liberia 1862   Liberia around 1900 - Copy    
(left) Liberia in 1862, while the Union Army encamped there; (right) Liberia in about 1900 when it was Robert Portner's dairy farm. (below) Liberia today


Built in 1825
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.

The Enslaved of Liberia
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 more than 80 enslaved people the plantation produced grains and vegetables sold commercially in Washington City. The Weirs also raised a large herd of Merino sheep as well as horses, cattle, and hogs. The enslaved were largely unknown except by their first names in slave schedules of census records. One exception was Nellie Naylor, who was given 12 acres of land after the Civil War in recognition of her faithful service and whose descendants still live in the area.
Read the Washington Post article about Liberia's enslaved
Nellie Naylor photo
This photo is believed to be Nellie Naylor, one of the enslaved of Liberia House.

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. 

The family 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 the enslaved Naylor family, 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 but the plantation never returned to its successful operation. 

New Ownership & Donation
In 1888, Robert Weir sold the property to Robert Portner, a wealthy brewer 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. 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. 

See how a donation of documents is helping us tell more about the Liberia story


Liberia is part of the Northern Virginia Graffiti Trail. 

Liberia is located at 8601 Portner Avenue.  The house is open for special events and tours and is available for special event rental.  The grounds are open from sunrise to sunset daily.  The site is free to the public.  For more information, please contact the Museum at 703-368-1873.

For more information about Liberia's restoration visit: Liberia Restoration

Want to support this project?  We are accepting donations!  Please send your check, made out to the Manassas Museum, to:
9101 Prince William St.
Manassas, VA 20110
Indicate in the memo line which project you are interested in supporting.  We will send you a receipt for tax purposes.

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