By Caitlin Connelly
Welcome to the LFDA blog!
I’m Caitlin, the intern here at Stratford Hall and the Lee Family Digital Archives for the next 9 weeks. I’ve been assisting in transcribing the documents we have here and putting them online for everyone to use, among other things.
This past Memorial Day weekend was my first full weekend at Stratford.
Saturday was a beautiful day, sunny and hot. I slept in, then after a late breakfast I strolled over to the Great House, where the Traditional Trades Fair was going on. It wasn’t a far walk, and I hadn’t had much of a chance to explore during the week.
The thing that struck me the most was the park-like atmosphere of the day. I’d been expecting, for no particular reason, the frenetic pace of a county fair, but this was a calm, peaceful event. I wandered around, passing couples or families with small children playing in the grass or touring the buildings and grounds. A man in period clothing explained to me about joining beams to support the floor of an upper story, using a ceiling in the conveniently close-by old stables as an example of such work (the big central beam is called a “summer,” just so you know). Another man, similarly dressed, was at a tent surrounded by fragrant wood shavings. The focus of the Fair seemed to be carpentry, a not-insignificant topic for an 18th century historical site.
When I was done with the Fair, not wanting to go back inside on such a nice day, I took a walk to the cliff overlook located on Stratford’s property. It’s about a mile or so away from the Great House. It was a leisurely walk, and I’d only ever been out there once, the weekend before when I arrived. It had been raining then, and if there was anything there worth seeing it was obscured by the mist. But on a clear day like this, the view was quite nice. The white cliffs slope from the bright green fields and woods above down to the blue Potomac below. They’re apparently a rare formation, one of only four in the world, and have fossils (if you’re interested, you can read about the cliffs here).
I was tempted to keep going and head down to the beach, but the road is steep and rocky there and the shoes I was wearing weren’t good for that kind of terrain. Another day, then.
I also discovered the hiking trails around the property that day. I walked two of the easy ones in the late afternoon, after eating lunch and applying copious amounts of bug spray. It was cooler in the trees, and the trails were nicely marked. I only got turned around and confused once, and only because I was caught up in taking a look at the Spring House and not in paying attention to where I’d walked. But I found the correct path eventually, considering it was right in front of me.
None of the trails are very long themselves, but there are six of them that roughly form a big circle that should be a few miles long. I’m excited to try it out.
The next two days were gray and rainy. In Virginia at the beginning of summer, it’s a hot, sticky rain, not cool and refreshing. I celebrated the holiday with a good book, running errands, and getting a flat tire. Also, with a cupcake.
I suppose that’s it for now. I’m looking forward to the next 9 weeks, and sharing the things I learn and little adventures I have here! I will make a new post every Tuesday, so watch for it!
Favorite Lee Family letter so far: This one by Robert E. Lee’s wife, Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee, to her friend Letitia McCreery Burwell. I enjoy the vaguely passive aggressive way she scolds her friend for not writing enough, and the gossip going on. And the more I think about it, the more I love the name Von Borke. Just try not to smile when you say it.