Pictured here is the Kenmore viewed from the gate


Picture of the historic Kenmore State Marker.


Four blocks west stands Kenmore, built in 1775 by Col. Fielding Lewis for his wife, Betty, sister of George Washington. Near here, between Kenmore and the Rappahannock River, stood Lewis’s warehouses and docks. Kenmore’s intricate plasterwork is the finest in the country. Among 19th-century owners and occupants were Samuel Gordon, who named it Kenmore, and William Key Howard, Jr., who restored and embellished the mansion’s plasterwork. Washington and other Revolutionary leaders often visited, and during the Civil War, Union troops used it as a hospital. The Garden Club of Virginia, starting in 1929, rehabilitated Kenmore’s gardens as its first restoration project.

Kenmore, historic home of Betty and Fielding Lewis, known as Millbank during their ownership, was part of an almost 800-acre estate that the couple bought.(1) Lewis began courting Betty in 1749 and the two got married on May 7th 1750. On February of 1952 the Kenmore land was bought from Richard Wyatt Royston.

Pictured here is a portrait of Betty Washington Lewis in the Great Room at Kenmore. Original painting by Wollaston.
“Portrait of Betty Washington Lewis in the Great Room at Kenmore. Original painting by Wollaston.” (3)

In a 1924 pamphlet from the Kenmore Association, Vivian Minor Fleming writes, “… the mansion was planned to rank with the best. It was of brick, walls two feet thick perfectly proportioned and there was little of ornament, yet its dignity and honest purpose satisfied the eye of the beholder.”(2) Under the ownership of Betty and Fielding, Kenmore became a beloved visiting spot for brother George Washington and a common gathering space for the “disaffected gentry of the surrounding country.” (4) Lewis was a prominent member of his community, prior to the Revolutionary war he was the “senior justice, senior vestryman, churchwarden, burgess, and head of the county militia.”(5) In addition to the home’s connection to the greater history of the United States by way of George Washington, considering Lewis’ great participation in local affairs, the couple is of local historical.


Pictured here is a portrait of Colonel Fielding Lewis in the Great Room at Kenmore.
“Portrait of Colonel Fielding Lewis in the Great Room at Kenmore. Original painting by Wollaston.” (7)

By 1794 Betty’s husband and mother had both died and her brother was acting as the first president of the United States, so she left Fredericksburg. She lived with her daughter Elizabeth in Culpeper county until her death in 1797. For the next 120 years the ownership of the home changed hands a couple of times. The Gordons owned it for more than sixty years and “are said to have given the name ‘Kenmore’ to the estate.”(6) The home was a boy’s schools for a time, it was unoccupied, and later it was under the Howards ownership and refurbishment.

In 1914 the home was on the market again and was bought for commercial use and was intended to be turned into an apartment house. While there were some efforts early on to go against this move, there was not much interest until March 1922 when the Daughters of the American Revolution began efforts to save Kenmore on grounds that it “ranked in historic importance next to Mt. Vernon,” which was where George Washington had lived in his young adulthood.(8) On May 7th 1922, the 172nd anniversary of Betty and Fielding’s wedding, a Washington-Lewis chapter of the DAR was established and the saving of Kenmore began.


(1) Goolrick, John T. Old Homes and History Around Fredericksburg (Richmond: Garrett & Massie, 1929), 17.

(2) Fleming, Vivian M. The Kenmore Mansion: Built in 1752, Home of Colonel Fielding Lewis and his Wife, Betty Washington (Fredericksburg: The Kenmore Association, 1924), 5-6.

(3) Duke, Jane Taylor. Kenmore and the Lewises. (Garden City: Doubleday, 1949), 230.

(4) Fleming, 7.

(5) Willis, Barbara P. and Felder, Paula S. Handbook of Historic Fredericksburg Virginia (Fredericksburg: Historic Fredericksburg Foundation, 1933), 37-38.

(6) Whidden, R. W. Kenmore 1752: Fifty Years As A National Shrine (Richmond: Whittet & Shepperson, 1972), 6.

(7) Duke, 230.

(8) Fleming, 10.





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