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Dodona Manor – Former Home of General George Marshall


In the quaint, historic town of Leesburg, in the eastern state of Virginia lies Dodona Manor, home to one of the most significant figures in the 20th century, a man who helped rebuild Europe after World War II. For producer Liu Enming, VOA's Elaine Lu takes a look at the House of General George Marshall.

Dodona Manor was home to a man Winston Churchill cited as the greatest American of the 20th Century - George Marshall. He was said to have personified America's transformation from small-town insularity to global prominence.

During his career Marshall served in two World Wars, and under eight U.S. presidents. He was the only professional soldier to have been awarded the Nobel Prize - in 1953.

But Rachael Thompson, the Education Director at Dodona Manor, says Marshall is perhaps best remembered for the plan he helped to develop and implement in his role as U.S. Secretary of State in the Truman administration in 1947 - the Marshall Plan for European reconstruction after World War II.

"People in Europe remember him for that,” says Thompson. “We open our door to guests here - to Dodona Manor - we have people who come from Germany, we have people who come from the Netherlands, from European countries that were recipients of the Marshall Plan. They come into this house, with tears in their eyes. They say we would not have survived without the Marshall Plan, and that makes us feel that he was America's hero to the world."

Born in Uniontown, in the eastern state of Pennsylvania in 1880, Marshall went on to become a soldier and statesman who, Thompson says, left an indelible mark on American history.

"He graduated from VMI [Virginia Military Institute] and after he graduated he took the test to get his commission into the United States Army. On September 1, 1939, he became the U.S. Army's Chief of Staff, which meant that he controls [oversaw] the entire United States Army, quite a hefty task during World War II. And in 1944, he became a five star general, one of very few."

At the height of his career, amidst all the attention, George Marshall and his wife Katherine were seeking a place of repose. Kristie Lalire, the Assistant Director at Dodona Manor, explains. "Mrs. Marshall felt like they were sort of living in a fish bowl, they really did not have a lot of privacy, so they were looking for a place just to get away a little bit, maybe on the weekend some place to [go]."

Katherine Marshall found their Leesburg home in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in 1941.

Kristie Lalire guides the tour of the house. "We are standing in the hallway of the Marshall's house Dodona Manor,” she tells visitors. “It's an 18th century house with two later 19th century additions. This hallway is very typical of the federal style of architecture where you have the center hallway with parlors on either side."

From the layout of the furniture to wallpaper color and design, everything in the house was restored faithfully to its original design.

To preserve Marshall's legacy, The George C. Marshall International Foundation started a four-phase restoration project in 1999. The project started with exterior stabilization and restoration, and moved on to the interior restoration, such as re-engineering the floor in the dining room to accommodate the many daily visitors to the house.

Here, Lalire says, visitors get a glimpse of Marshall's low-profile life style from his bedroom, the smallest in the house with very simple furnishings. "He did not require very much in order to live, we have only one major piece of furniture, besides the bed, this is a 'chiffonier’ [chest of drawers], where he kept his shirts."

In her memoir, "Together", Katherine Marshall recalled her husband returning from war-torn Europe to Dodona Manor after World War II, saying, "This is home, a real home after 41 years of wandering."

Marshall had two favorites at Dodona Manor - the garden and a library, where he spent many a quiet moment pondering matters of international significance.

Now, nearly a half century after this statesman pondered the world from a weathered bench, Marshall's legacy lingers, just like the scent from the blooming garden of honeysuckle.