Historic Hampshire County, WV
West Virginia's Oldest County

National Register of Historic Places

The George W. Washington House
"Ridgedale"

G.W.Washington home

Restoration project Click on the button to see the restoration project!

The Washington Bottom Farm is outside of Romney, on a plateau overlooking a large river bottom of the South Branch of the Potomac River which surrounds the property on three sides. The property is five miles north of Romney, below the roadway of State Route 28. Although the farm once had 700 acres, it now has a total of 251.6 acres associated with the early residence and farm buildings.

The house, known as Ridgedale, sits on a wide flat lawn with a decorative garden finial on post as a feature near the drive. Nearby is a large flat rock used as a stepping stone into a buggy. A small mound, possibly an Indian mound, is to the east of the house. To the rear of the house is a small outbuilding but the remaining farm outbuildings are to the south and west of the house. The vegetation immediately surrounding Ridgedale has been cleared, but there are trees closer to the river. The farm fields are mainly to the west and north.


 

Ridgedale - the Main House   c. 1835

Ridgedale is a high styled Greek Revival residence constructed in 1835 for gentleman farmer, George W. Washington. The three-story brick house stands on a brick foundation an has an L-shaped plan. The house has a hip roof with a center square cupola and widows walk. The cup 'a has a window on each side with a 4/4 double-hung sash, and brackets chimney detailunder the roof edge. On the roof are four chimneys, one at each comer with a slightly flared edge of corbeling at the top, and a recessed panel in the center face.

The front, or south elevation, has a center hipped wooden porch with steps. The porch has a spindled rail, wooden posts and deck, and small brackets under the eave The main doorway is centered with a single transom and has a Greek Revival feature of a wide trim piece over the doorway. The house has five bays on each floor. The windows on the house are all double-hung, sash except for the third floor which has small lozenge windows of three vertical lights in the frieze area. With stone sills and brick lintels. The first floor windows are 6/9 sash and reach to the floor in the front two rooms. The second floor windows are 6/6 sash. There is damage to the brick at the southwest comer of the home around the front window.

The west side is divided into two sections with the front portion of the house and the rear ell. Each section has three bays on each floor with 6/6 sash windows on the first and second floor and lozenge windows on third floor of the front section. The rear ell is slightly set back from the facade and has a shed orch on the first floor with wooden posts. A lower level door leads into a basement room, and the first floor door leads into the kitchen. Basement windows are covered at this time with plywood.

The north side of the ell is a blank brick wall with a single lower level entrance that is presently covered. The north side of the house has two 6/6 sash windows.

The east facade of the house has the front portion to the left with a small center porch which matches the details on the front porch with wooden posts and a spindled rail. There are small brackets under the eave and lattice partially covers the area under the porch. The porch is accessed from the two 6/9 sash windows form the front room, which reach to the floor. Above these opening s are two 61/9 sash windows and lozenge windows at the third floor or attic level. The right side of the house is recessed back for the rear ell which has a two-story porch. The porch was enclosed in the 1940s with glass windows. The wooden floor and orch stairs remain in their original condition.

The interior of the home has good integrity with original wooden floors, wooden trim, a wide center hall with curved stairs, GWW stair2high ceilings, and six panel doors, some of which have graining. The trim on the second floor is simpler with narrow closets in the bedrooms having been added after 1939. The doorways on this floor have transoms opening, into the hallway. A bathroom has been added to the end of the porch and over the front hallway. The attic area has lower ceilings which angle and the low lozenge windows and rough wood floor. A narrow dog-leg stairway leads to the cupola and a door opens out to the widows walk. A dog-leg stairway also connects to two floors of the rear porch and has been blocked to the lower level.

The land of the Washington farm can be traced back to Lord Fairfax, as can many of the large tracts in this area of the state. It was surveyed around 1749 by George Washington, who later went on to become an Army general and US president. The farm was first settled in 1725 by Peter Peters. On the parcel was located Fort Williams, established as a settler's fort in 1756 by Richard Williams. Williams and his family were living on the plantation of his father-in-law Peter Peters on the South Branch River in 1755 at the time of an Indian attack. Williams built his fort, Fort Williams, after he arrived home from Indian captivity, in the spring of 1756. From documentation, it appears to have been a settlers fort, although militia were stationed there at times during the course of the French and Indian War. In the spring of 1758, troops were temporarily stationed at the fort, probably under the order of Capt. Thomas Wagoner, of the Virginia Regiment who was authorized by General George Washington to man any settler forts which were in need of support. No archaeological evidence has been discovered for the fort which is documented by deeds. (Northern Neck Grants G. p. 264)

George W. Washington (1809-1876) was the son of Edward Washington, a descendant of a brother of former President George Washington, and was born near Pohick Church, Fairfax County, Virginia. He was well educated and highly respected. He married Sarah (Sally) Wright (1811-1886) on February 19, 1830. She was the daughter of John Wright and his wife Rebecca Lockhart of Loudon County, Virginia and the granddaughter of Major Robert Lockhart, a native of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where he served on the Committee of Public Safety in the Revolution and was also a major in the county militia. Sarah Wright was born at "Wheatland," near Leesburg, Loudon County, Virginia on April 22, 1811. She was educated at the Moravian School in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Major Robert Lockhart, her grandfather, devised Ridgedale and 700 acres to Sarah, her brother and sister in 1817. This land came into the ownership of George and Sarah after their marriage.

The couple moved to the farm and constructed the single pen log cabin c. 1832 where they lived until the main house was completed. As their family and resources grew, they added to the farm and constructed the main house in 1835. They had a number of children: Edward, Rebecca, Ettie, George, Robert, Sallie, John W., Betty and John. Son John W. died when less than 2 years old, and the second John died in the Civil War, as did brother Edward.

George W. Washington's agricultural practices included raising beef cattle, sheep and pigs. GWW windowHe owned many horses, including two registered Percheron mares. Most of his horses were purchased in England and brought to the farm. He grew corn, hay, soybeans, oats, wheat and flax. He sold cured and fresh pork, along with corn, wool and vegetables for farm income. The earliest standing farm outbuilding is estimated at c. 1850, if earlier log barns existed, their site is unknown. A newspaper account from 1907 tells of the loss by fire of an "Immense basement barn." It is the following year that new silos were added to two other existing barns.

Washington kept a daily journal which provides a few glimpses into life on the farm. He owned approximately 300 sheep, often bought and sold cattle and horses, and owned a team of oxen and mules. He tells of chopping ice from the river in January of 1868 and storing it in the icehouse. The bottom land behind the house, which totaled over 200 acres, was planted in hay and corn. While the field in front of the house was called "the little meadow." Corn is still grown today in the bottom land, and timothy hay still is grown and harvested in the meadow. Washington speaks of the ridge, known as Middle Ridge, which was used to pasture his cattle and sheep. This section is no longer part of the farm. Corn was also grown and harvested from a high water island in the river known simply as "the island." It totals about 30 acres, and although still reachable by equipment, it is no longer fanned. Washington also kept bulls on a feed lot, near the barn area. This lot was used for feeding the dairy cattle into the 1950s by the Brinkers.


 
     The text is taken from the National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form of the National Park Service.   Photographs by CCHall.
The house was recently sold to owners who are interested in restoring it to its former grandeur; we wish them well.

 

Restoration project Click on the button to see the restoration project!


    
© 2005 Charles C. Hall.
updated 2/15/12  All rights reserved.
www.historichampshire.org