USF Professor Leads the Way to George Washington's Long-Sought Boyhood Home

TAMPA, Fla. (July 2, 2008) – Philip Levy, associate professor of history at the University of South Florida working with The George Washington Foundation (GWF) has located and excavated the remains of Washington's boyhood home, Ferry Farm, near Fredericksburg, Va. This is the setting of some of Washington's best-known stories including tales familiar to American schoolchildren about chopping down the cherry tree and throwing a stone across the Rappahannock River. Fredericksburg is located about 50 miles south of Washington, D.C., and Ferry Farm is just across the Rappahannock in Stafford County, Va.

"If George Washington did indeed chop down a cherry tree, as generations of Americans have believed, this is where it happened,"said Levy, whose research is partly funded by National Geographic, The Dominion Foundation and USF. "There is little actual documentary evidence of Washington's formative years. What we see at this site is the best available window into the setting that nurtured the father of our country."

Levy and his associates have been digging at the Ferry Farm site near Fredericksburg, Va., since 2002 for what amounts to seven seasons. During those years over 50 USF graduate and undergraduate students have accompanied Levy to Virginia.

"The project afforded these students a unique opportunity to learn the skills of historical archeology along with Washington's history and the world which nurtured him," Levy said.

Together they confirmed positively having unearthed the foundation and cellars. These findings constitute the remains of the clapboard-covered wood structure that was once home to George, his parents and siblings.

One notable find from one of the cellars was a broken-off bowl of a pipe clearly bearing a Masonic crest and blackened inside from heavy use. Washington was a member of the Fredericksburg Lodge of the Masons dating back to 1753. The pipe was typical of the mid-18th century, the time when George would have lived in the house.

Levy and his team have so far located the family's kitchen and slave quarters. They expect to find a dairy, a smokehouse and perhaps warehouses.

"This is it - this is the site of the house where George Washington grew up," said David Muraca, director of archaeology for The George Washington Foundation (GWF), which owns the property. "But it's more than buildings. It is places where people worked, socialized and even played, and it is orchards and gardens. We hope to recover all of that."

A National Geographic Channel film, "The Real George Washington," which follows the discoveries at Ferry Farm, will premiere this November. Information on air dates is at

The discovery of George Washington's childhood house was made possible in part by a generous grant from the Dominion Foundation.

The George Washington Foundation owns and operates two National Historic Landmarks: George Washington's Boyhood Home at Ferry Farm and Kenmore, the 18th-century home of George Washington's sister Betty and her husband Fielding Lewis. Ferry Farm is located in Stafford County, Va. Kenmore is located in the city of Fredericksburg, Va. Both are open to the public. For more information, visit

The National Geographic Society is one of the world's largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. Founded in 1888 to "increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” the Society works to inspire people to care about the planet. It reaches more than 300 million people worldwide each month through its official journal, National Geographic, and other magazines; National Geographic Channel; television documentaries; music; radio; films; books; DVDs; maps; school publishing programs; interactive media; and merchandise. National Geographic has funded more than 9,000 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects and supports an education program combating geographic illiteracy. For more information, visit

The Dominion Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Dominion. Headquartered in Richmond, Va., Dominion is one of the nation's largest producers of energy. For more information, visit

The University of South Florida is among the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of 39 community engaged public universities as designated by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. It is one of Florida's top three research universities. USF was awarded more than $300 million in research contracts and grants last year. The university offers 219 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The university has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 45,000 students on campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.

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