If you’ve read my bio, you know that I was born and raised in Pennsylvania, a beautiful state in my opinion. I moved from its rolling green hills to eastern North Carolina for a year and a half and was in serious culture shock when everything was flat and brown for at least 10 months out of the year. That said, I always knew I would not live in PA when I was older.
Around the age of ten, I was on vacation with my family in Virginia. We were touring Presidents’ homes and, being a history buff, I was in my element. When our tour of Mount Vernon was cut short because one of my sisters left her purse at a McDonald’s and we had to go get it, I declared in a peevish tone that it was fine because one day I would live in Virginia and could go to Mount Vernon whenever I wanted. The move came in 1994, but I am embarrassed to report that I have not yet returned to Mount Vernon.
That said, I have been to Williamsburg on more than one occasion and visited James Monroe’s Museum and Memorial Library. I have passes for Hugh Mercer’s Apothecary and Rising Sun Tavern, both of which have been high on my list for research purposes. But one place I had heard about but not thought much of was Chatham Manor which is practically in my backyard. When I told my photographer what I wanted for the cover of the second book in my Defying Propriety Series, she immediately suggested the Manor’s gardens, and I trusted her completely.
The house was closed the day we went, but the gardens are open to visitors and there were several photo shoots happening while we were there. As I wandered down the paths, I thought of my characters and imagined them strolling through the garden (even though their garden was behind a London townhouse). As it happens, one of the characters in the next book, Son of an Earl, is from Virginia and makes references to her mother’s garden back home.
So, since I am unable to reveal the cover this month due to my poor scheduling, I thought I would share pictures I took while waiting for the photographer to arrive.
The manor house is located on the eastern shore of the Rappahannock River and looks out over the City of Fredericksburg. During the Civil War, Union troops occupied the empty manor (the owners had packed up and gone to their summer home) and used it as a headquarters during the Battle of Fredericksburg. Following the battle, the house was used as a field hospital. “Clara Barton, Mary Walker, and Walt Whitman served in the hospital at Chatham, caring for sick and wounded soldiers.”*
For our purposes, we focused on the gardens which are located “behind” the manor (the “front” of the manor has flip-flopped depending on the various owners’ preferences).
We visited on September 30 of this year, so many of the plants were dormant, but there were still plenty of blooms.
If you are ever in Fredericksburg, I highly recommend a visit to this lovely estate.