Fredericksburg Features

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History calendar


Evening Candlelight Tours of Kenmore, Sunday, December 4th – 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Experience Kenmore in the wonderful glow of candlelight. Actors will portray scenes from the Civil War era, with sights and sounds depicting the hardships and joys of a Civil War Christmas. Holiday music and refreshments will be provided.

$10 per person, all ages.

Reservations required. (Ask about how to arrive by jingle-bell carriage!) Contact Vickie Hayes by email at or by phone at (540) 371-3363, ext. 24. Kenmore, built by George Washington’s sister Betty Washington Lewis and her husband, Fielding Lewis, is at 1201 Washington Ave., in downtown Fredericksburg.

A Civil War Christmas at Kenmore, through December 30 (Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). December tours of Historic Kenmore focus on the Civil War era. Guests will learn how modern concepts of the Christmas season were shaped during the mid-19th century. Christmas decorations fill the house, toys are under a feather tree, and a holiday meal is set on the table. In each room, guides will talk about how residents and visitors, from children to slaves, experienced the season during this dark period. Take a glimpse into a Civil War-era Kenmore; you may be surprised at how many traditions remain.

Regular admission rates and times apply.

A Child’s Civil War Christmas at Kenmore, Sunday, December 11, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Bring the family to learn about Christmas during the Civil War. This special event focuses on a child’s life during the holiday season and how people made the best of hard times with limited resources. Tour the mansion, learn about Victorian-era toys, meet a Victorian Santa, listen to period Christmas music, create holiday crafts, and decorate a tree. Regular admission rates apply

25th Annual Gingerbread House Contest and Exhibit at George Washington’s Ferry Farm, December 3–30 (Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). This year’s theme is “The World of Make Believe.” Entries accepted through Friday, Dec. 2, from 10:00 a.m., to 3:30 pm. Download rules at

Exhibit begins at noon on Saturday, December 3rd. On subsequent days, exhibit is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Ferry Farm is east of Fredericksburg on State Route 3 in Stafford County, at 268 Kings Highway. Regular admission rates apply.

The Union Army’s ‘Valley Forge, 10 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 1. Al Conner, an author and historian from Stafford County, will speak about the army’s activities in early  1863 in a talk subtitled “The 93 Days that Saved America,” during the monthly meeting of the Mary Washington Branch of Preservation Virginia (APVA), in the Central Rappahannock Regional Library headquarters theater. The public is welcome. The program will be followed by a Holiday Coffee.; 540/373-1569.

A Christmas Evening at Montpelier, 5–7 p.m., Dec. 2–4. Enjoy a special visit to the home of the father of the U.S. Constitution, starting with   a candlelight mansion tour. Dolley Madison will welcome you in the drawing room  where she and James Madison  received guests. Experience early 19th-century Christmas customs and see the latest finds from the “Presidential Detective Story,” the global search for the furnishings and décor that  graced Montpelier. See “Dolley Madison’s Life through Fashion: Dressing the Part,” a special exhibit of period gowns   created for the PBS “American Experience” series, “Dolley Madison, America’s First Lady.” Experience an 1860s   Christmas, enjoying songs and stories around a yule log with re-enactors from the  Army of Northern Virginia (weather permitting). Stroll  to the Grand Salon for a festive 20th-century holiday celebration including light refreshments, live music, and performance by the Assembly Dancers of Madison County, N.C. $25 in advance; $30 at  door. Members, $20 in advance, $25 at  door. For advance sale price,   RSVP at or call 540/672-2728, ext. 112.


First Friday at The Museum Store, 5–9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 2. Drop by  for  an evening of cheese, wine and shopping. 215 William St.

Special appreciation at The Museum Store, Dec. 2–4.  10 a.m.–9 p.m. Friday,   10 a.m.–6 p.m. Saturday, 12–5 p.m. Sunday. The Museum Store is offering special sale prices for Fredericksburg Area Museum members  and former e.e. smith customers. Saturday is Member Appreciation Day. Not a member? Join! 215 William St.

Curator’s Chat at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3. Learn about holidays on the homefront during World War II from one of the museum’s curators. Free; all ages. 18900 Jefferson Davis Highway, Triangle.; 703/784-6116.

A Monroe Christmas,   Dec. 3 through Jan. 2. This exhibition  transforms the  James Monroe Museum into a festive display of Christmas as James Monroe and his fellow Virginians might have enjoyed it. Features greenery popular during the era, including holly, ivy, mistletoe, and mountain laurel, with details on   customs such as the “kissing ball,”  made out of mistletoe. A buffet  showcases  holiday dishes such as candied fruits, sweetmeats, oysters and plum pudding. Learn about Virginia’s  Christmas customs, such as the shooting of guns and firecrackers, the kinds of presents exchanged between parents and  children, and how slaves might have experienced the  festivities. Admission fee.  10 a.m.–4 p.m. Monday–Saturday, 1–4 p.m. Sunday. 908 Charles St.  540/654-1043; jamesmon

Colonial Candlelight Tour at Mary Washington House, 4:30-7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4. What was Christmas like in the 18th century? Tour the Mary Washington House by candlelight and enjoy Christmas carols and refreshments. George Washington’s mother, Mary, moved into this home in 1772 and lived here until her death in 1789. Free; all ages. 1200 Charles St., Fredericksburg.; 540/373-1569.

Decorating for the Holidays, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4. For the first time, the Dolley Madison Garden Club offers a Christmastime tour of the festively decorated historic inns of Orange County, including The Inn at Willow Grove, Holladay House, Mayhurst Inn, The Inn at Poplar Hill, Chestnut Hill, and the Inn at Westwood Farm. $15; tickets can be purchased at any participating inn, The Arts Center in Orange, Elmwood at Sparks, and The Light Well, or by sending a check made payable to D.M.G.C., Box 1017, Orange, Va. 22960. Holiday refreshments will be served at all the inns. Tour is held the day of the annual Christmas parade (4 p.m.) and tree lighting in the town of Orange. Details:

“William H. Johnson:  An American Modern,”  through Dec. 4. Exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution chronicles the amazing life and  art-world experiences of this major American artist, a virtuoso in many media and styles. Open 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily except Wednesdays. $10, adult admission;  UMW staff  and students, free.  Gari Melchers Home and Studio, 224 Washington St., Falmouth. 540/654-1015;

Wreath-making Workshop at Stratford Hall.  10 a.m.–noon Wednesday, Dec. 7. Join Northern Neck native Betsy Stuart Valentine, a longtime Stratford Hall board member, at the Barns at Stratford for a workshop to design and create   traditional wreaths using seasonal, native plants cut on the plantation. Stratford will have fruit, bows and other   decorations to enhance your natural wreath. Beginners to advanced. $35  for Friends of Stratford;  $40  for nonmembers. Register early! Email rsvp@stratford, fax 804/493-0333, or leave a message at 804/493-8038, ext. 7787.


Santa at The Museum Store,  6–8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 9. Bring a camera and take advantage of a photo opportunity with Santa, or just bring the family for a visit with this very special Christmas guest and help  ring in the season. 215 William St.

 Historian talk; authors’ book signings, 9 a.m.–noon Saturday, Dec. 10.   Central Rappahannock Heritage Center in Fredericksburg. National Park Service historian John Hennessy will speak on “The Power of Letters and Diaries.” Local historians Tony Kent, author of the forthcoming “U.S. Highway 1 in Virginia” and Marion Woodfork Simmons, author of “Memories of Union High: An Oasis in Caroline County, Va.,” will sign copies of their work. There will be refreshments, tours of the regional archives, and books for purchase.   900 Barton St. (former Maury School gymnasium.) 540/373-3704.  Email


41st annual Christmas Candlelight Tour, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, for Day Tour Ticket holders; 6–8 p.m. for Evening Tour Ticket holders; and 1 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11. This year’s tour features Fredericksburg United Methodist Church, 400, 404, 406,  409 and 513 Hanover St., and 708 Prince Edward St., the Fredericksburg Full Gospel Fellowship. Specialty, small-group, priority tours on architecture and Civil War history—new this year—are also available, as is Historic Fredericksburg Foundation Inc.’s 2011 Christmas ornament.  Evening Tour by Candlelight and Cocktail Party, 6–10 p.m. Saturday, limited number of tickets,  $60 each; two for $100.  Daytime Tour, $25 per advance ticket; $20, group ticket; $15, child (5–11); $10,  individual home (one-time entry). Buy advance tickets at HFFI office, 1200 Caroline St.; Fredericksburg Visitor Center, 706 Caroline St.; Spotsylvania Visitor Center, 4704 Southpoint Parkway; 25 30 Espresso, 400 Princess Anne St., and Amy’s Café, 103 W. Cambridge St.,  Falmouth. On the 10th and 11th, Daytime  Tour tickets ($30) may be purchased at Fredericksburg Visitor Center and Candlelight Tour Gift Shop, 803 Princess Anne St. (Fredericksburg Masonic Lodge No. 4). Tickets aren’t available at tour homes. On tour weekend, pick up tour book and ornament (based on  wrought-iron fence at 404 Hanover St.) at  Candlelight Tour Gift Shop, where craft and HFFI items will be for sale; complimentary cider, cookies. Details: Buy tickets online: 540/371-4504.

“1774: A Stratford Christmastide.”  4:30–8:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10.   Celebrate Christmas as they did in late 18th-century Virginia with  a bountiful table, games, greenery and music at the home of the Lees.   Guests will hear   revelry, drumming and rifle shots heralding the season. Wood-burning flambeaux will illuminate the landscape, and dozens of candle lanterns will guide  the way to the Great House, where music will fill the air. The renowned Washington’s Camerata, a period instrument ensemble, will perform two concerts,   at 5:30–6:15 p.m., and   6:45–7:30 p.m. $10, adults; $5, children under 12.  A special Christmas dinner will be served in the Stratford Hall Dining Room at 3 and 6  p.m.  $50,  ages 12 and up; $25,  ages 6–11; children age 5 and under,  free. Includes a $10  tour ticket, dinner and beverage, tax and gratuity. Dinner  by reservation only; Credit card only. Call 804/493-8038, ext. 8039, or email for   information and   reservations.  See  the menu at

Holiday Open House at the Graffiti House, 1–4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10. The Brandy Station Foundation invites you to enjoy light holiday fare, dulcimer music by the Wilderness Run Players, a Victorian Santa Claus, and the historic house’s famed graffiti, written and drawn by Civil War soldiers. Free. The gift shop will be open. 19484 Brandy Road, Brandy Station in Culpeper County.

“Fit to Print:  Newspapers in the 21st Century,”    7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13. Josiah Rowe, publisher emeritus of The Free Lance–Star, will conclude the Fredericksburg Area Museum’s three-lecture “Evening With an Expert” series with a   look at how the newspaper industry has changed over the decades.   In 1900, the The Free Lance merged with  The Daily Star; the two papers were published independently until 1926 when, under the leadership of Josiah P. Rowe Jr., they were combined into a single, six-day-a-week newspaper, The Free Lance–Star. Rowe eventually became its owner and publisher. The  lecture, in the Catherine W. Jones McKann Center at 1001 Princess Anne St., is free and open to the public. A members-only FAMCC reception will follow; nonmembers may join that evening for admittance to the reception.  Call 540/371-3037,  ext. 140, or email


Jingle-bell carriage rides in Old Town Fredericksburg.  4–9 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays    through Dec. 30. Holiday music, cookies, hot chocolate, warm blankets. Travel  Caroline Street to see store windows and lower Princess Anne Street  to admire grand homes. Reservations required. $75 per carriage for a half-hour.  Carriage holds four to six. City Visitor Center carriage stand, 706 Caroline St., Fredericksburg. 540/371-0094.


  A 19th-century Christmas at Ellwood Manor, 9 a.m.–2 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 17. Santa will visit. Children’s crafts  from 9 to 11 a.m.  Interpreters will talk about 19th-century Christmas traditions, read Yuletide  letters of Civil War soldiers. John Tole will provide seasonal music. Fawn Lake Garden Club will decorate circa-1790 plantation house, which figured significantly in the Revolutionary War and Civil War battles. Free; donations welcome.  Hosted by all-volunteer Friends of Wilderness Battlefield. Entrance off State Route 20, just west of State Route 3 in eastern Orange County.


Holiday without Joy: Christmas in the Civil War, Chatham Manor, Stafford County, Friday–Saturday, Dec. 17–18. The 18th-century mansion will echo with period holiday music. Living historian Kevin Rawlings will portray  a Civil War-era Santa, complete with a patriotic outfit. Details TBA;  120 Chatham Lane.; 540/654-5121.

“A Washington Christmas,”  Tuesday, Dec. 27, George Washington Birthplace National Monument. The park’s Memorial House will be decorated for the holidays and filled with Colonial music. The plantation will be busy with demonstrations and activities performed by costumed interpreters.  Come dusk, the park will be illuminated   with candles. Free. 1732 Popes Creek Road, off State Route 3, about 35 miles east of Fredericksburg.


Above the Fold,        Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center.   See more than 150 years of  news coverage in this new exhibit  on   journalism in the Fredericksburg area, with artifacts and rare examples of bygone  newspapers.   Documents Gallery of the   Catherine W. Jones McKann Center, 1001 Princess Anne St. Regular admission. Visit or call 540/371-3037.


Are Your Hands Idle? Special exhibit at John J. Wright Museum near Spotsylvania Courthouse   explores   work and leisure, past and present, especially in context of difficult economic times.   Open 10 a.m.–3 p.m Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.   7565 Courthouse Road; jjwmuseum .org; 540/582-7583, ext. 5545. Free. On display through January 2012.


Caroline Museum and Cultural Center,   new facility. Exhibits on county history  include Civil War stories and quilts with secret messages for escaping slaves.   Free.  Courthouse complex, 121 North Main St., downtown Bowling Green. 804/633-3490;


All I Want for Christmas,  10:30 a.m., Tuesday, Dec. 13. What present did Nathaniel Johnston receive from Col. Robert E. Lee in 1859? His and many other gifts will be uncovered as The Virginia Historical Society explores how the holiday has changed during 400 years.  In this behind-the-scenes tour led by a curator, explore items in the collection that are not on display, through the Richmond nonprofit’s new “A View from the Inside” program. Tours on second Tuesday of every month limited to 20 people. Buy online, $10/VHS members; $17, nonmembers.; 804/342-9676.


An American Turning Point: The Civil War in Virginia, through Dec. 30 at the Virginia Historical Society,  428 N. Boulevard, Richmond.  Signature program of the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission—with 17 audiovisual programs,  more than 200 original objects and 3,000 square foot of  gallery space—tells personal experiences of wartime Virginia’s free and enslaved men, women, children. Free;  804/358-4901,

Please email listings to tandc@freelance (subject: History Calendar), fax to 540/373-8455 or visit Deadline: Noon Thursday preceding   section’s Tuesday publication.