Stratford Hall Tax Exempt Status Preserved

Stratford Hall in Westmoreland County

The real and personal property tax exemptions for the historic colonial plantation Stratford Hall, the ancestral home of the Lees of Virginia, have been spared by the Virginia Senate. It once again amended a bill stripping tax exemptions from other organizations with connections to the Southern Confederacy, removing the popular tourist attraction that was home to two signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Senate Bill 817 then went on to pass 23-16, with two Republicans joining the 21 Democrats in favor. The sponsor, Senator Angelia Williams Graves (D-Norfolk), did not explain in her brief floor presentation why she relented on imposing local property taxes on that one facility but not the others. There was no debate on the bill, pro or con, before the vote for passage this afternoon.

The tax exemptions enjoyed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the former Lexington home of Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and the Confederate Memorial Literary Society, are still set to end July 1 as the bill now stands. A companion House bill only strips the exemptions from the United Daughters of the Confederacy. All the mentioned groups are not for profit and the Jackson House is a museum. The Literary Society used to own the White House of the Confederacy in Richmond.

Only a fool seeks consistency in the halls of our General Assembly.  As with all the other colonial-era properties now preserved and open as museums, the role of slavery in Stratford Hall’s founding and operation is highlighted in the educational efforts, not hidden. There was no logical reason why it should be treated differently than Monticello, Mount Vernon, or Colonial Williamsburg.  If taxed at fair market prices, local governments would reap quite a bonanza from these properties.