For nearly thirty years, I have been researching the life of beer baron, inventor, and philanthropist Robert Portner, the history of his brewery, and the history of his summer home Annaburg. It is a love affair I cannot quite explain, and yet has had the biggest impact on my entire life. From the moment I first saw the house, I fell in love with it and had this drive to find out everything I could about it.
Annaburg was a 2,000-acre estate situated on the then-outskirts of the post-Civil War farming town of Manassas, Virginia. The estate was formed from the bulk of two historic estates - the Weir family plantation Liberia and the Hooe/McLean family plantation Yorkshire. Annaburg - named in homage of both Portner's wife Anna and the military academy he attended as a youth - was a unique place itself. Portner was able to take battle-scarred land and cultivate it into a successful dairy and cattle farm, while also maintaining it as a place of relaxation and pleasure for his own family. In addition to an impressive mansion, the estate boasted three large ponds (one of which had its own steam boat), a swimming pool, three hundred-acre fenced in deer park and hunting lodge, two historic homes, acres of orchards and vineyards, and a 20-acre formal park Portner often opened up to the local townspeople. The park featured the Portner family home - a three-story brick and brownstone mansion designed by Washington, D.C.-based architect Gustav Friebus - as well as a three story brownstone tower. The mansion was a feat in its own right as it is believed to be the first house in the country to feature air conditioning, which was adapted from Portner's own invention he designed to cool the air in his brewery.
To view the nomination form for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, click Here.