Happy Retreat Request for Qualifications

April 2017 Updates

May 5, 2017 | Historic Preservation, News & Announcements


Phase I of the Historic Structures Report (HSR) has been completed. The 81 page report was prepared by Maral S. Kalbian and Dennis J. Pogue. A copy can be downloaded from our webpage. The report established this chronology of Happy Retreat’s construction:

  • The front room of the west wing is the earliest part of the house, dating to ca.1780. 
  • Both the rear room of the west wing and the east wing were built around 1785. 
  • The name “Happy Retreat” first appears on a letter Charles Washington wrote to his son, George Augustine Washington, dated November 23, 1785. 
  • The central portion of the house and the second stories of both wings were completed by Judge Isaac Douglass in 1842. 


Amajor challenge to understanding the history of the construction of the west wing was the lack of original building material remaining. Preliminary analysis revealed that all of the floors and floor joists for both the first and second story had been replaced during the renovations of the mid-20th Century. There was no original wood left that would give an indication of age or that might be dated through a process called dendrochronology, which analyzes growth rings in lumber to determine its age. The wall plaster is also modern.


As part of the HSR, Timothy Painter, a structural engineer with Painter-Lewis, P.L.C., of Winchester, Virginia, conducted a Preliminary Structural Assessment Report of the brick smoke house, stone kitchen and privy outbuilding. The three were built separately: the brick smoke house in the 18th Century, the stone kitchen in the 19th Century and the brick privy in the 20th Century. Although they are attached to each other, they are not connected structurally. This has led to separation and movement of the walls. The smokehouse is in good structural condition, but the kitchen and privy are not. The structural report recommends repointing the smokehouse and replacing damaged bricks; rebuilding portions of the brick privy walls and the stone kitchen walls; and designing a system to tie the sections together. We also know from an environmental study done in 2010 by Winchester Environmental Consulting, Inc., that the roofing shingles on this building contain asbestos and will have to be replaced. 

Excerpts from the April 2017 Rising Sun Newsletter