Liberia Ave Manassas

Liberia Plantation House

Interesting Story about the Liberia Plantation House located in Manassas, Virginia, USA

With slave labor, William J. and Harriet Weir built a federal style brick mansion and operated a farm near Manassas that they named Liberia. The name highlights Weir’s ambivalence about slavery—he supported general emancipation with resettlement of former slaves in Liberia, Africa. He also voted against secession in 1861, but two of his sons fought in the Confederate Army. In 1860, eighty enslaved people lived at Liberia. Among them were Nellie Naylor and her seven children. Her husband Samuel had purchased his freedom and worked for the Weirs. Their son Cornelius “Neil” operated a gristmill nearby that Weir also owned.

On the eve of the Civil War the plantation had grown into one of the largest and most successful in western Prince William County. With the labor of 90 slaves the Plantation produced grains and vegetables sold commercially in Washington City. The Weir’s also raised a large herd of Moreno sheep as well as horses, cattle, and hogs.

During the Civil War, William and Harriet Weir moved to Fluvanna County for safety. Twenty-two enslaved people accompanied them, including the Naylor’s daughter Sallie. Other slaves were sent farther South, some seized the opportunity for freedom behind Union lines, while some black workers—likely including Samuel, Nellie, and Neil Naylor—stayed on at Liberia and managed the property during the owners’ absence.

At different times the house served as headquarters for Union and Confederate armies; presidents Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis both visited there. Unlike most of the homes and farms in the area, Liberia passed through the war in good condition. In November 1865, after the Weirs returned, Samuel Naylor bought over fifty acres of land from them in exchange for $500 he managed to save. The Weirs gave Nellie another twelve acres in recognition of “the love and affection they have for their faithful servant.” The Naylor children eventually inherited the property, though most moved away. Sallie Naylor Randolph inherited the family house on Centreville Road and lived there in 1920.

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( Liberia Plantation House)

Liberia Plantation

Built in 1825 Liberia House
In 1825 Harriett Bladen Mitchell Weir and her husband William James Weir built the house that would become known as Liberia. The house was originally situated on a 1,660 acre parcel known as the lower Bull Run Tract, first patented in 1732. Today the house is known as Liberia but the family often referred to it as the “Brick House.” According to tax records the house was valued at the time of construction at $2,876, a handsome sum for the time period.Successful Plantation
On the eve of the Civil War the plantation had grown into one of the largest and most successful in western Prince William County. With the labor of 90 slaves the plantation produced grains and vegetables sold commercially in Washington City. The Weir’s also raised a large herd of Moreno sheep as well as horses, cattle, and hogs.

The Civil War
When Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, William’s sons enlisted in the Confederate Army and he, now an old man, remained to operate the plantation. In the months following the secession the nearby railroad junction of the Orange and Alexandria and Manassas Gap Railroad became a massive military encampment. By July, Liberia was pressed into service as the headquarters for General P. G. T. Beauregard, CSA and some reports also record its use as a hospital and “death house” after the Battle of First Manassas.

Military Occupation of Liberia
Despite the hardships the family suffered during the months of military occupation, they continued to live at Liberia until March of 1862 when the advance of Union troops forced them to flee south. The house, left in the care of trusted slaves, became the military headquarters of General Irvin McDowell, USA. It was during this period that President Abraham Lincoln came to Liberia to confer with his general. By the end of the Civil War, Liberia was one of the few significant structures to remain standing on the plains of Manassas. It was to this devastated landscape that the Weir family returned to farm their holdings. Despite the family’s labor, they were unable to return the plantation to its former grandeur.

New Ownership
In 1888, Robert Weir sold the property to Robert Portner, a wealthy brewer, banker, and shipper from Alexandria, Virginia. The Portner family never lived at Liberia but did develop the property as a successful dairy operation. The Portner family kept Liberia until 1947 when they sold it to the Breeden family.

Liberia Donated to the City
In the 1970s the City of Manassas became interested in acquiring the structure to both assure its preservation and to develop it as a tourist attraction. After ten years of negotiation it was acquired on December 31, 1986. The owners, I. J. and Hilda Breeden, donated the Liberia Mansion and 5.6 acres of land surrounding the structure and the city purchased an additional 12.6 acres to buffer the site from future development. The city placed the property under the management of the Manassas Museum System.

The Restoration
The Museum System has completed the first phase of structural restoration and further restoration is planned. The house is open for special events and tours. For more information about Liberia Plantation House and its programs or to make a contribution toward its restoration please call 703-368-1873.

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Manassas Museum
English: Coat of arms of Liberia
English: Coat of arms of Liberia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
City of Manassas, City Hall
9027 Center St.
Manassas, VA 20110
Information: 703-257-8200

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