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Braehead had Civil War role page 3
Historic Braehead is on the Candlelight Tour this year.

 Previous owner Graham Stevens framed this Braehead key collection.
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Date published: 12/7/2012


Off the lower level "hyphen" hallway are a new bathroom, playroom and mudroom. The mudroom once housed part of the dairy operation that was run there. These lower-level rooms retain the original sandstone door sills that were discovered and reclaimed from beneath the concrete floor.

The service tower's lower level holds a laundry room, just as it has historically. One flight up on the main level is a home office with built-in shelving.


The main level of the formal tower holds the formal living and dining rooms, which are separated by massive pocket doors and are among the rooms open for the tour.

The living room contains a huge antique Knabe piano that former owner Graham Stephens had entirely restored and left with the home. Almy said Stephens left nearly all of the period furniture--bureaus, bed, armoires and more--with the home.

On this level the hyphen contains separate rooms for each of the Almys' three sons.

On the upper level of the formal tower are the master bedroom, which Almy noted was called the Jane Beale room. Beale, whose home on Prince Edward Street behind the Kenmore Inn is under restoration, was the sister of Braehead's builder Howison. She fled to Braehead with her children during the hostilities in downtown Fredericksburg.

There's also a secondary bedroom for the Almys' daughter and a bathroom that has been completely redone.

"Everything we could possibly save or reuse, we did," said Holloway. Original window and door frames and heart pine floors were merely cleaned up, not sanded and repainted or refinished.


As was frequently the case with such mansions that faced old carriage roads or had waterway access, the back of Braehead became the front when Lee Drive was built.

The classic brickwork is a combination of Flemish bond on the front and side of the formal tower, and six-course American bond elsewhere. The black shutters are original except for a few that couldn't be saved and were replaced with matching salvaged ones. For energy efficiency, historically correct storm windows have been installed.

The slate roof was replaced with faux slate, after it was determined the original roof structure couldn't continue to support the weight of real slate.

Copper gutters and downspouts were installed, as were copper "snowbirds" on the roof.

Added but not qualified for tax credits were the exterior patio of Pennsylvania bluestone and other hardscaping like the brick walkways.

Richard Amrhine: 540/374-5406
Email: ramrhine@freelancestar.com

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A history of the house written by Mary "Aunt Mamie" Howison, who was born in 1859, recalls that her Uncle John Howison, Braehead's builder and first owner, loved to host his extended family at the house each Sunday, when the dining table would extend through both the living and dining rooms and lively discussions would ensue.

It was a time when a house was where life experiences took place--births, deaths, weddings.

The Howisons enjoyed a relatively high standard of living, thanks to the lucrative dairy plant that John Howison ran from the house. He took in milk from local farmers and distributed it to customers in Fredericksburg.

In just two short years, however, life for the Howisons would change dramatically as the family and community turned its attention to the Civil War. Selling a fine tract of Braehead timber to the Confederate government for the war effort was only the beginning. In 1861, Howison's wife died and three of his sons went to war.

Dec. 13, 1862, was the day Gen. Lee came to take breakfast at Braehead, steeling himself for the day of battle ahead. Lee had positioned his headquarters at a nearby spot now known as Lee's Hill. Viewing the brutality from that vantage point, he observed: "It is well that war is so terrible. We should grow too fond of it."

During the second Battle of Fredericksburg in 1864, the house was used as a hospital by the Union Army. The Yankee soldiers left the place standing, but they tossed furniture through the windows, carved their names in walls and trim, broke the china, and ate or otherwise killed the livestock.

Union cavalrymen's spur marks remain on the risers of the home's stairs. The floors were left so blood-soaked that it was easier for the Howisons to cover them with a dark stain than to clean them.

By war's end, Howison had lost his wife, two of his sons, all of his dairy equipment and was $60,000 in debt. There was also a cannonball hole at one end of the house.

--Richard Amrhine

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