Camellia Cottage has a colorful history! Constructed in 1871, celebrating her 150th birthday in 2021. The Cottage is located on Lot 50 of the grid that made up historic Fredericksburg, Virginia. Revolutionary War hero, General Hugh Mercer likely walked down the stone steps that still exist above Camellia Cottage to his apothecary shop.
Research shows the structure likely had its humble beginning on John Anderson’s lumber yard on Princess Anne Street, just across from the Fredericksburg Baptist Church. In 1877, a Dr. Martin moved the structure to Lot 49, and the corner of Amelia and Caroline Streets. He had been a surgeon in the army, and converted it into an office from which he could practice medicine. Believe it or not, moving entire buildings was a common occurrence in the historic past. But Camellia Cottage was moved not just once, but twice! In 1902, the Cottage was moved up the hill to its current location on Amelia Street.
Many people have loved the Cottage but none so much as Annie Musselman. Born in the late 1800s she lived at the Cottage for most of her life. In 1914 Virginia established a statewide ban on alcohol and Prohibition was soon the law of the land. Annie was known as the best bootlegger in town and her cottage became a local “speakeasy.” One source said that even the local Sheriff and his deputies frequented her speakeasy during Prohibition.
Mrs. Robert McLaughlin bought the Cottage and began an extensive renovation in 1979. In an interview she said: “I know the worst about this house.” Her interior and exterior renovations were so amazing the Cottage was featured on the 1982 Fredericksburg Historic Garden Tour. It’s s unknown who named the Cottage that is marked by the camellia bush in her front where it blooms in the cold months of winter. Like the women who loved her, the camellia bush is beautiful, tough, and resilient!