PW History: Ben Lomond Historic Site

Prince William County has 12 Historic Preservation Sites. We haven’t been to most of them, so we decided this summer we were going to make a concerted effort to fix that. Now that I’ve looked at the list, it would’ve been nice to go in alphabetical order the way the list is written, but we’re all just going to have to let that go, since we went to the Ben Lomond Historic Site first.

This site is located at 10321 Sudley Manor Drive in Manassas, across from the Ben Lomond Community Center, on your way to Splashdown Waterpark. Tours are $5/per person, unless you are military, a group of 10 or more, or on a student tour ($3). Tours are given on the hour. Be prompt….they mean ON the hour! The home is open Thursday to Monday from 11am-4pm from May-October. In off months, tours are available by appointment.


On the day we went, there were many people just enjoying the grounds. There is a beautiful rose garden, as well as ample space to picnic or play, and many people were taking advantage of the space.



We were fortunate that we were 5 minutes after the hour and there was an additional docent who was willing to take us around the grounds. He was very knowledgeable and asked the kids lots of questions to keep them engaged. We started outside the house, viewing the outdoor kitchen, smokehouse, dairy, and the slave quarters, which were moved to their current location to allow for building to occur on another part of the property.


The quarters was dated using dendrochronology (impress your docent- that’s dating things by taking a core sample and counting the tree rings)- and you can see the holes where they took core samples from the wood.




Looking at the Ben Lomond site map features some very familiar names if you’ve lived in Prince William County for very long- including the Chinn’s, of Chinn Park Library fame. The outbuildings were originally constructed for the Chinn Family, who inherited the property through its original owner, Robert Carter III. The Chinn’s leased part of the property to the Pringle family (no relation to the chips), who raised Merino sheep.



So where the story goes south for everybody involved is the Civil War. (See what I did there- south? Ha!) The main home was forcibly taken to use as a field hospital after the Battle of First Manassas. The red flag in the window would indicate that this house, named after the mountains near Loch Lomond back home in Scottland, was a hospital for wounded soldiers. Skipping ahead in the story a little- not only was the home taken from the (Still Scottish) Pringle family and used for a hospital, when the Union soldiers found them guilty of providing aid and comfort, they trashed the home, stole many of the sheep, and left the Pringles and the Chinns in bad financial straights. The Pringles appealed to an international court, since they were still British citizens, but recieved only a few hundred dollars in restitution for the tens of thousands of dollars of damage they claimed.

IMG_1796When you go inside the house- things might go south for you, too. As a way to aid visitors in experiencing history, there are several of these little machines throughout the house.

Hint: they’re not diffusing essential oils.

Apparently there is a synthetic smell of gangrene. Y’all, it does not smell good. They are pumping this stuff in through the house, and while I’ve never smelled actual gangrene, based I’m going to give it a 10/10 for authenticity based on the fact that by the time we left, we all felt nauseated and had headaches from the stank. I said stank. Not smell. Stench. Gross, nasty, ew. If you have kids that are into gross stuff, they’re going to love this. If you have kids that you’re trying to talk out of a military career, this is the place to go. I’m not a fan of the “authentic smell” but I get what they’re going for. Bless the docents.



The rooms are set up to show what a hospital might have looked like, although the guide mentioned that the “blood” splattered all over the walls was a bit much since any surgeon worth their salt would’ve applied a tourniquet tight enough to prevent arterial bleeds from going everywhere. My daughter did the history of medicine this year as part of her science curriculum, so she noted the silk thread (big advancement in medicine) as well as remembering that some of the (limited) aesthetics of the day were flammable. Not out loud, of course…but in the car after. 😉


IMG_1793Much of the rest of the house featured storiIMG_1795es about the doctors, patients, and civilian family members we know to have visited the hospital at Ben Lomond House. We also talked about the various viewpoints several groups had about the problem of slavery and how to fix it, including resettling slaves in Africa, where many of them had never ever stepped foot.



Several of the upstairs bedrooms have posters filled with student signatures, a play on the signatures of Union soldiers who graffiti-ed the home as punishment.  You can’t see it very well, but the picture to the left shows a portion of the wall left with graffiti in tact so you can see the signatures of the soldiers.





So- Ben Lomond Historic Site. Beautiful outside, fantastic, well-versed tour guide/docent, excellent example of the devestation of the Civil War. May be overwhelming to children sensitive to blood. OH! And there’s an audio recording of “hospital sounds” that includes people screaming and moaning- so that, too. Our guide was very kind and asked if it was too much for any of us, because he could turn it off. For learners who like to engage their senses, this is it! Sight, sound, and definitely smell. I think we’ll go back again- but for a picnic outside in the rose garden. I’m glad we did the historical tour- but if I never smell gangrene again, it will be too soon!