there, less than a block away from the Lewis Store.

Though little is known about Dick before the 1740s, other than that he lived in Caroline and Spotsylvania counties, 1750 proved a big year for the 35-year-old Scotsman. He married Mary Roy, daughter of Caroline County physician Mungo Roy. He also bought another parcel, lot 52, from Allan. It adjoined the rear of lot 51 and bordered on Princess Anne Street, which was an unpaved path at the time.

Lot 52 was on a bluff overlooking his Caroline Street store and the Rappahannock River beyond. A stairway let him move easily between the two. It was the perfect spot for him to build a new and fitting house for his bride.

He may have felt compelled to build a nice home because Mary's sister had married attorney John Mercer, who already owned Marlborough, a mansion on Potomac Creek.

Dick's house, originally a single story, was oriented toward the river, making the Princess Anne Street side the rear of the lot, where the privy was located. The main stairway in the foyer still lands at what is now the back door.

According to Felder's research, "Physical evidence in the home supports a mid-18th-century construction date, including mortised and tenoned joints in the basement beams, pegged and [Roman] numbered rafters in the attic, a T-shaped chimney structure, and the use of wrought-iron nails."

The house has long entertained historic figures and events. George Washington visited at least once, when he "dined and supped" in 1771, according to his diary. The house took Minie-ball fire during the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862. Presidents Grover Cleveland and Calvin Coolidge stopped by during their administrations.

DICK AND THE GUNNERY

In 1775, Dick teamed up with Fielding Lewis (now that Lewis had completed Kenmore) to run the Fredericksburg gunnery. It would supply muskets for Colonial troops throughout the Revolution, while also repairing muskets captured from the British.

The operation took a heavy toll on the health and finances of both men, who apparently viewed it as more of a patriotic enterprise than a profit-making business.


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