Saturday, January 28, 2012

Was It Just Déjà vu? Visit to Stratford Hall Plantation

Have you ever been to a place that made the hair on your arms stand up for no reason? For me, it was Stratford Hall Plantation in Stratford, Virginia, built by Thomas Lee in the 1730s on land overlooking the Potomac River. It is also the birthplace of Robert E. Lee. The sight of the house gave me a strange feeling. It’s a beautiful, historic house, but it seemed to remind me of something that I couldn’t put my finger on.

Visit to Stratford Hall Plantation

In the late ‘80s or early ‘90s, my mom, my Aunt Catherine, my sister Helen, and I drove from Valdosta, Georgia, to Washington, D.C., for a little vacation. We stopped at several places along the way there and back to sightsee. My sister last made this sightseeing trip in 1966 when she was three years old (I was 12), so we all thought it’d be fun to take her there again since she didn’t remember anything about her first visit. (We’ve teased her over the years that she slept in the White House—that is, she slept on our mom’s shoulder during our tour.)

 Stratford Hall Google Earth

I think it was Aunt Catherine that suggested we stop and tour Stratford Hall Plantation. I love looking at old houses and learning about the people who lived in them. I had never heard of Stratford Hall Plantation before, but I got a chill the minute we drove up and I saw this house, especially when I looked at the stone staircase on the front façade. I didn’t tell anyone what I was feeling. I was so surprised at the house’s affect on me. I had never had that happen before, and I couldn’t shake the strange feeling while we toured the house. Something about it was familiar.

For the first few years after the tour of Stratford Hall Plantation, I would still get that same strange feeling whenever I even looked at a photograph of the house. I don’t think it was déjà vu. I know what that feels like. The feeling I had when I first saw this house was different. Later on, I became quite fascinated with the house, and I tried to figure out why it affected me so. Was it my fear of heights kicking in when I looked at the stone staircase (click on the name above and you’ll see what I mean)? Was it the two observation platforms on the roof (once again, fear of heights)? Was it reminding me of some other house that looks similar? What was it? I never figured it out. I like to say that I don’t believe in ghosts, and I hope to never see one! Were there ghosts there? Was it a genetic memory (if there is such a thing)? Am I related to the Lees? I’ve only researched a little to see if there is a family connection to the Lees, but so far I’ve found nothing. 

After all these years, the house has lost its strange affect on me. I can look at a photograph of it and not feel a thing except curiosity. I still believe it’s a beautiful house, and if I ever venture that way again, I’d like to visit it once more. Maybe this time I can actually pay attention to the tour guide and not look over my shoulder. 


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