Woman explains decision to donate Fall Hill acreage for park
At age 86, Jenny-Lynn Franklin Guth said her doctor and her banker told her it was time to get her affairs in order.
As part of that, she first offered her share of the former Fall Hill estate in Fredericksburg to family members.
When they didn’t want it, she decided to donate the 28.12 acres to the city of Fredericksburg for a park.
“I didn’t want to develop it,” Guth said in a telephone interview on Friday from her home in Orange, Texas.
She had been impressed with the creation of a trail along the Rappahannock River and felt she could trust the city to develop a park on the land that stretches from Fall Hill Avenue to the river.
Besides, once she heard that a third apartment complex was being planned not far from her property, she felt open space was in order.
“This area is getting very dense and the best thing is to have a park,” Guth said.
With the Sunshine Ballpark nearby and Fall Hill Avenue being widened, she was even more convinced a park was the right answer.
On Thursday, Fredericksburg City Manager Bev Cameron announced that Guth had given three parcels totaling 28.12 acres to the city to create what will be called “Butler–Brayne Park” in honor of her mother.
At age 9, Butler–Brayne Thornton Robinson Franklin inherited the Fall Hill estate overlooking the Rappahannock River.
Though born in Nebraska, Franklin had deep roots in Fredericksburg and spent much of her life at Fall Hill, a Georgian estate built by her family in 1736.
Franklin and her husband, Lynn Franklin, retired to Fall Hill in 1949, after his 25-year career in the American foreign service. He died three years later.
Through her efforts, the house was designated a state historic landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks.
Franklin later sold 44 acres of their 135-acre property to the city and what was then the Fredericksburg–Stafford Park Authority, which became Old Mill Park.
Before her death in 2003 at age 104, Franklin divided the estate into five parts, one for herself and one each for her four children. A son, Lynn Franklin, died in 1983. The other three survive.
Son Butler Franklin still owns property along the Rappahannock Canal, Guth said.
The Fall Hill house at 3315 Fall Hill Ave. and 23 acres were sold to Barry and Maureen Kefauver in 2000. The couple have since painstakingly restored the home.
In 1996, Guth’s sister, Bessie Franklin Turk, and her sister’s husband, Fred Turk, donated 28.79 acres to the city. That land adjoins Guth’s property, bringing the site to nearly 60 acres.
Her donation will provide road access to the parcels.
That will enable the city to create a space with public parking and amenities such as picnic shelters, trails and views of the Rappahannock.
Before taking any steps to develop the parcels, city officials will inventory and protect all historic features. They also will create a plan to protect trees on the property.
Having a permanent place to honor her mother in Fredericksburg is special for Guth because she said her mother “loved the place very, very dearly.”
Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972