Owner and Baptist minister, the Rev. Thomas H. Fox, built Ellington, a brick Greek Revival house and a brick schoolhouse beside it, in 1839 in Hanover County. Fox operated Fox School from 1840 until the start of the Civil War in 1861 and kept a journal that offers detailed information about the construction of the house and school. The latter building’s design may reflect trends in early-19th-century educational practices promulgated by English innovators, Dr. Andrew Bell and Joseph Lancaster. Situated along Old Telegraph Road, a major north-south route between Washington D.C. and Richmond (later superseded by US Route 1), and the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad, the property’s location proved convenient for drawing day students to the school and boarders to the house. Its proximity to the road, railroad, and a bridge spanning the North Anna River also brought the Civil War to Ellington’s door during Union General U. S. Grant’s Overland Campaign in May of 1864. Chesterfield Bridge was one of a handful of river crossings that Confederate forces defended against the southward advance of Grant’s forces after the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee established his main fortified line slightly south of Ellington and a forward line of earthworks across the property between the house and the river. While the Union II Corps advanced on Chesterfield Bridge on May 23, 1864, the Fox house served as a Confederate corps headquarters and came under intense artillery fire. After the battle, the house and school at Ellington survived occupation and vandalism by Union troops. Today’s property retains a trace of Old Telegraph Road.
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VLR: Virginia Landmarks Register
NPS: National Park Service
NRHP: National Register of Historic Places
NHL: National Historic Landmark