In Bed With History

Thomas Wallace House in Petersburg opens as Airbnb.

Photo courtesy of Alan Blankenstein

If spending the night at a historic mansion is on your bucket list, look no further than the Thomas Wallace House in Petersburg. The Italianate-style home hosted the famous last meeting between President Abraham Lincoln and Gen. Ulysses Grant just days before the end of the Civil War. Last fall, its doors were opened to the public for the first time in decades. In addition to being part of Petersburg’s historic tour, it serves as an events venue—and as a lodging that you can book through Airbnb.

Photo courtesy of Historic Petersburg

“The building’s historical gravitas lends itself to those who are interested in making history themselves,” says Alan M. Blankenstein of the Solution Tree and HOPE Foundation, who represents the current owner.

Built in 1855 for Thomas Wallace, a wealthy local lawyer and merchant, the two-story house served as Grant’s headquarters in Petersburg. On April 3, 1865, the day after Petersburg fell, the general met with the president inside the vestibule to discuss the impending conclusion of the war and plans for Reconstruction. In 1975, the home was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

After an extensive renovation, which included the addition of two extra bathrooms on the top floor, the Thomas Wallace House welcomed its first overnight guests last July. “We have upgraded where necessary,” Blankenstein says. “Everybody likes the idea of sleeping in a bed that Lincoln slept in, but nobody wants to do it. So we put new, high quality beds in there.” But the restorers kept the ceilings, chandeliers, fireplaces, and crown molding intact, as well as the exposed tin ceilings upstairs.

Since it opened as an Airbnb, the house has hosted guests from more than 20 states and tourists from as far away as South Africa. HistoricPetersburg.org


This article originally appeared in our February 2020 issue.

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