A Summer at Chatham: Thoughts of a Pohanka Intern at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park

By Estee Reed ’16

At 8:30 in the morning I step out of my car and head up to the imposing manor house situated on a hill overlooking the quant town of Fredericksburg. While most people might be put off by it’s creaky floor boards, the cracks in the ceiling, or the delightfully surprising way the two front doors like to open by themselves; I love it. I love working at Chatham.

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Chatham Manor

Having been built in 1771, the manor house has played host to many famous people and has been present for some of the most significant historical events in American history. And while the history of Chatham is absolutely fascinating, it is the visitors that come to Chatham that make me love working there.

Most days I sit behind the large wooden front desk staring anxiously out the front windows for the first sign of the day’s visitors, who will start their visit by walking through the house’s gorgeous gardens. “Hello! Welcome to Chatham!” I say once everyone has made it into the front room of the house. “Is it your first time visiting?” I ask while I introduce them to the exhibits and movie that we offer. Once guests busy themselves with looking around or watching the film, I answer questions or have great conversations with guests who have just returned to escape Virginia’s summer heat, after touring the grounds.

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Estee distributing the park’s “trading cards” to a young visitor

Even though in theory when I work at Chatham I do the same thing everyday, each day I work there I meet different people and have different experiences. One day I could be telling ghost stories and showing the locations of unknown union soldier graves to two young girls and their grandmother, and the next I could be answering questions for a budding novelist who is writing a historical fiction piece centered around Chatham. I love being able to help people and get them as excited about history as I am. It’s something that always makes my day, and it is what has made me love working at Chatham this summer.

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