Historic home open to the public

Following a two-year renovation project, historic Ben Lomond Manor House built in 1832 is now open for public tours on Saturdays.

Until this past weekend, the house had not been in use for years but it will now be open on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through the Prince William County Park Authority.

The tour for individuals or families is free and a Civil War-dressed guide will greet visitors. Only the lower floor will be open while renovation work continues on the rest of the house.

“Also, groups may schedule tours of the house and gardens for Wednesdays through Fridays. School and community organizations may also request any one of our wonderful educational programs,” said Delain Clark, public relations assistant.

Programs, directed by Christine Malson-Ruckman who will be dressed up in full Civil War attire, include “School Days: It’s Elementary,” “Textiles: Homespun to Factory Done” and “Folk Medicines: Unsung Heroes of the Civil War.” All will be hands-on demonstrations.

The school days program will take children back in time, allowing them to take part in activities of the mid-19th century. Children will read from McGuffey readers, cipher on slate boards, sign their names with quill pens and practice sealing letters with wax. The children can take home a sealed letter to remember the schoolwork done that day.

They will also have a chance to play with toys and games typically played during recess during that time period.

In the textiles program, children will study and compare homespun and factory-made cloth. They will learn about the intricacies of the textile process during the late 18th to mid-19th centuries. The difference between silk, cotton, wool and linen clothes will also be investigated. Students will try carding wool and take some home to show off the work they have done.

The folk medicines program will teach that nurses, hospital stewards, laundresses, civilian volunteers and even family members all took part in the care of the soldiers wounded in the Civil War.

Children will also learn about some of the medical equipment that was used; how herbal medicines were used; and will make a simple and safe remedy to take home.

Malson-Ruckman will be flying a red hospital flag outside the structure anytime the house is open. The home is closed Sundays through Tuesdays. The manor was used as a field hospital during the Civil War.

The house was the original home of Benjamin Tasker Chinn, who had it constructed of locally quarried sandstone.

Together with his wife, Edmonia, the Chinn successfully farmed the property until the First and Second Battles of Manassas in 1861 and 1862. He suffered enormous financial losses as a result of the war and in 1870 sold Ben Lomond.

The battle in 1861, which was fought because of the strategic importance of the railroad at Manassas Junction, began four long years of alternating occupation by both the Confederate and Union forces.

As the house is located just two miles south of the battlefield, it was ideal for use as a field hospital. The remains of signatures scrawled by soldiers are still faintly visible today on the plaster walls of the house.

Long-recognized as an important landmark, the house is two stories with notable interior woodwork, including several Federal-style mantels, according to historical accounts.

Following that sale, Ben Lomond became the country estate of several distinguished and wealthy families. From the early 1900s to the 1930s, the house was owned by John R. Rixey, a United States congressman; Adm. P.M. Rixey, personal physician to U.S. Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt; and W.R. Bruch, a multi-millionaire and manufacturer from Cleveland, Ohio.

Ben Lomond’s last owner, before the estate’s property was sold and the Sudley subdivision built on its grounds, was Robert L. Garner, who was a vice president of the World Bank, among other things. While Garner owned Ben Lomond, it was a dairy, cattle and horse-breeding farm as well as the site of many parties.

Staff writer Bennie Scarton Jr. can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 125.

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