Regardless of how U.S. 1 is widened through the Mount Vernon area, the Woodlawn Stables likely will need to relocate or close.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation, which owns the land and barn that the private operation leases, announced last week it would not renew Scanlin Farms’ current lease when it expires in 2016. The trust owns and maintains the historic Woodlawn estate and the Frank Lloyd Wright Pope-Leighy house, which was relocated to the Woodlawn property.
“The National Trust’s primary focus is to preserve the National Historic Landmark,” David J. Brown, executive vice president and chief preservation officer of the trust, said in an Aug. 31 statement. “As such, the National Trust must consider the best use of its property at the Woodlawn historic site in order to meet our obligations as stewards of the property and our buildings housed on the site.”
Brown said the current lease is not sustainable and that “extending it would not be a prudent business decision.” Once the U.S. 1 widening project plans are finalized, the trust will consider all options for the stable portion of the property, he said.
Woodlawn originally was part of George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. Washington granted 2,000 acres of his estate to his nephew, Maj. Lawrence Lewis, and his wife, Eleanor “Nelly” Custis.
U.S. 1 is slated to be widened to accommodate the growing workforce at Fort Belvoir. As part of the most recent Department of Defense base realignment process, Fort Belvoir gained thousands of new employees from several defense agencies last fall, as well as a new hospital.
Federal transportation officials are expected to determine the final alignment for the highway widening project later this month.
If the road is widened along its current alignment, the Woodlawn estate could lose land, and graves in the Woodlawn Baptist Church’s historic cemetery, which sits close to the road, could need to be moved.
A bypass option, favored by the historic trust, would cut through the stable property. This proposal led to significant outcry from community residents who wanted to see the stables preserved.
The group Save Woodlawn Stables gathered thousands of signatures on a petition asking the federal government to spare the stable property. While the Federal Highway Administration still is favoring the bypass option, the community was successful in securing an agreement to relocate the barn and allow the stable operation to continue, according to Shelley Castle, a founding member of Save Woodlawn Stables.
Castle said her group hopes to continue working with the National Trust to preserve the property in some way, ideally as an equestrian facility, whether that means continuing to lease to Scanlin Farms or not.
“We have people who aren’t even equestrians who want to see the property preserved,” Castle said. “It’s a very visually impacting place that people don’t want to see disappear.”