Wharf Road

It takes some hunting and imagination to find the remaining traces of the 18th-century road to the wharf or “landing.”  During the colonial period, this lane led to a hum of activity at the river.  According to George Mason’s son, John, “the road to the landing, [was] where all persons or things water borne[sic] were landed or taken off, and were kept the boats… of which there were always several for business transportation, fishing, and hunting, belonging to the establishment.” This track down the ravine is one of the few  portions of the landing road still accessible. Some segments have been buried over time.  Through Gunston Hall’s archaeology program, we have located and explored some of the sections no longer visible. The actual landing site is no longer Gunston Hall property.

Although the mansion was visible from the river, dips and curves in the land hid it from view once visitors were on shore. As they proceeded up the landing road, guests and workers glimpsed two symbols of Mason’s status and wealth: a deer park and a view of the almost monumental terrace looming above them. Then, as they entered the road cut you see here, the travelers came over a small rise and found the garden fence and mansion suddenly laid out before them. 

From this point, the road angled toward the upper end of the garden and turned to run parallel to the east side of the mansion. Guests of the Masons arriving via the river dismounted here, and entered the garden through the side gate to reach the mansion’s riverside entrance. 

Laborers, free and enslaved, led wagons carrying goods and other cargo from the landing beyond this point to their final destinations. The road extended past the mansion running parallel with the plantation entrance road. Mason provided himself a utility road to keep work-a-day traffic off the formal entrance drive.

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