I had the chance recently to tour one of the oldest houses in my town, Manassas, VA. The house is undergoing restoration and is not generally open to the public, so this was a rare treat.
Built in 1825 by William James Weir and his wife, Harriett Bladen Mitchell Weir, the house eventually became known as Liberia Plantation and was situated on about 1600 acres of land that is now the eastern half of town. At its completion, the house was valued at the then princely sum of $2,876.
By the early 1860s the plantation had become an extremely successful enterprise. With the aid of some 90 slaves, the Weir family produced grain and vegetable crops that were sold in nearby Washington, DC, and also raised livestock including cattle, horses, hogs, and sheep. After the outbreak of the Civil War, the house was used at different times as field headquarters for General P. G. T Beauregard, CSA, and General Irwin McDowell, USA. The house also served as a field hospital and death house after the Battle of First Manassas.
Forced to flee advancing Union troops in the spring of 1862, the Weirs left their home under the supervision of trusted slaves and moved south to Richmond, VA. Shortly after, President Abraham Lincoln visited the house to meet with General McDowell. By war’s end, it was one of the few structures still standing in the area, but despite the Weir family’s efforts, they were not able to recover the plantation’s former prosperity, and William Weir’s son Robert sold the property in 1888.
The house was occupied on and off until the mid 1980s, when it was purchased by the City of Manassas and incorporated into the Manassas Museum System. The structural restoration has been completed, and further work is underway to restore the house to an authentic mid-19th century state.