Though I don’t always love the colder months and I’ve often romanticized the idea of living elsewhere, my love of Virginia is unyielding.
Growing up along the GW Parkway and Potomac River, I know I took for granted the proximity to our nation’s history and access to all the historical buildings and land that spreads from Northern Virginia to Southwest Virginia. As a parent, I get to experience all of this from a new vantage point and though I’m sure my girls will be about as interested in connecting the dots as I was when I was young, I’m nevertheless fascinated in my own right about how much of our area’s development is rooted in the needs of our predecessors from George Washington’s days.
Last week, my daughter’s third grade class took a field trip to Colvin Run Mill on Leesburg Pike. Did you know this is still a working mill? The Millers still turn grain to flour for about 6 months out of the year. The mill is situated on Leesburg Pike per George Washington’s master plan to easily transport the flour from the mill all the way to Old Town Alexandria. Nerd alert: I don’t think I blinked while the Fairfax Park Authority guide was dispensing this information. Even cooler, this same class had visited Mount Vernon Plantation back in October. Simply by virtue of where they are growing up, our kids can already begin to see the context of some of our area’s history and why land and resources were developed in certain locations.
With all these reflections fresh in my mind, I’m sure you can imagine my uncontrollable excitement when I was driving out to Fort Valley, VA to work on marketing for a client’s land listing last Friday. I turned left on Rt 678 and before I knew it, I was driving through the GW National Forest.
I once had a client who passed me on the road send me a text that said: “who smiles while driving?!” Me. This lady, right here. With a smile ear to ear, I drove about 5 miles through the forest, with no cellular service, just me and my car, taking in the air and land and history that just kept stretching in my rearview mirror. I stopped and took a picture of the entrance at Elizabeth’s Furnace before I met my client along Rt 678 at the old Fort Valley Museum. We hopped in his Land Cruiser and drove across Passage Creek and up the hill to his 11 acres of land.
When we got to the clearing, I couldn’t believe what a great camp ground he had put together. With two shelters, a working camper, and a fire pit, weekend warriors have everything they need for a fun weekend in nature. We then walked up the clear path to the top of the land where views of Massanutten and farmland extended every which way I looked. We walked back down the hill as my client told me about the previous owner who was a botanist. He had planted pawpaw trees as a tribute to George Washington, who was fond of pawpaw fruit.
As our aerial photographer was capturing footage of the land via his drone camera, all I could think about was how George Washington’s peers had likely once surveyed this plot of land and how my team and I would later use the aerial footage to draw the boundaries of this land, so we can market it to potential buyers. I was using my iPhone to take photos of everything I saw and yet I felt my feet were standing in a different place and time.
The fast-moving market in Northern Virginia can sometimes blind us to the history of real property in this part of the country. Especially in areas that don’t seem to have any old buildings due to new development, it’s easy to lose track of when and how land and buildings were used. As land continues to be developed and the meaning of “DC Suburbs” stretches, we will continue to find ourselves in homes surrounded by land that has a rich history beyond real estate. In the meantime, I hope the next owner of the 11 acres in Fort Valley will enjoy the fresh air, deep breaths, and extensive botanical riches that await just a few miles outside the GW National Forest.