View from Chatham

Rehabilitate Chatham Bottomland and Vista

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park » Rehabilitate Chatham Bottomland and Vista » Document List

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania NMP proposes to rehabilitate the Chatham bottomlands along the Rappahannock River and rehabilitate the historic vista from Chatham.

Chatham is an 18th century plantation house and property. Three of the structures (the main house, laundry and kitchen) date to 1768-1771. The structures were built atop Stafford Heights, a ridgeline that parallels the Rappahannock River, and have a commanding view across the river and into the town of Fredericksburg. During the Civil War, Union generals and army commanders chose Chatham as a headquarters location because of the view afforded from the front of the main house and the grounds.

In 1964, Chatham's final private owner, John Lee Pratt, donated a 23-acre strip of ground to the National Park Service (NPS). This piece of ground sits at the base of Stafford Heights between the Rappahannock River and River Road (County Route 607). Historically, the land along the river had been used for farming and was devoid of tall vegetation. In 1975, Pratt died and the NPS took control of the Chatham buildings and additional property. In the past forty years, the NPS has struggled to maintain Chatham's bottom land along the river. Four ditches that serve to drain the fields along the river have become clogged. Damaged culverts have also contributed to the problem and result in flooded fields during wet and rainy periods. The swampy nature of the fields has made access to the fields, maintenance and cutting difficult and has resulted in overgrown vegetation and trees. These trees, along with other unchecked vegetation along the forward slope of Chatham, have reduced the vistas and views that have historically characterized the property and linked Chatham with Fredericksburg for two hundred years. The park now proposes to address and correct the drainage issues on Chatham's bottomland, improve access to the bottomland, as well as reopen the historic views. This will entail clearing and fixing the drainage ditches, installing gravel to stabilize access points to the bottomland, as well as cutting and removing trees in the bottom land as well along the forward slope of Chatham.

Contact Information

Eric J. Mink
Historian and Cultural Resources Manager

Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania NMP
120 Chatham Lane
Fredericksburg, VA 22405