The Stone House, Part 4

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Last update
Jul 13, 2005

Photo of the Stone House

From the pamphlet entitled
The Stone House,
Silent Sentinel at the Crossroads of History
By Michael D. Litterst

Aftermath of Second Manassas

As had been the case following the First Battle of Bull Run, the Stone House continued to be the scene of ongoing activity in the days following the second battle. For the second time in thirteen months, the Confederates held not only the battlefield at Manassas, but also hundreds of wounded Federals being treated in the numerous hospitals in the area, including the Stone House.

Many of these captured Federals would not spend time in Confederate prisons. Robert E. Lee was already considering a quick strike into the North and did not want to be encumbered with the extra work of transporting prisoners. Additionally, many of the prisons and hospitals in Richmond were still full from the casualties of the Seven Days' battles, fought just two months earlier. The Confederates decided to parole as many of the bluecoats as possible. To this end, the Stone House was set up as a parole station.

As teams of Federal surgeons returned to the battlefield to tend to the wounded under flags of truce, Confederate officers were processing the captured Northerners at the Stone House. The ambulatory wounded were taken to the Stone House, where they were paroled and sent through the lines. There they would remain, as parolees, until exchanged. One wounded New Yorker who was strong enough to walk reported being paroled "by order of General Richard H. Anderson(11k) [Richard H.] Anderson" on September 2. He set out for Centreville in mid-afternoon as part of a procession that included 37 ambulances. With the departure of the last of the paroled troops and ambulances, the Stone House once again became a quiet, although historic, landmark at the intersection of the Warrenton Turnpike and the Manassas-Sudley Road.

The Stone House Since the Civil War

Though the Civil War continued for almost three years following the end of the Second Battle of Manassas, the Stone House had seen its last action of the conflict. Following the retreat of the armies, it is unclear when Henry and Jane Matthews returned to their home to once again assess the damage and repair the structure. A visitor through the area in July, 1863 recorded passing the "windowless and deserted" Stone House, which was marked by cannon shot. But another traveler who passed the house on August 29 (the first anniversary of the second battle) wrote that "the new stone in the masonry show where the old ball holes once were," indicating that some repair work must have been under way at that point.

Regardless of when the Matthews family returned to the Stone House, it appears that the toll of having two battles fought across their property was too much for the couple. On October 3, 1865, just over three years after the second battle, Henry Matthews and his wife sold the Stone House and adjoining land to Mary A. Starbuck for the sum of $4,000.00. Little information exists regarding the house during the Starbuck ownership.

On March 4, 1879 Mary A. Starbuck deeded the Stone House to George E. Starbuck and his wife Meribah. During George's ownership, a post office was established at the Stone House. The Starbucks did not remain for very long, however, selling the property to Benson Pridemore Benson L. Pridemore barely two years later.

Despite their brief residence in the house, there were throes who believed that the Starbuck's presence remained in the dwelling even after their departure. The story was told that George Starbuck put a curse on the house and the Pridemore family before he left, and that as a result of this hex, six or more of the Pridemore family "died in quick succession."

The Pridemores and their three children lived in the Stone House for more than 20 years. With their large family requiring more bedrooms, the Pridemores partitioned the western rooms on each floor to provide more bedroom space. This is the first documented, major structural change made to the Stone House. Mr. Pridemore also made other changes to the structure and property, including the additions of a front porch, The Stone Houes with a front porch white picket fence along the front yard, and a barn on the west side of the Sudley Road.

Following Benson Pridemore's death, his heirs sold the Stone House and 165 acres to Henry J. Ayres in 1902 for $1,600.00. Mr Ayres would greatly develop the Stone House property and the intersection of the Warrenton Turnpike and the Manassas-Sudley Road. In March, 1903, he resumed operation of a post office at the Stone House. Also in that year he erected a wagon and carriage house as well as a blacksmith shop. Additionally, a mercantile store was erected in 1904, which Ayres operated in partnership with a man named C. C. Lynn. To the Stone House itself, Henry Ayres added a large back porch Rear of the Stone House and kitchen sometime around 1904.

Following the death of Henry Ayres in 1912, the Stone House eventually passed to his son, George Hawks Ayres and his wife Mary. Like his father before him, George Ayres made numerous developmental changes to the property. He constructed a restaurant just west of the Stone House and erected cabins on Buck Hill. These facilities were operated by the Ayres family from 1928 to 1938, at which time they were leased, and eventually sold. Ayres also constructed a filling station on the northwest corner of the intersection. Another capital improvement project undertaken by George Ayres was the construction of a building to be used as a cheese factory, located behind the Stone House. But the project never got off the ground and the building was converted into a school bus garage.

It also appears that George Ayres may have been responsible for the most interesting additions to the Stone House - the artillery projectiles embedded in the walls of the structure.

Location of shell fragments 1 and 2 Location of shell fragments 3, 4 and 5 Closeup of Shell fragment 1 Closeup of shell fragment 2 Closeup of shell fragment 3 Closeup of shell fragment 4 Closeup of shell fragment 5
Ample photographic evidence exists to suggest that these shells, a popular feature and conversation piece of the house, were added sometime after 1912. In all likelihood, the projectiles were cemented into portions of the structure that had been damaged during the Civil War. A total of five projectiles are presently located in the walls of the Stone House. On the west side, two Parrott shells are embedded, one at the top of the chimney (1) and another near the south attic window (2). A 12-pounder shot or shell is located to the immediate right of the front door (3) on the south side of the house. Also on the south side is a Confederate Archer Projectile, (4) located below and between the second floor windows. The final projectile, another 12-pounder shot or shell, is located on the east side of the Stone House (5) at the second floor level.

The Stone House is Acquired by the Federal Goverment

With the death of George Ayres in 1947, his widow sold the Shone House and the approximately 80 acres remaining in the tract to the United States government for $42,597.00 on June 17, 1949. An attempt had been made previously by the Commonwealth of Virginia to purchase the property for $25,000.00, but the plans apparently fell through.

Following the acquisition of the Stone House by the Federal government, the National Park service began an extensive stabilization and rehabilitation project on the structure. The work, contracted for $6,565 in 1950, included a thorough renovation and modernization of the building, including reroofing the structure and the installation of new electrical and plumbing systems. Following the completion of the work, the house was converted into a residence for park employees. A second, more thorough restoration project was begun by the National Park Service in 1960. The purpose of this project was to restore the Stone House to its Civil War appearance. Despite the fact that the house has undergone two major restorations, significant portions of the structure still predate the Civil War, including the exterior walls, the chimneys, and much of the flooring inside the house.

Today, under the protective eye of the National Park Service, the Stone House stands as a silent sentinel at the intersection of the Warrenton Turnpike and the Manassas-Sudley Road. Automobiles, tractor trailers, and school busses now pass where wagons, teamsters, artillery, and soldiers once trod. In the rapidly changing and developing suburb of Washington, D. C. that Manassas has become, the Stone House stands apart as a strong, quiet reminder of the rich heritage of Northern Virginia.

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