Provided by Prince William County
The Barnes House has a rich history. Built in 1797 as a tavern, it is one of the county’s oldest buildings. It has been moved twice, rebuilt and restored in 2017, and now sits at the Montclair Community Library. With the exhibits inside the house complete, it is ready for visitors.
There will be a grand opening for the house, at 5049 Waterway Drive in Dumfries, between 11:00 a. m. and 4:00 p. m. on May 18. Local historians will be on hand to talk about the 200-year history of the house. Bill Backus, a county preservationist, said the exhibits at the house encompass two time periods. “One room is going to be furnished as an 1800s tavern. The room next to it is a snapshot of 100 years ahead, and it’s going to be talking about the Barnes family.”
The exhibits come with special effects, Backus said. “It’s going to be an exhibit that you can touch, handle and hear. It’s going to be an interactive experience. People are going to hear how the tavern would have sounded with background noise. In the Barnes family room, they’re going to be hearing audio of records from the 19 teens.”
The house, which originally sat in Independent Hill, was moved to the Prince William County Landfill for safe keeping in 2004, when Route 234 was widened. The house sat there for 10 years until it was moved again to the library construction site, where restoration work began.
The house was originally built for a wealthy local family who rented it to Gavin and Susannah Adams. The Adams family ran it as a tavern providing food, drink and lodging to neighbors and travelers, according to Brendan Hanafin, the county’s planning and capital projects division chief for the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.
The property changed hands several times over the years. In 1834, Moses and Nancy Copen purchased the home, with two downstairs rooms and two upstairs rooms, and 34 acres surrounding the property. The wealthy family owned slaves, which included a family of four, Jane Barnes and her three children.
At the end of the Civil War, slaves were freed, and Permilia Copen, Moses and Nancy’s only child, gave Jane Barnes a small house and seven and a half acres. History lost track of what happened to Jane Barnes’ children, but in 1875, her son Eppa, who had once been enslaved on the property, returned to the area and married Amanda Lambert. In 1899, they purchased the Copen Farm. The couple was successful, and over their lifetime, bought more than 300 acres surrounding the home and raised 12 children there. Eppa Barnes died in 1930. Amanda Barnes died in 1948.
Hanafin said the bottom half of the house required extensive rebuilding, but the upstairs in in good original condition. “We took off the late 1940s, early 1950s knotty pine wainscoting to get a look at the plaster underneath. We had to take out most of the plaster because it just wasn’t salvageable, but the second floor is intact with pine boards. It’s pretty much exactly as it would have been back in the day.”
A kitchen and a porch were added in the early 1900s, and the county’s Historic Preservation Division has pictures of the house dating to the 1930s and 1940s, Hanafin said. “We basically made it look like it would have been in the Barnes heyday, which would have been the teens, 20s and 30s and into the early 40s.”
For more information about the Barnes House and other historic properties in the county, visit pwcgov.org/history.