Historic Structures

Stratford Hall Mansion, Stratford Virginia

Date added: January 10, 2022 Categories: Virginia House Mansion

Thomas Lee (l690-175l), for whom Stratford Hall was built, was a grandson of Richard Lee of Stratford-Langton, Essex, England, who came to Virginia and settled first in Gloucester County in 1644. As local Magistrate, member and President of the Governor's Council, and later acting Governor of the Colony, Thomas Lee, exerted considerable influence in the Virginia colony. He was married to Hannah Ludwell of Green Spring, and of his six sons, Richard Henry Lee (1732-1794) and Francis Lightfoot Lee (1734-1797) were both signers of the Declaration of Independence. Philip Ludwell Lee, who inherited Stratford Hall from his father in 1751 and who died in 1775 was a member of the House of Burgesses and a secretary of the Governor's Council. Stratford was acquired by his son General Henry (Lighthorse Harry) Lee (1756-1818) whose own son, Robert E. Lee, was born in the House in 1807. Major Henry Lee, who inherited Stratford in 1818, sold it in 1822. The property was acquired by the Henry D. Storkes in 1828. Mrs. Storke, a sister-in-law of Major Henry Lee, bequeathed the property to her husband's nephew, Dr. Richard H. Stuart. His son, Charles Edward Stuart sold Stratford Hall to the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Inc.

Nine-bay, two-story Stratford Hall, a fine example of an early eighteenth century planation mansion, is outstanding for its H-plan and its two clusters of massive chimneys. The second, main floor, or piano nobile contains the great hall and other formal rooms. Overall dimensions are 92'6" x 62'8".

The exterior and interior masonry walls are bearing walls which support the wood floor structures which are inaccessible. The roof structure, however, is one of the few truss roofs of the early eighteenth century in America. Except for very minor damage due to fire near the east chimneys and the shoring and splicing of a few timbers, the roof and attic framing stand as originally constructed. The attic floor, or the ceiling of the main floor, of each wing is carried by four trusses, each having a 29' clear span. Each king post is cut down from a 6" x l4" timber to provide haunches to receive the top members and the diagonal braces. The attic floor structure consists of 3" x ll" floor joists which are supported on diagonal 7" x 7 1/2" members similar to, and directly below, the roof hip rafters. Tie beams form trusses that support the tray ceiling of the Great Hall in the central section. The trusses and rafters rest on wall plates that are 8" x 24" in size. All joints are of mortise-and-tenon construction and are pinned with hardwood pegs. Truss timbers and rafters are poplar.

The plan is an H-form and is rather unusual for eighteenth-century America. The space distribution is likewise unusual, having service and most of the sleeping quarters on the ground floor and the formal rooms on the main floor. The names and uses of the various rooms have been derived from inventories of 1758 and 1776, and are problematical. The conjectural nomenclature and location is as follows:

Ground Floor: The west wing, with its passage between the pairs of chimney breasts contains the Red Room, Green Room, and Blue Room, which were probably all used as bed chambers, and the County House or plantation office. The central section contains two north brick rooms which were used for storage, and the large Middle Hall Room which was perhaps originally subdivided. The east wing has a similar passage between the pairs of chimney breasts and contains the White Room, which was perhaps a tutor's chamber, the School Room, the Housekeeper's Room, and the Spinning Room which may have been also used as a winter kitchen. The restoration of the 1930's included at the ground floor level the removal of the northwest interior stair, removal of the toilet facilities in the west wing, resetting of doors in the west wing, and the reconstruction of the small service stairway in the east wing.

Main - Second floor:

West wing: A passage is located between the pairs of chimney breasts and has arched niches on either side. The Parlour Closet adjacent to the Parlour was the location of the earlier stairway, now removed. The Library and Library Closet opposite the parlour with its late eighteenth century or early nineteenth century trim, are conjectural designs by architect Kimball. Other trim in the rooms has been repaired or replaced.

Central section: The square plan tray ceilinged Great hall remains are originally designed with only minor repairs to the full height paneling and the trim. The south and north exterior doors are new and the book-closet doors are restored. Corinthian pilasters on pedestals with carved caps derived from tobacco leaves flank the openings and are fine examples of early classical work in America.

East wing: Similar to the west wing, a passage extends between pairs of chimney breasts and has niches. The Mother's Room, like the Parlour, has late eighteenth or early nineteenth century trim which has been preserved and restored. Between the Dining Room and the adjacent alcove, a seven-foot high archway was constructed from structural evidence. The partition has been moved to the present location and the paneling of the Dining Room chimney breast was designed by architect Kimball from fragmentary pieces of earlier paneling.

Attic: The attic is one large space divided by a modern metal firewall above the elevated level over the Great Hall's tray ceiling.