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Family’s tie to land preserved with gift

In her early 20s, Jenny–Lynn Franklin Guth planned to build a house on a section of the Fall Hill estate in Fredericksburg, which had been in the family since the 1700s.

Instead, she and a friend drove to Mexico City to pursue her interests as an artist and wound up meeting her future husband.

Ten days later, they were back in Fredericksburg for a wedding on the grounds of the estate that overlooks the Rappahannock River.

Fall Hill included 180 acres when her mother, Butler–Brayne Thornton Robinson Franklin, inherited it in 1908 at age 9, Guth said.

And despite a childhood spent traveling the world because of her father’s work as an American foreign service officer, Guth always considered Fall Hill home.

That’s why the decision of what to do with the land she inherited from her mother carried such weight.

She turned down an offer of $4 million for her 28.12 acres with river frontage a few years ago.

More recently, she considered building an office park on the site with a skyscraper towering over the Rappahannock and elaborate gardens.

“My goal was to do something with the land so generations would have an income,” said Guth, who has seven nieces and nephews.

But no one in the family shared her vision, so she abandoned that idea.

The 86-year-old reached her final decision at the end of last year after her heart doctor told her it was time to get her affairs in order.

That’s when she opted for donating her land to the city of Fredericksburg for a park to be named for her mother as well as the first Butler Brayne to live on Virginia soil.

The first Butler Brayne in the line was born in London and known in Colonial Virginia as “Lady Spotswood,” having married acting governor Alexander Spotswood.


On Tuesday, Fredericksburg officials held a reception for Guth to thank her for the donation she made in May.

Guth, who was widowed in 2007 after 50 years of marriage, currently lives in Orange, Texas, but said she visits Fredericksburg every year.

“I come to see my land. I love my land. I really do. It means a lot to me,” Guth said.

She arrived at the beginning of July and is spending the month with childhood friend Glenna Graves Shiflett. Shiflett lives in the historic Stafford County home known as Carlton, which overlooks Falmouth.

Years before her death in 2003 at age 104, Butler–Brayne Franklin divided the Fall Hill estate into five parts, one for herself and one for each of her four children. Her younger son, Lynn Franklin, died in 1983, and his portion was immediately sold, Guth said.

Guth’s other two siblings survive.

Butler Franklin, the older son and oldest of the siblings, lives with his wife in Washington, D.C., and still owns his property, which stretches along the Rappahannock Canal, Guth said.

Their mother agreed in 2000 to sell the Fall Hill house at 3315 Fall Hill Ave. and 23 acres to Barry and Maureen Kefauver, who then restored the home.

In 1996, Bess Forbes Franklin Macdonald Turk and her husband, Fred Turk, donated 28.79 acres to the city. That land adjoins Guth’s property, bringing the park site to nearly 57 acres.

Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw thanked Guth at Tuesday’s City Hall reception and said that “preserving our river and our riverfront is a very high priority for this city.”

“We assure you that we will be wonderful stewards of this gift,” she said.

Guth’s donation provides 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 and create a plan to protect trees on the property.

Guth said she envisions the park as a place where families can hike, bike and even camp.

And she sees it as a place where her family can forever remember its history.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972