Happy Retreat

photo by: Paul Burk

Saving America's Historic Sites

Happy Retreat

  • Constructed: 1780
  • Location: Charles Town, West Virginia

At the heart of the estate stands a 6,332-square-foot mansion. Constructed in 1780, Happy Retreat is the focal point of a unique assemblage of seven surviving Washington Family homes, one of 40 sites to be located along the 132-mile Washington Heritage Trail.

In 1784, Happy Retreat was the starting point for George Washington’s 680-mile trek to explore the American West—the subject of Joel Achenbach’s 2005 book, "The Grand Idea: George Washington’s Potomac and the Race to the West."

In 2015, the nonprofit Friends of Happy Retreat joined forces with the City of Charles Town to acquire the property, saving the site from an uncertain future. In the year since, the Friends have initiated rehabilitation of the mansion and its’ collection of outbuildings and have raised $350,000 of the estimated $1,725,000 needed to rehabilitate and repurpose the site.

The Friends and the City of Charles Town envision that Happy Retreat’s buildings and grounds will be rehabilitated and repurposed for public use—not as a traditional house museum—but as a center for community events, heritage tourism, arts, culture, and scholarship, becoming a centerpiece for the newly founded Washington Heritage & Cultural District.


Happy Retreat will remain threatened until a sustainable new use is identified and established. Additional threats include deterioration of the mansion and outbuildings, lack of funding to address building rehabilitation, and a need for technical assistance to sustain this historic place as a venue for the arts and community gatherings.

Campaign Goals

  • Build public awareness and financial support for Happy Retreat.
  • Rehabilitate the mansion house, grounds, and outbuildings.
  • Working with local and national partners, implement new uses which reimagine Happy Retreat as home to heritage tourism, cultural events, and scholarship.


Rehabilitate and repurpose Happy Retreat as a center for community events, heritage tourism, arts, culture, and scholarship.

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