The hardest part of planning this adventure is going to be choosing which president’s footsteps to follow. Here are the itineraries commanders-in-chief have chosen over the years:
George Washington moved to Ferry Farm in Stafford County in 1738, when he was 6 years old. You can attend Washington’s 286th birthday party at Ferry Farm on Feb. 19. Of course, if you really want to tour Washington’s Fredericksburg, you’ll also want to visit Mary Washington House, the home on Charles Street in Fredericksburg that Washington bought for his mother. Kenmore, on Fredericksburg’s scenic Washington Avenue, was the home of Washington’s sister and her husband, Fielding Lewis. Many of these sites will offer special discounts for Presidents Day.
Thomas Jefferson penned the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in Fredericksburg. A monument to that statute stands at the intersection of Washington Avenue and Pitt Street in Fredericksburg. Researchers for the National Parks Service have also deduced from his correspondence that Jefferson visited friends at Chatham Manor on Oct. 27, 1793, when he was secretary of state under President George Washington.
James Monroe established a law office in Fredericksburg in 1786. He practiced in the city for three years, until he left after being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1790. The site where his law office once stood has been preserved as the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library, which hosts a variety of events.
Abraham Lincoln made a famous visit to Stafford and Fredericksburg on May 23, 1862. After seeing an Army review at Chatham Manor, he crossed the Rappahannock to visit Army encampments in Fredericksburg. John Hennessy, chief historian at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, wrote this fascinating piece about Lincoln’s likely route through Fredericksburg, which includes a stop at what was then Farmer’s Bank (now Foode at the corner of Princess Anne and George streets) and a likely ride on horseback up to Marye’s Heights and along Sunken Road, sites that would be hugely significant to the Confederate victory in the Battle of Fredericksburg just months later. Hennessy points out that Fredericksburg is the only Civil War battlefield Lincoln visited before it became a battlefield.
George H.W. Bush gave a speech about small business in downtown Fredericksburg in September 1992. Before taking to the podium, he visited Goolrick’s Pharmacy on Caroline Street, said to be home of the longest-running soda fountain in the country, and then Fredericksburg Hardware on William Street, now the site of the luxury townhomes at Amelia Square that will bring new residents to downtown.
George W. Bush addressed local business officials over lunch at Yak-a-Doos restaurant on U.S. 17 in Stafford County in December 2007. President Bush was also reported to enjoy mountain biking at the Marine Corps Base at Quantico, part of which lies in Stafford County.
Barack Obama gave a campaign speech in the rain to a large crowd at the University of Mary Washington in September 2008, during his first presidential campaign. The rally took place at Ball Circle on the UMW campus. (If you choose to tour the campus, don’t miss the Carmen Culpeper Chappell Centennial Campanile, on my list of best clocks in Fredericksburg, at the end of Double Drive, where Campus Walk begins.)