Stratford Hall

Stratford
VA

Stratford Hall, Home of the Lees of Virginia

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QUICK FACTS
  • Stratford Hall has 8 chimneys, 16 fireplaces, and 18 rooms.
  • The house has paintings in nearly every room, and though many are copies, there are several originals of the family by Matthew Pratt; one of Marquis de Lafayette by Charles Peale Polk; and one of Henry Lee after Gilbert Stuart.
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Built by Thomas Lee in the late 1730s, Stratford was home to six sons and two daughters. The eldest, Phillip Ludwell Lee, Sr., inherited Stratford Hall. The other five sons — Richard Henry, Francis Lightfoot, Thomas Ludwell, William, and Arthur — served in various ways during the Revolution.

Henry Light Horse Harry Lee, who fought with General Washington in the Continental Army, lived at Stratford Hall when he married Phillip’s daughter, Matilda. He was also the father of Robert E. Lee, the future confederate general during the Civil War.

According to the mission statement, Stratford Hall preserves the legacy of the Lee family and its plantation community, inspires an appreciation of America’s past, and encourages commitment to the ideals of leadership,honor, independent thought and civic responsibility. Currently it works to preserve the house as it was during the years that Henry and Matilda Lee lived there.

Furnished with an outstanding collection of predominantly 18th-century American and English decorative arts, the 1,900-acre site includes nature trails, a gristmill, formal gardens, and reconstructed slave quarters. Overnight lodging is also available.

[Thomas Jefferson] was undoubtedly complicated. He mingled the loftiest visions with astute backroom politicking. He spared himself nothing and was a compulsive shopper, yet he extolled the simple yeoman farmer who was free from the lures of the marketplace. He hated obsessive money-making, the proliferating banks, and the liberal capitalistic world that emerged in the Northern states in the early nineteenth century, but no one in American did more to bring that about. Although he kept the most tidy and meticulous accounts of his daily transactions, he never added up his profits and losses. He thought public debts were the curse of a healthy state, yet his private debts kept mounting as he borrowed and borrowed again to meet his rising expenditures. He was a sophisticated man of the world who loved no place better than his remote mountaintop home in Virginia. This slaveholding aristocrat ended up becoming the most important apostle for liberty and democracy in American history.

Gordon S. Wood
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (2009)