An Overview of Fredericksburg, VA

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History of Fredericksburg

Fredericksburg is an independent city that's located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Located 48 miles south of Washington, D.C. and 53 miles north of Richmond, it is estimated to having a population of 29,036 as of 2019. The land that is now Fredericksburg was once home to the Mahaskahod village of the Siouan-speaking tribe called the Manahoac. Part of a tract patented in 1671, it was settled as a frontier of colonial Virginia. In 1720, the colonial assembly formed Spotsylvania County as interest in the area grew. In 1728, Fredericksburg was founded as a port for the county. Named after Frederick, Prince of Wales, it was a prominent port in Virginia during the colonial era. In 1781, the port was incorporated as a town.

During the American Civil War, Fredericksburg was important because of its location midway between the capitals of the Union and the Confederacy. In 1862, over 10,000 African American slaves left the region to gain freedom behind Union lines. Remnants of the Battle of Fredericksburg and the Second Battle of Fredericksburg are preserved and seen at the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. After the war, the town once again became the city of local trade. In 1879, it received its charter as an independent city.

In the 1900s, the Great Migration and World War II-related buildup at defense facilities increased the population of the city. By the 1970s, Fredericksburg had become a bedroom community for jobs in Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia.  In the 1980s, the Virginia Railway Express was established in Fredericksburg to provide passage to those cities. As of the 21st century, the city is the regional healthcare center for the area. Major retail and commercial centers like the second-largest mall on the East Coast – Central Park – are houses in Fredericksburg.

Fredericksburg Historic District

The Fredericksburg Historic District is a 40-block area containing over 350 buildings and locations dating back to the 17 and 1800s. In March of 1971, it was designated in the Virginia Landmarks Register. On September 22, 1971, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). Historic sites in the district include:

  • The Fredericksburg Town Hall and Market Square
  • Lewis Store
  • The former Slave Auction Block site
  • Mary Washington House
  • The late-1700s Rising Sun Tavern
  • Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop
  • The 1852 courthouse designed by American architect James Renwick
  • The 1816 town hall and market house that's now the Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center
  • St. George's Church
  • The James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park

Owned and managed by the National Park Service, the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park was established on February 14, 1927. On October 15, 1966, it was listed on the NRHP. Commemorating four major battles – Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, Chancellorsville and The Wilderness – in the American Civil War, it includes 8374 acres of land. Within the park is the Fredericksburg National Cemetery, which was created in July 1865 to honor the Federal soldiers who've died. The cemetery features the 127th Pennsylvania Volunteer Monument, Fifth Corps Monument, Humphrey's Division Monument, Moesch Monument and Parker's Battery Memorial.

Mary Washington House

Situated on the corner of Charles St. and Lewis St. in Fredericksburg, Mary Washington House was the previous home of George Washington's mother, Mary Ball Washington. In 1772, he bought it for his mother from Michael Robinson for 275 pounds. In 1891, the house was acquired by the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities. On June 5, 1975, it was added to the NRHP. Mary Washington House is currently an 18th-century period historic house museum operated by Washington Heritage Museums. It offers visitors a view of Mary Washington's best ceramics, the garden, and the kitchen – the only 1700s outbuilding that remains.

Be sure to also check out a Brief History of Staunton, VA.

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