Battlefield Guide Services

Thursday, August 27, 2015

172 Year Old Witness to Battle of Fredericksburg - Destroyed 8/27/15

     One of the last remaining pre-Civil War structures along lower Sophia Street in downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia, has succumb to years of neglect with an as of yet unspecified plan for the property. Initial efforts to preserve the 1843 structure were foiled the day before when removal of a later addition on the north face of 401 Sophia Street revealed severe termite damage, making any thought of restoration unfeasible.

     The building can be seen in several war era photographs of Fredericksburg taken from the Stafford County side of the Rappahannock River.

     National Park Service chief-historian, John Hennessy, wrote of the pending threat four years ago in the F&SNMP's blog, Mysteries and Conundrums.

     Update! It has now come out that University of Mary Washington students and faculty, of the Historic Preservation Department, were scheduled to document the structure on Saturday, August 29, but the "owners opted not to wait even that long."

     Below are details from period photographs along with photos and a link for a video taken the morning of the demolition.

 Images circa 1863-1864, F&SNMP, and Library of Congress
Prints and Photographs Division. Looking west, from the river.
Above, one of the last photographs taken of the river face of the building, looking west, at 8:37 AM, 
August 27, 2015. Remains of additions to the north face of the building are visible to the right,
 and foreground. The photos below were taken between 8:14 and 9:15 AM, 
 View from Sophia Street, looking southeast.

 Looking north on Sophia Street
 Looking southeast on Sophia Street.

 Visible termite damage of 1843 framework.
 North wall foundation exposed.

Looking northeast from Sophia Street.

 Above, Steve Smallwood, Deputy Director of Building Services Division for the City of Fredericksburg, and Erik Nelson, Senior Planner of the Fredericksburg City Planning Department, along with members of the demolition crew from Abby Construction, examine architectural elements from the debris. Below, an original roof truss and details of its construction.

Salvaged foundation stones and an oak beam from 401 Sophia Street.


Todd Berkoff said...

John, thanks for documenting the end of this old girl. My heart crumbled just as that old chimney toppled to the ground in the video.

I'm guessing no indications of rifle/artillery damage to the infrastructure?


Todd Berkoff

Corey Meyer said...

I second the above statement...thanks for the record John.

concernedgenealogist said...

This is such a sad end to a Civil War story. People will realize the mistake many years from now, into the future. Many communities have discovered tearing down the old to make way for cheap new stuff in the name of progress, is a drastic affront to history, and an attack on our knowledge base. We are harmed when we do not support our hard fought history.