By John Cowgill
Prince William County is home to a number of historic sites and parks. A visit to any of these sites would be a great way to spend a few hours.
Probably the best-known local attraction is the Manassas National Battlefield, where two major battles of the Civil War took place. Two miles south on Virginia Business 234, you can visit the Ben Lomond House at 10321 Sudley Manor Drive. The Ben Lomond House was a plantation that became a field hospital during the first Battle of Manassas. Along with the house tour, there is also a rose garden.
The Bristoe Station Battlefield Heritage Park was also the site of two Civil War battles. Located on Bristow Road in Bristow, just south of Virginia Route 28, it was the site of the Battle of Kettle Run and the Battle of Bristoe Station. A walking path takes you to the entire field, and there is a side path to the cemeteries. Admission is free, and you can walk on a paved path around the battlefield from sunrise to sunset.
Two miles south of Bristoe Station is the town of Brentsville, the fourth county seat of Prince William County. The Brentsville Courthouse Historic Centre is a village that has a courthouse and a jail from 1822, a farm and a farmhouse from 1850, a church from 1880 and a one-room schoolhouse that was used from 1929 to 1944. There is even a short nature trail.
West of Haymarket just off Virginia Route 55 is are the ruins of the Chapman-Beverly Mill, a reminder of the many mills that were once part of the Virginia landscape. It is said to be the tallest stacked stone structure in the United States. You can walk through the old ruins and see the rusted old waterwheel.
In Woodbridge, tour the Rippon Lodge, one of the oldest known houses in the county. The home played a major role in the shaping of the southern part of the county. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and is part of the Historic House Museum Consortium of Metropolitan Washington D.C.
The National Museum of the Marine Corps is in Quantico and holds exhibits on the United States Marine Corps from its very beginning to the present day.
If you enjoy nature and history, Leesylvania State Park in Woodbridge is for you. Along with hiking trails and a great view of the Potomac River, there are also old ruins of a house, an old fort and an old railroad cut.
Other historic structures that are not open for public tour but can be viewed from the exterior are the Barnes House at the Montclair Neighborhood Library, Bushy Park next to the Gainesville-Haymarket Library, the Lucasville School, 10516 Godwin Drive and the Old Manassas Courthouse in the Historic Downtown Manassas.
Prince William County also has several historic towns. Manassas was built around a railroad junction, and the old train station has a small museum. The Manassas Museum gives a detailed history of Manassas. Other sites include the Candy Factory, which is now an arts center and a theater, and the Manassas Volunteer Fire Museum located in the Old Town Manassas Firehouse. There are also many restaurants, coffee shops, art galleries and a few stores.
Occoquan was and still is a crossroads. Located on the Occoquan River, it was the site of an old mill. There are also a few restaurants, shops and a marina. Dumfries is the oldest town in the county, and is home to the the Weems-Botts Museum. The visitor center has displays of the town of Dumfries, and you can tour the small family home. The town of Haymarket has a small museum and a few shops as well.
There are a number of parks in the county, including Prince William Forest Park in Quantico and Bull Run Mountain State Natural Area in Haymarket. Occoquan is home to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and the Featherstone Wildlife Refuge.
There really is a lot to see and do in Prince William County. Visit pwcgov.org to learn more about the great places in our neck of the woods.
John Cowgill ([email protected]) loves to visit historic places, to include lesser known sites. He loves taking road trips, and he loves railroads.