Did you know that George Washington came from a large family of two half-brothers, three brothers, and two sisters? His youngest brother was Charles who became interested in land ownership when he traveled with George on surveying trips into the expanding frontier. Over the years Charles became the owner of extensive properties, one of which he called Happy Retreat in the town he designed, now known as Charles Town in West Virginia.
George Washington first became aware of the beauty of this land at the age of 16 when he surveyed it for Thomas, Lord Fairfax. He was so impressed with the area that in 1750 he bought his first land along Bullskin Run which would later expand into nearly 2,300 acres. In fact, his entire family started investing in the area in the mid 1700s. Charles’ half brother, Lawrence was also a large landowner and when he died in 1752, his land was distributed between his brothers, including the land on which Mt. Vernon was later built. Charles took his acreage in the northern area of Virginia and divided 80 acres into what became Charles Town. In 1780, he began construction of Happy Retreat, his manor house, at the edge of what would soon be the town plan.
Happy Retreat was built in the Palladian architectural style, sometimes referred to as Classical Revival, by first constructing the wings connected by an enclosed walkway. The main center section was designed to be added at a later date.
Once settled in one of the wings, Charles began working on the plans for the town, the land for which was 80 acres carved out of his own land. His brother, General George Washington, visited Charles often during that time and always stayed in what he named “the pink room.” Ten members of the Washington family built manors there and George would also visit their homes during his trips. Today only seven of the manors remain and are part of an annual guided tour. Charles named the streets of his town after family members and the town after himself. He also planned a town square with space for government buildings in the hope it eventually would become a county seat. His planning paid off as county lines were eventually changed and it became the county seat of Franklin County, and a courthouse was built on the square.
Unfortunately Charles died in September of 1799, just three months before George died, and never got to see either Charles Town or his manor completed. Though so many make the claim, there is no doubt whatsoever that in this home it really is true that “George Washington slept here.” (Click)
In 1837, Judge Isaac R. Douglas purchased the Washington property and completed construction of the estate. Today the manor house sits on 12.22 acres, is 6,322 square feet and contains 8 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms and 5 fireplaces. There are both front and back staircases leading to the second floor in the center section. The house has retained its original millwork and heart pine floors. Also on the property is the original stone summer kitchen-smoke house and a charming octagonal one-room schoolhouse. By being listed on the National Register of Historic Places, buyers have the additional benefit of applying for grants to assist in funding restoration-maintenance projects should they so desire.
Colonel Charles Washington’s Charles Town, West Virginia 17th - 18th century manor is now for sale. Living history priced at $899,900.