William Key Howard, Jr., Obituary

This obituary for William Key Howard, Jr. appeared in the Free Lance-Star in December, 1934.


William Key Howard, Jr.Resident of Fredericksburg for Many Years. Saved Kenmore Decorations.

William Key Howard, a resident of Fredericksburg for many years, died at his home on Main Street, this morning shortly after 1 o'clock, following an illness of a week. He had suffered from heart trouble for some time and Thursday, a week ago, contracted a cold which developed into grippe. Yesterday he appeared better, but in the night, his condition changed for the worse.

Member of a family prominently connected in Virginia and Maryland, Mr. Howard was a descendant of Francis Scott Key, author of "The Star Spangled Banner," and was the son of William Key Howard of Maryland, and his wife, Mrs. Clara Randolph Howard of Virginia. He was born in Richmond on December 11, 1861 and [spent the early part of] his life in Baltimore. Shortly after the war, the family moved to "Altoona," near Fredericksburg and in 1881 when the elder Mr. howard purchased "Kenmore," they came to this city to reside.


He was educated in private schools in Fredericksburg and at an academy in Hanover County. Early in life, he began a practical education in electrical engineering when he became connected with the Thompson-Houston Co., fore-runners of the present General Electric Co., in their shop in Lynn, Mass. Later he represented the company in the South in the installation of municipal electric light plants in Troy and Selma, Alabama, throughout the Carolinas, and in Griffin, Ga.

After installing the plant in the latter city, Mr. Howard remained there as superintendent of the city water and electric plant. In 1902, after nearly ten years in Griffin, Mr. Howard moved to Urbanna where he installed the first ice plant in that section of Virginia, remaining as its superintendent.


In 1909, he came to Fredericksburg where he became superintendent of the municipally-owned electric light plant, remaining in that capacity after the plant was taken over by Gould interests and later by the Virginia Electric and Power Company and located in South Boston, where he remained until he retired about three years ago.

More than any other individual, Mr. howard is responsible for the preservation of the decorations within Kenmore, former home of George Washington's sister. When the elder Mr. Howard purchased the place in 1881, the stucco ceiling decorations and over mantle designs were in such disrepair that it was at first decided to tear out the wall plastering in the rooms and replace it. Mr. howard, a semi-invalid at the time suffering from the effects of an injury to his back, prevailed upon his father to let him attempt the restoration.


In the course of his work, lying flat on scaffolding close to the ceiling, Mr. Howard replaced 70,000 odd separate pieces, some of them infinitesimally small, in the three rooms at Kenmore. He also designed and executed the decoration in Kenmore Hall, which was not decorated by the Hessians sent here by George Washington to do the work. [Editor's note: while it was once believed that Hessian soldiers executed the ceilings of Kenmore in the 1700s, subsequent investigation has led to the conclusion that this was not the case. The ceilings were done by a craftsman identified by George Washington only as "The Stucco Man".]

Mr. Howard was, unconsciously responsible for another important thing, the release of his mother from the old Capital prison in Washington in which she had been confined for nearly two years as a spy. Both of his parents were arrested and confined in prison on the charge of being Confederate spies. An appeal made on behalf of Mr. Howard, then a baby, was partially responsible for his mother's release, it was said.

Mr. Howard was highly talented musically and artistically. He was for years a member of local bands, and other musical organizations. He was a Mason, member of the local lodge, and a member of Trinity Episcopal Church.

Mr. Howard is survived by his wife, the former Miss Florence Lamar Moore, of Griffin, Ga., and four children; John Howard of Clarendon; Mrs. D. R. Hill of Little Rock, Ark.; Francis Key Howard and Miss Betsy Howard of Fredericksburg. He is also survived by one brother, A. R. Howard, of Washington.

Funeral services are to take place from the home at 2 o'clock Sunday afternoon, conducted by Rev. J. J. Ambler and burial will be in Hollywood Cemetery beside the grave of his father and mother and his brother, City Treasurer C. R. Howard, who died here last month.

The pallbearers are to be: Cecil L. Reid, George W. Shepard, A. V. Warren, Kuzner Bauman, E. M. Young and Jack Bond.

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