Thursday, November 29, 2007

Fredericksburg's Mostly Historic Skyline

The week after Thanksgiving has been pretty adventureless (unless you count getting my teeth cleaned, which I suspect few would find blog-worthy). So in lieu of actual original content, I will show you a few photos I took on a recent walk, paired with more historical info than you probably care to read. What can I say...Fredericksburg is one hell of a historic place, filled with way more than its fair share of historically and architecturally significant buildings. The town's skyline, when viewed from across the river, is highlighted by the steeples of the town's historic churches. These buildings have been standing since the mid-1800’s, as you can see in the illustration of Robert E. Lee riding through town (that's St. George's in the rear center, and the courthouse on the right).

Fredericksburg Baptist Church: This Gothic Revival style church was built in 1855, and is the second largest church building in Fredericksburg. The building suffered extensive damage from artillery during the Civil War, and like many area churches, was used as a Federal field hospital. The building was repaired after the war, and the main building has remained essentially the same ever since. In 1990, the church bought the Victoria Theater on Caroline Street, and expanded the building until now it covers the corner of 2 blocks.

St. George's Episcopal Church: Built in 1849, it's an example of the Romanesque Revival style of architecture popular at the time. George Washington’s family was a member of this congregation, attending services in the original church building erected in the 1730’s. During the Civil War, it was used as a hospital. The central tower and steeple are city landmarks, and the clock in the tower was set in place in 1851 by the City of Fredericksburg, which is still responsible for its maintenance.

Fredericksburg Presbyterian Church: This Greek Revival style church was built in 1833 and is one of the two oldest churches in Fredericksburg. The building was severely damaged during the Civil War, and the church bell was given to the Confederacy to be melted down for cannons. The church was used as a Federal hospital and Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, worked here, nursing thousands of soldiers brought here from the Battle of Wilderness and Spotsylvania Courthouse.

Fredericksburg Methodist Church: This building was erected in 1882, and is an example of Victorian Gothic style.

Fredericksburg Court House: Designed by James Renwick in the French Gothic style, and completed in 1852. James Renwick later designed "The Castle" of the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, and St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York. That's a pretty impressive resume. In addition to court business, the building houses the will of George Washington’s mother (she’s a big deal in this town).

Here is my church, The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fredericksburg. Built in 1833, it's tied for the title of the oldest church in Fredericksburg. It was originally home to the First Christian Church of Fredericksburg, and during its long and varied history, it has served as a field hospital (surprise!), a warehouse, a school, and a bingo hall.

Last, and certainly least, is the monstrosity of a modern building known as the "Executive Plaza," our very own skyscraper. It gets the award for building that detracts the most from Fredericksburg's historic skyline. Most Fredericksburgers would probably vote to tear it down if they could. Clearly it was erected during a period in which the town's Architectural Review Board was smoking a lot of crack. I guess the only unique thing about it is that it never served as a Civil War field hospital.


Anonymous said...

No historic Catholic churches in Fredricksburg?

Merry N said...

Interesting question. I did a little research, and it turns out that St. Mary’s Catholic Church was originally built in 1858 on Princess Anne St. in the historic district, where most of the historical churches I mentioned still stand. St. Mary’s sold their original building to another church in 1970 when they decided to build a new, modern church near the college, and as of now, that original building houses law offices and apartments. I don’t exactly know which building it is, but if I ever find out, I’ll let you know. And take a picture, of course!