Saturday, August 22, 2009

Liberia House Tours

Three Manassas Historic Treasures Open For Tours
Liberia Mansion Opens Her Doors, September 12, 10 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Manassas Industrial School/Jennie Dean Memorial/Lucasville School Tour,
September 13, 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.

Three historic sites which played a major role in the area’s Civil War and African-American history will be featured in tours sponsored by The Manassas Museum on September 12 and 13.

On Saturday, September 12, Liberia Mansion, one of the area’s most significant structures during the Civil War, will offer a first-ever free open house from 10 a.m. to
1 p.m. The grand old house, built in 1825 and a now a part of the Manassas Museum System, is currently in the midst of renovations to restore the property to its former glory when it served as headquarters for both Confederate and Union officers.

The first floor of the house and the surrounding grounds will be open to visitors. Docents will be on hand to answer questions about the home’s extensive history. New exhibits about the restoration and Liberia’s architecture will be shown for the first time. Liberia collectibles will be available for purchase.

This historic home, built in 1825 by William J. Weir, served as the headquarters for Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard before the Battle of First Manassas. Beauregard abandoned the house in the winter of 1861, but it quickly became the headquarters for Union General Irvin McDowell prior to the Battle of Second Manassas. President Abraham Lincoln was said to have eaten ice cream on the back porch of Liberia while visiting with McDowell.

After the Civil War, some of the Weir family returned to Liberia, but were not able to restore the plantation to its former glory. In later years the Weirs sold the property to prominent Alexandria brewer Robert Portner, who developed Liberia into a successful dairy farm. I. J. and Hilda Breeden, who bought Liberia in 1947, donated the property to the Manassas Museum System in 1986.

Although there is no admission fee, visitors are asked to obtain a ticket. The free tickets are available at the Museum, by emailing or by calling 703-368-1873.

On Sunday, September 13 at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., visitors will learn about Jennie Dean, the former slave who established a ground-breaking school for African-Americans. The presentation will be at the Manassas Industrial School/Jennie Dean Memorial, (9601 Wellington Road, Manassas, VA 20110).

The Museum and the Prince William County Historic Preservation Division have added a new tour this year at the restored historic African-American Lucasville one room school house, (10516 Godwin Drive, Manassas, VA 20112).

After almost a decade of fundraising by Dean, the Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth was chartered on October 7, 1893. With funds solicited from the Manassas area and from philanthropists in Boston, New York, Baltimore, and Washington D.C., Jennie Dean was able to purchase 100 acres and establish a private residential institution providing both academic and vocational training within a Christian setting.

The school’s first building, Howland Hall, was completed in time for the dedication ceremonies led by Frederick Douglass on September 3, 1894. Over the next four decades, despite numerous setbacks from catastrophic fires, the school grew. By the turn of the century, over 150 students studied academic subjects as well as vocational skills such as carpentry and sewing. The school became a regional high school for African-Americans in 1937. The present-day Jennie Dean Elementary School and the Jennie Dean Memorial are on the site of the Manassas Industrial School.

Former Manassas City Council Member Col. Ulysses White will speak about Jennie Dean, life at the Industrial School, and the preservation efforts that turned the site into a memorial. Tickets for the tour and presentation are $5 per family or $3 per person and can be purchased in advance or on the day of the event.

After the tour at the Manassas Industrial School/Jennie Dean Memorial, the nearby Lucasville School will be open for free tours.

Lucasville School is a reconstructed one-room school dedicated to interpreting post-Civil War African-American education in Prince William County, Virginia. Lucasville School is Prince William County's only extant one-room school built for African-American children. Some Lucasville School teachers may have trained at Manassas Industrial School.

In 1870, Virginia's Legislature established a statewide system of free public schools for all citizens. The Manassas District School Board authorized an elementary school for the Lucasville neighborhood in November 1883, and the school was finished by March 1885. Lucasville School closed in 1926. The building was moved in the1930s and remained intact until it was dismantled in 2005. By then, the structure had deteriorated.

Between December 2005 and February 2008, Lucasville School was dismantled and reconstructed through the efforts of citizens, County officials and Pulte Homes, Inc. The Prince William County Historic Preservation Division opens the school for special tours and events.

Tickets for the Jennie Dean tour are available at the Manassas Museum, 9101 Prince William Street, online at or by calling 703-368-1873. No ticket is needed for the Lucasville School tour.

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