“I cannot tell a lie.”—George Washington
One would think that the childhood home of the man who came to be the father of this country would be a prominent historical landmark heralding one more piece in the larger puzzle of American history. The reality is that its landmark status is quite recent, and it was not until February 16, 2000 that the Secretary of the Interior designated this site a historical landmark.
As it states in the “Preservation Efforts, 1926-1998” section of the National Historic Landmark Nomination:
Ferry Farm, like Washington’s Birthplace and several other nationally significant historic sites, attracted the interest of historic preservationists in the 1920s. Spurred by the colonial revival, the emergence of the automobile as a stimulus to historical tourism, and the impending 1932 bicentennial of Washington’s birth, a national group—the Citizens of George Washington’s Boyhood Home [modern-day George Washington Foundation]—was founded in 1926 to acquire the site for the benefit of the public.
According to the George Washington Foundation it was on “July 2, 2008, that archaeologists working at the site of George Washington’s childhood home […] located and excavated the remains of the long-sought house where Washington was raised.”
The site situated in Ferry Farm, Stafford County, Virginia, rather than featuring a neoclassical piece of Americana—like the present Georgian-style structure that is prominently the face of the place—is simply an archaeological site. As this region was also the scene of many civil war battles, excavators must always be aware of the likely contamination of the site by artifacts of later eras.
Still, it is to this site that the tales of George Washington’s boyhood are tethered. In fact, a short walk from the archaelogical dig will allow visitors an overlook of the Rappahannock River where a tale places him throwing a silver dollar (which was really a piece of slate) across the river. (For other “Facts & Falsehoods about George Washington,” the Mount Vernon portal provides a list of some of the most known tales.)
If you would like to read more about the fascinating history of this site and to learn more about the emergence of its preservation, the National Historic Landmark Nomination, a 47-page document, covers the history of the site, its ownership, and lots of biographical nuances about the Washington–Ball family. (The National Historic Landmark program is regulated by the Historic Sites Act of 1935.)