Saturday, February 22, 2014

Virginia’s Woodlawn Plantation

George Washington never slept at this home but his ghost is seen on the property.

The first president of the U.S. never had children of his own but after he married Martha Custis he became a devoted stepfather to her 2 children, Patsy and Jackie from a previous marriage.

Jackie as a young adult married and gave George and Martha 4 grandchildren. Her youngest daughter Eleanor nicknamed “Nelly” was only 4 and half months old when George and Martha brought Nelly and another young sibling to Mt. Vernon to raise.

Eleanor "Nelly" Lewis
When Nelly grew up, to the delight of the entire family she married George Washington’s nephew, Major Lawrence Lewis. George gave the newlyweds a gift of 2,000 acres from his 8,000-acre estate. Washington arranged for a distinguished architect, Dr. William Thornton to design a home for the young couple.

Nelly and Lewis had this grand home built on a hill overlooking Mt. Vernon, between 1800-1805. * Washington spent a lot of time supervising this construction--it became his favorite pet project. But he died before the home was complete so he never saw it finished. 

The Lewis' furnished their new home lavishly and immediately started to throw elegant parties. The couple had 8 children of which only 3 survived past childhood. The rest died at Woodlawn.

Major Lawrence Lewis
When Lawrence died in 1839 Nelly left Woodlawn and went to live with her only surviving son at a plantation called Audley.

The plantation then was bought and sold several times. In 1896 the home was damaged by a hurricane--after this it sat empty for 6 years.

The home was restored and in the mid 20th century the National Trust for Historic Places acquired the property. Today only 127 acres of the original 2,000 remain. The home is a museum and hosts thousands of visitors each year.

* Woodlawn is just south of Alexandria, Virginia.

The Hauntings

Before and since the home was restored in the 20th century there have been reports of ghost sightings.

This activity occurs throughout the home but a lot of it is concentrated on the south side--where an open basement well is located. Many believe wells are portals or natural entryways for ghosts. It is felt this well located beneath the kitchen allows spirits to enter the home. * 

Witnesses over the years have reported being disturbed by footsteps, slamming doors, banging sounds and whispers without any known source.

Items in the home often crash down from shelves and pictures fall off the walls and smash onto the floor. Doors also often lock by themselves.

A ghost is heard thumping loudly up and down the stairs. Some believe this ghost is that of John Mason a previous owner of the estate during the Civil War. Mason had a wooden leg.

The Lafayette room a bedroom upstairs is very active. When candles were still used to light the home they were often found relit after they had been extinguished. Chairs in this room were found rearranged. Since, a ghostly figure is seen at the window of this room when the home is empty.

In the 1930s the owners of the home experienced a terrifying event in this bedroom. The wife put her infant down in his crib for a nap when moments later she heard him crying loudly. When she entered the room she found him lying on top of a tall dresser.

The Lorenzo room another bedroom upstairs also has unusual activity. This was the Lewis’s only surviving son's bedroom. People see the door on an antique armoire open without explanation.

Odd noises are often heard and many people have reported having their shoulders tapped by an unseen hand while in this bedroom.

Downstairs in the master bedroom the lights go on and off mysteriously. Visitors have reported a cold rush of air swoshed passed them in this room.

Both dogs and cats refuse to enter the home’s center hall area.

Floating figures are seen in the home and overnight visitors have been awakened only to see men dressed in old-fashioned clothing walking around.

The ghost of George Washington is seen on moonlit nights outside the home. He is seen riding around the estate and circling the drive on a translucent white horse. Some speculate his ghost still lingers because he never saw his pet project completed.

* The home's kitchen has been converted to the present day gift shop--so the well can be seen here.

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