Manassas Journal Messenger | An extraordinary ordinary

Prince William County has signed an agreement to purchase Williams Ordinary in Dumfries and plans on returning it to its original purpose, as a restaurant and tavern.

The owner of the ordinary, Pete Costello, has been negotiating with the county for more than two years.

“We finally got the offer that we accepted,” said Brendon Hanafin, chief of Prince William County’s Historic Preservation Division.

Costello has agreed to sell 1.7 acres, the ordinary building and another small one behind the ordinary to the county for $1 million.

Hanafin said the county did a feasibility study on the building to determine its best use.

“It’ll be a nice restaurant right in the middle of town,” Hanafin said.

When Dumfries officials learned of the pending sale Tuesday night before their town council meeting, Mayor Fred Yohey said they were delighted.

“It will be a real tourist attraction for our town and this end of the county,” Yohey said.

Yohey said that the opening of the National Museum of the Marine Corps next month across from the nearby Quantico Marine Corps base and the addition of a colonial restaurant in Williams Ordinary would likely draw more visitors to the town.

“Once the word gets around, it’s going to be a real plus for the town,” Yohey said.

“We are all really excited about that.”

Hanafin said the county will not run the restaurant but will enter into a contract with someone from the private sector.

The county will ensure that the public will have access to building and historical programs. “That’s typical for a public-private partnership like this,” he said.

Costello said he would like to see the building restored to its original condition as much as possible.

He had lived in the historic colonial building for more than 30 years; raising his family there and extensively restoring and renovating it to make it livable. He moved over the summer to Warrenton to be closer to the church where he is pastor.

“It would be nice to go up there and eat sometime,” Costello said Thursday from his home in Warrenton.

The builder of the ordinary is unknown but it is believed to have been constructed around 1760. During colonial times, one of its proprietors was George Williams and the ordinary was named after him.

An “ordinary” is the old British name for a tavern or inn that provided ordinary meals.

“It was a rough and rustic old place,” Costello said. “The beams were exposed and the floor was rough.”

It also must have been quite impressive at the time with its stately brick façade and four chimneys. The ordinary would have faced the then-thriving Dumfries port along the Quantico Creek. It now stands rather alone as the only historic building along Main Street, just feet away from the almost constant flow of traffic.

“The building itself is one of three remaining colonial buildings in Dumfries, which was a very important port town in Virginia,” Hanafin said.

Williams Ordinary also is the only surviving colonial building in the state with all-header-bond brickwork. Instead of the bricks being laid lengthwise, in an all-header bond pattern they are laid with their short ends showing. The pattern of brickwork was popular with the British in the 18th century.

“They thought it looked better. It took a lot more brick and was more expensive to do,” Costello said. “That’s what makes Williams Ordinary unique.”

Over the years it also was known as Love’s Tavern and later as the Stagecoach Inn.

Earlier this year Costello began to have doubts as to the original purpose of his building. Instead of being built to be an ordinary, he began to think it might have been built as a courthouse. While Costello tried to get historians to explore his theory, he was unable generate any interest.

“[Still,] the best thing you could do for the people of Dumfries is to let them know they have something of great value here and a reason to be proud,” Costello said.

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