A Civil War family of spirits are stuck here; still suffering from unkind times.
A 20th century tenant who suffered a fatal disease is the spectral family’s roommate.
The Dark Star Saloon and Cafe is located in a two story 1839 structure that was built in a very solid manner has been in just about continuous use, since it was opened as a business and private quarters on the second floor.
One reason why it has been so useful, beside being in a fantastic location, is that it has been renovated and modified to fit the business needs and /or personal needs of whomever owned it. Needless to say, it wasn’t eligible to be listed on National Register of Historic Places or Virginia’s Landmark Register, but it is part of the Fredericksburg Historic District.
Looking at it from the outside, the wooden structural shape is intact; its style suggesting it’s origins being in the 1800s’. The outside wood has been probably been replaced many times over its 191 years of existence.
The first floor is a rectangular structure that is home to the business; currently a cafe, a saloon and a stage. The upstairs is much smaller; with three rooms and probably a bathroom. I don’t know what the current owner and Chef, Christopher Scott uses the upstairs area; possibly an office, and perhaps an emergency bedroom or two.
Many restaurants and Taverns in Fredericksburg, such as Sonora at The David Finney Inn, offer upscale, interesting fare to draw in folks looking for upscale menu choices in an interesting place.
Formerly known as SMYTHE’S Cottage and Tavern, The Dark Star Saloon owner, Christopher Scott, bought this property and renovated it to be a rock and roll funky yet pleasing to the senses cafe and Saloon with upscale New American Cuisine food on the menu offerings. The owner, Christopher Scott is the magnificent chef behind the food.
The Dark Star Saloon and Cafe had its grand opening in August of 2019.
The walls have some items from Christopher’s personal rock and roll collection. There are red upholstered mid-century booths near the big window in the front seating area, along with wooden tables and chairs.
While the inside’s new additions of rock and roll artifacts surely brightens up this place, it still has some gleamings of the original 1839 structure. The floor boards that were not decorated with growing rose vines are the same solid original oak. The ceiling still has the ceiling boards across the width of the structure that were popular in 1839; some of which have silver metal covering it, giving the ceiling a positive shine.
There is a small stage that has a variety of bands playing live music performing rock, bluegrass and folk music. Live music is encouraged and promoted; giving patrons great music while dining.
There is a small but colorful bar as well. With a bar that seats 6 people. The kitchen is behind the bar area.
Looking at the reviews, people really enjoy steaks, and other interesting entrees and desserts on their menu. the owners are going for quality not cheap bar food.
The owner, Christopher Scott is the magnificent chef behind the food.
Just a few reviews while raving about the food, were disappointed about the speed of the service; which indicates a combination of becoming popular and a lack of experience in organizing a restaurant. But, I bet experience has been a great teacher, and Chris has figured out how to provide great service to go along with his wonderful menu.
This Colonial style structure was built in 1839 and has had a continuous use of providing a public business on the first floor with living quarters on the second floor. It may have been a rental or private home as well.
In 1850, the first floor became a blacksmith shop, which may have meant that the front of this building may have a different front with a swing door that would allow horses to be brought in to be shod? The floor was probably dirt.
Sometime between 1850-1858ish, the wood floor was put back in, and the front was possibly changed to make the structure suitable for a home or business, adding the same type of wood to the covered, closed in front.
A married couple with perhaps extended family member of two lived here. Their living room was on the first floor. It was thought to be a brothel used by Union troops;but no one knows for sure.
One story has the wife, being a Union sympathizer, passed on information about Confederate Strategies with a Union officer. We don’t know if she actually was one of the working girls, but used the brothel as a place to disclose her information.
When her husband found out, he accused her of being a traitor to the Confederate cause, and being unfaithful to him. This caused unhappiness, tragedy and unfortunate consequences for her surviving family. Their family suffered greatly during the Union occupation of Fredericksburg.
Sometime during this structure’s long history, probably after the Civil War and Reconstruction, someone renovated the first floor to be a tavern with food, and either lived upstairs or rented those rooms as well. Its location was in the heart of the business district.
When indoor bathrooms became a necessity, bathrooms on both the first and second floor rooms. Other modern conveniences like electrical power.
Quite a few of restaurants moved in during the next 100 + years.
1980-1992. An Irish Tavern called the Irish Brigade Provided unique beer and rock music. During this time, the second floor was rented to a Tootie Ninde.
Smythe Cottage and Tavern opened its doors as a restaurant and tavern. The upstairs rooms were at first the family residence, and then later were rented out.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
Three spirits have been seen here; only one is known and the reason for her haunting
Spirits while alive were treated badly by an enemy, may hold grudges against present day folks who they think are from the same group of people who hurt them.the living can also resemble their enemy as well. An item that reminds them of their enemies may also be the object of their upset.
A picture of Grant had upset spirits attached to this structure.
Activity in the house jumped up a notch.
People who kill themselves from emotional upset still are restless and don’t feel any better. Some go through the pain they had and reenact their death.
Elizabeth, the Union spy who was caught by her husband, who accused her of being a traitor and being unfaithful to him was so upset that she hung herself from the staircase landing.
People who love their business or home, or favorite spot, sometimes like to visit or reside in this structure as spirits, going about their daily life; especially if they eventually suffered death from illness or severe hardship that caused death at the hands of another.
Spirit of Tootie Ninde – She lived in a room on the second floor.
After suffering from cancer, she died in 1982.
A female spirit and a male spirit seem to reside here. Their activities suggest that they once lived here, worked here or had a business here, or perhaps the male was a patron.
Sometimes spirits out of guilt or out of love, stay with their spectral loved ones who remain in the family home.
The male spirit may be the spirit who verbally caused the overwhelming grief that pushed Elizabeth over the waterfall into suicide.
The female spirit could be a family member of Elizabeth, or perhaps a cook for one of the Taverns or restaurants, or even the wife of one of the owners of this structure.
Most of the hauntings listed below were reported by the owners of Smythe’s Cottage, and their family, patrons and employees, and paranormal investigators.
During years of Smythe’s Cottage Tavern and Cafe, a large picture of General Grant hung on the wall right at the bottom of the stairway…
General Grant Not Welcome
When the owners came inside each morning, to prepare for a business day in their tavern, the large picture was angled. They would straighten it, as this happened three times over a week.
Finally, the picture was turned around, facing the wall.
Messing with Employees
One staff member would like the candles on the table, and leave the room for only a moment, and Some the candles would be blown out when there was no source of wind or another living person.
Freshly set tables with silverware and napkins ready to go for patrons would be moved out of place in just a moment of looking away.
From Blacksmith Shop:
The sound of faint ringing; like an iron being formed on an anvil could be heard in the front part of the first floor.
Spirit of a Tall Man
Has long black hair and a full length black coat, and a loose western tie. He likes to appear on the outside patio area, but probably comes inside as well as an unseen presence.
If he was an owner of a business, he may keep an eye on the folks running their business.
Spirit of a Woman
Described as being a short, heavy person wearing a long, dark “old fashioned” skirt and white apron.
Several people saw her float swiftly past the tables in the back on a mission to gather vegetables in the back garden.
Spirit of Tootie Ninde
Her see-through face and partial body has been seen looking out the front window on the first floor.
Her see-through body is seen crawling up the steps to her room. (Because of her cancer, she couldn’t walk up stairs, so she crawled up the stairs to her room.)
The light in her room has been seen turned on when no one living was there.
Spirit of Elizabeth
Has been experienced in one of the upstairs rooms where she lived while alive.
The two sons of the owners of Smythe’s Cottage and Tavern both saw their closet doors open by themselves. The youngest son saw a white mist come out of this same closet.
Patrons and staff alike when they pass the stairway, see out of the corner of their eyes, a swinging motion, and when they look, they briefly see a female apparition floating there at the top of the stairs where she hung her self.
Paranormal investigators apparently upset her. She broke the dish in “her room” that had packets of sugar and artificial sweetener.
The owners of Smythe’s Cottage and Tavern, their children, the staff members and patrons alike have all had vivid personal experiences.
Because of all the disturbing activity, the owners of Smythe’s Cottage probably called in a paranormal group to tell them what was going on. They caught some hard evidence in Elizabeth’s Room. On their set-up camera, they saw the sugar dish thrown on the floor and the moving closet doors. They also caught moving lights that definitely were not car lights or bugs.
They also saw the “spirit of the woman” on a mission to get vegetables from the garden and ran after her but she had gone through the slats of the locked garden, and disappeared.
Probably so! Suicide can be a real stumbling stone and cause spirits to be stuck.
Though, all this in your face yet polite activity may have been caused by the hanging of General Grant portrait by the stairway. All the spirits with the exception of Tootie had suffered greatly and died because of the Union occupation of Fredericksburg. Elizabeth’s husband was probably shot by the Union officer who was Elizabeth’s contact.
The current Dark Star Saloon doesn’t have the General Grant picture hanging anymore to aggravate the spirits, but Elizabeth may still be in emotional torment and her family members may still be there with her, unless a medium was able to help her pass over.
Tootie may also still be there, unless she was helped to the other side.
So far, new owner Christopher Scott hasn’t reported any activity, but time will tell.
They may decide to pitch in and help this living owner succeed.
Dark Star Saloon and Cafe (formerly Smythe’s Cottage and Tavern)
303 Fauquier Street
Fredericksburg, VA 22401
- Civil War Ghosts of Virginia, by L.B. Taylor, Jr
- Civil War Ghost Trails, By Mark Nesbitt,Stackpole Books, 2012
- The Dark Star Saloon and Cafe
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr