Sully Plantation and Historic Site
This 1794 plantation was built by Richard Bland Lee, uncle of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. The home on the site, a three-section frame farmhouse, retains much of its original woodwork. The plantation was home to the Lee family from 1794 until 1811 and hosted many prominent guests, including George Washington. The house passed through many hands until the land was purchased in 1957 by the Federal Aviation Agency for what is now Dulles International Airport; an act of Congress prevented the FAA from demolishing the house. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970. The current historic site presents information about the Lee family as well as the enslaved persons who worked on the plantation. The grounds include model slave quarters and outbuildings.
Backstory and Context
Sully was the home of Richard Bland Lee, uncle of Robert E. Lee, and northern Virginia's first representative to Congress. He lived here with his wife, Elizabeth Collins Lee, from 1794-1811. Both the north and south entrances have prominent porches, with some original woodwork still extant. In 1799, the Lees added a one-and-a-half story east wing to the house. During the Lee residency, the farm was supported by enslaved African Americans who were field laborers, domestics and skilled artisans. The main house at Sully, while not a mansion, possesses prominent woodwork and combines aspects of Georgian and Federal architecture. A representative slave quarter stands southeast of the main house.
Lee sold the home to his cousin Francis Lightfoot Lee in 1811, whose daughter auctioned the property in 1839. The next owner was William Swartout, and a succession of owners possessed the home over the next century. In the 1840s the house expanded again with a new one-story kitchen wing on the west side of the house.
The plantation was an important site during the Civil War, when it was owned by the Haight and Barlow families, both migrants from New York and staunch Unionists. The men abandoned the farm to the women early in the war in order to escape capture by Confederate raiders. Supposedly it was used as a hospital during the Battle of Ox Hill (Chantilly) on September 1st, 1862. Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart stopped here during his Christmas Raid in late December 1862, and he forced the staunch Unionist Maria Barlow to feed him and his fellow generals (W.H.F. Rooney Lee, Fitzhugh Lee, and Wade Hampton) breakfast. He also left several wounded men he had captured in her care before riding on towards Confederate lines. Sully was also visited by Colonel John S. Mosby.
In 1957, the Federal Aviation Agency purchased the plantation to be used for what is now Dulles International Airport. The FAA intended to burn the house, but a Special Act of Congress prevented this and required it to be administered by a preservation organization. Fairfax County now administers the site. The plantation was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970. Today, the American Association of Museums-accredited site features the original home and outbuildings, decorated with period furnishings; gardens; and a model slave quarters. Visitors can take a tour of the Sully Plantation home that gives ample information about the family's life. The Museum also offers tours of the grounds, which includes information about archaeological discoveries and focuses on the lives of enslaved persons who lived on the plantation.
Historic American Buildings Survey. Sully, 3650 Historic Sully Way, Chantilly, Fairfax County, VA, Library of Congress. Accessed January 22nd 2020. https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/VA0409/.
Orrison, Rob. ECW Weekender: JEB Stuart’s Christmas Raid, Emerging Civil War. January 2nd 2015. Accessed June 24th 2020. https://emergingcivilwar.com/2015/01/02/ecw-weekender-jeb-stuarts-christmas-raid/.
Orrison, Rob. “…please furnish better mules…”— JEB Stuart’s 1862 Christmas Raid, Part One, Emerging Civil War. December 26th 2014. Accessed June 24th 2020. http://emergingcivilwar.com/2014/12/26/please-furnish-better-mules-jeb-stuarts-1862-christmas-raid/.
Orrison, Rob. “…please furnish better mules…”— JEB Stuart’s 1862 Christmas Raid, Part Two, Emerging Civil War. December 30th 2014. Accessed June 24th 2020. http://emergingcivilwar.com/2014/12/30/please-furnish-better-mules-jeb-stuarts-1862-christmas-raid-part-2/.
Prats, J. J. Boose, Denise. Browne, Allen C. The Sully Farms: "Alone in Dixie", HMdb.org. September 28th 2019. Accessed June 24th 2020. https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=217.
"Sully Historic Site." Fairfax County, Virginia. Accessed August 4, 2016. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/sully-historic-site.
Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission. Sully, National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. June 9th 1970. Accessed January 22nd 2020. https://www.dhr.virginia.gov/VLR_to_transfer/PDFNoms/029-0037_Sully_1970_Final_Nomination.pdf.