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Venerable LaVue looks healthy after 194 years page 2
Historic LaVue, looking good at 194 years old, is on the market.

 Here's a view of LaVue from the back that shows where the original 1818 house meets the 'L' addition.
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Date published: 9/28/2012


At some point, plumbing, electricity and air conditioning were retrofitted. The house is heated by the same 1930s furnace, which was converted from coal to oil-burning. The house had a major structural renovation in the 1930s, with steel beams added to increase support. Today there is nary a sign of sagging or bowing that might be expected in a house this old.

The house has a total of 5,140 square feet of living space, with four bedrooms, three full bathrooms and a half-bath.

What has changed is the orientation of the house. Usually that's the case with a Colonial riverfront home with the advent of dependence on land transportation: The back becomes the front and vice versa. In this case the impetus came from the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad, which claimed right of way in 1837, taking the lane that had led to the front of the house. Today a rear entrance provides the primary access.

But it is the view from the front entrance that inspired LaVue's name. Beyond Spotsylvania in the foreground, Caroline and King George counties are visible in the distance. Much closer is the swimming pool that lies at the foot of the brick steps.

Do an about-face, and the front door opens to a grand foyer with a wide and welcoming staircase. Here also is where the home's history comes alive.

The plaster walls have intricate stenciling believed to have been painted in the 1830s, according to the 1971 book "Old Virginia Houses Along the Fall Line" by Emmie Ferguson Farrar and Emilee Hines.

Boniface had fox-hunt scenes, framed by stenciling, added to one portion to reflect the equestrian use of the property. Boniface still keeps three horses at LaVue.

The floors are original random-width heart pine.

To the left is what Boniface said was the men's sitting room, which she notes was generally the most well-appointed room. Its fireplace mantel is the home's most ornate.

This was also the room that, Boniface said, was used as a Civil War hospital. One of the surgeons, William Alsop, whose precise family relationship is unclear, apparently experimented with pig-gut transplants in his attempts to piece together badly wounded soldiers.

To the right of the foyer are the main living and dining rooms, separated by massive pocket doors.

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On a nearby hill a short distance from the house is the Alsop family plot. It is filled with gravestones dating back to the late 18th century. There are Alsops galore there--including James, William, a couple of Johns, Elizabeth, Martha, Mary and Sue.

The property was home to five generations of the Alsop family; the last member of the family to live there was the wife of Herman Swanson, who died in 1972 and is interred in the mausoleum he had built adjacent to the graveyard.

Swanson and Olive Alsop were married at LaVue in 1919. She was a direct descendant of Thomas Royston, who, with John Buckner, received the 1671 land grant on which the city of Fredericksburg would be built.

A gate to the plot refers to Prospect View, the name given to the property for a period of time. Current owner Carole Boniface brought back the name LaVue.

She also brought back LaVue itself during her 25 years of ownership. It had fallen into neglect between Herman Swanson's death in 1972 and the Boniface purchase in 1987.

--Richard Amrhine