When Greata Sitnik moved to Pimmit Hills in 1953, Tysons Corner was not much more than a gas station at a crossroads; Route 7 was a narrow, two-lane road between Alexandria and Leesburg; and there wasn’t very much else.
“What was here was the Pimmit Barn on Cherri Drive,” the 86-year-old said. “My children played there all the time.”
The barn is estimated to have been built sometime between 1935 and 1940, said Charles Leik of Vienna, president of the National Barn Alliance. The barn was part of a dairy farm that was once owned by one of McLean’s founding families
But the barn’s future is uncertain.
According to local historian Carol Herrick, McLean was a farming community in 1910, when Henry Alonzo Storm established a general store that included a post office. The opening of Storm's Store is considered McLean's unofficial beginning, Herrick said. The store was located on Chain Bridge Road beside a stop on the Great Falls and Old Dominion Railroad.
“A village and vibrant community gradually developed around Storm's Store, which became McLean,” Herrick said.
According to Herrick, Storm’s younger brother J.C. Storm ran the almost 400-acre dairy farm, of which the barn is believed to have been a part.
Today, the barn’s address is in Falls Church and it is owned by the Fairfax County Park Authority, which has no use for it. The authority also owns the property on which it sits.
In March, the Park Authority Board listed the Pimmit Barn as a property for disposition, meaning it will be donated or sold, said spokeswoman Judy Pedersen.
“The Board requested that staff determine if there was interest in the property from other county department or agencies prior to any efforts to sell,” Pedersen said.
As far back as 2010, the Fairfax Falls Church Community Services Board, another county agency, indicated it was interested in building a group home on the property for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The two agencies are in talks about making the transfer, Pedersen said.
“Before the Park Authority can outright sell the property, it is required to see if any other county agencies can use it,” Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust said. “When I heard that the CSB was interested in the property, I held a community meeting in January so the residents of Pimmit Hills would not be completely surprised if they saw the barn come down.”
Another public meeting took place on March 6 at the Pimmit Hills Center.
Lesley Stone, a nonpracticing attorney with a Harvard law degree, attended that meeting along with more than 100 other residents.
“My family lives right next to the barn,” she said. “Not only is it a historical landmark and potentially the last standing barn within the Beltway, but it is also much-needed open green space in a neighborhood of 1,600 homes.”
Stone and a group of neighbors have started a petition to save the barn, which already has garnered nearly 200 signatures.
“The Pimmit Dairy Barn has been a part of Pimmit Hills since its founding in the 1950s. This beautiful piece of history ties the community to the past and is linked to our future,” the petition states. “Preserving the structure and the surrounding green space helps educate our children about farming and the history of the area, provides a potential social focal point for the community, and could lead to improved property values and tax revenues in the surrounding area.”
According to Stone, members of the community have offered some alternatives to tearing down the barn, such as creating a park, showcasing the area’s history and turning the structure into a community space.
“Similarly, there are ideas about where else might be a suitable spot in the community for a group home,” she said. “Griffith Park is a possibility, there are also homes in the neighborhood that are for sale, and the big Tysons redevelopment project may offer multiple options for those in our community in need of housing and services.”
Matthew Martz, president of the Pimmit Hills Citizens Association, has mixed feelings about the property.
“In all, I feel there are really no negatives for Pimmit Hills mainly for the fact that if the county does not take ownership of the property and turn it into a group home, the Park Service will put the land up for auction and a private contractor will buy the property and we have a huge chance of getting another McMansion or two because of how large the property is,” he wrote on a PHCA blog.
According to Leik, the barn’s use is less important than its heritage.
“Everyone is always concerned about the use of an old barn,” he said. “For a region that is urbanizing at the pace we are here in Fairfax County, the physical use of a historical barn is secondary to the preservation of an area’s history. Even if it stands only as a monument, it is still very ‘useful’ and certainly as one of the wealthiest counties in the country, we can afford to preserve a little of our heritage.”
According to Foust, there will be a public hearing announced before any decision will be made by the county as to the barn’s future.
“In order to transfer the property to the CSB, the Park Authority Board is required to hold a public hearing regarding the disposition of the Pimmit Barn property in accordance with Policy 307,” he said.