Dating to the late 1730s, the landscape of Stratford Hall, with its classic Georgian Great House, reflects a remarkable example of colonial Virginia architecture and historic plantation activity. The 1900-acre property along the Potomac River encompasses a historic mill site, geologic cliff formations that are seen in only four other places on earth, numerous archeological sites and several examples of Colonial Revival garden design.
Stratford Hall’s Colonial Revival legacy dates to 1929, beginning with the reconstruction of the landscape surrounding Thomas Lee’s Great House—an endeavor that spanned several decades, and employed such prominent designers as Arthur Shurcliff, Morley Jeffers Williams, Alden Hopkins, and the firm of Innocenti & Webel in addition to The Garden Club of Virginia. Many aspects of the Colonial Revival cultural landscape of Stratford Hall survive today in its formal gardens and reconstructed buildings and structures.
Recently, Colonial Revival landscapes have received much attention, praise, and criticism from the cultural landscape community. Colonial Revival at the Crossroads will explore aspects of this reassessment, including questions about how to identify, evaluate, interpret, and manage Colonial Revival landscapes.
Between the late 1800s and the 1930s, the Colonial Revival was the premier American garden style. Interest in this topic was particularly influential at historic sites that preserved and celebrated Colonial-era history such as Williamsburg, Carter’s Grove, and Stratford Hall. Reflecting the merger of the burgeoning landscape architecture and historic preservation professions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, these designed landscapes embodied the ideas and ideals of progressive movements during the era. While not always his¬torically accurate, Colonial Revival landscapes nonetheless have earned their own historical importance through their association with important landscape designers and their reflection of an important period in the history of American culture.
Stratford Hall’s social history is equally striking: it was the site of a large 18th-century tobacco plantation, the home of two signers of the Declaration of Independence (Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee), and the birthplace of Robert E. Lee. Since 1929, the Robert E. Lee Memorial Association (RELMA) has cared for Stratford Hall as a public historic site. Upon acquiring the property, RELMA hired nationally-prominent historians, architects and landscape architects to undertake research with the intent to return the plantation to its former glory.
Recent research—much of it conducted collaboratively by RELMA professional staff, faculty and students within the University of Georgia’s College of Environment and Design (UGA–CED), the Stratford Hall Historic Landscape Advisory Panel, and other partners—has further revealed how the ethos and spirit of the Colonial Revival period shaped the cultural landscape at Stratford Hall. These insights have also generated a number of difficult questions, however. Which aspects of the landscape’s authentic Colonial Revival history—if any—should be valued, interpreted, conserved and preserved? How important is the site’s Colonial Revival history relative to earlier Lee family periods? Similar questions undoubtedly pertain to numerous historic sites across the U.S., and they are among the complicated issues that will be explored in Colonial Revival at the Crossroads.