Historic Kenmore Plantation was built on the eve of the Revolutionary War by Betty Washington Lewis and her husband Fielding Lewis. The property itself had been originally surveyed in 1752 by Betty's then 20-year old brother, the young surveyor George Washington. Betty's mother, Mary Ball Washington, became widowed with the death of her husband Augustine, a prosperous planter in Westmoreland. Mary Washington never remarried, yet she was vigilant in raising her children to take their place within the 'Tidewater Aristocracy' of Virginia.

At the age of 17 Betty Washington married Fielding Lewis, a wealthy merchant, real estate mogul and A-lister in Fredericksburg society. At the age of 27, George Washington married Martha Dandridge Custis, a wealthy widow with a generous dower inheritance that, when combined with Washington's own inheritance of Mount Vernon, made them one of the wealthiest couples in Virginia. Fielding Lewis and George Washington hit it off, and the two of them would travel together to Williamsburg - then the capital of Virginia - when they served in the Virginia House of Burgesses.

When the Revolutionary War broke out, it was thought that Fielding Lewis would remain a Loyalist given that he had made his fortune trading with the English ships that sailed up the Rappahannock to Fredericksburg. Yet, Fielding's conscience would not allow it, and he became an ardent Patriot. When war broke out, Lewis used his personal wealth to build a gunnery and manufacture guns for the Revolutionary Army. Fielding supplied guns to the rebel patriots throughout the war and used his own ships to transport food, supplies, and gun powder for the war effort. He even built ships and a small navy to defend the Rappahannock and Fredericksburg.

The Gordon family purchased the Fieldings' home in 1819 and called it Kenmore after their castle in Scotland. Kenmore was caught in the crossfire of the Civil War during the Battle of Fredericksburg. Bullet holes are visible in the exterior brick, and there are two places where cannon balls struck the home. The Gordons were ordered to leave Kenmore when it became a Union field hospital during the Battle of the Wilderness. After the War, Kenmore was purchased by a former Confederate who had served in the Virginia Cavalry and his wife, a former Confederate spy and smuggler.

By 1922, Kenmore was threatened with either demolition or subdivision into rental units. The Kenmore Association raised money to purchase and preserve the estate. Forty years later the Association would save the day once again in a battle against developers to save Ferry Farm, George Washington's boyhood home.

A National Historic Property operated by the George Washington Foundation, Kenmore Plantation is open seasonally on weekends for tours of the house and gardens. Guided tours take you through the restored home with period furnishings and original decorative plasterwork on the ceilings and above the mantels. There is a museum and gift shop, and the home is located in historic downtown Fredericksburg.

Pictured at the top: The front entrance of the ca. 1775 Kenmore Plantation faces the gardens, downtown Fredericksburg and the Rappahannock River.

kenmore plantation gardens

Restored by the Garden Club of Virginia, Kenmore's gardens were the inspiration for Historic Garden Week in Virginia.

kenmore plantation rear entrance

The rear entrance of Kenmore is the one that greets visitors today.