May 30, 2012

Save Our History! Save Woodlawn Baptist Church Cemetery! Please Help

Dear Friends,

As many of you may be aware, the Save Woodlawn Stables group has been very vocal in opposing a southern bypass for the widening of Route 1. The bypass option is preferred by Federal Highways (FHWA) and by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, as it minimizes effect on the NHL Woodlawn, Grand View, Woodlawn Baptist Church and cemetery, and Woodlawn Friends Meeting and cemetery. The bypass would put Route 1 between the stables complex and Dogue Creek, running through what is now pastureland. Currently, Route 1 runs between Woodlawn mansion and the stables complex. Unfortunately, the bypass option would require moving the vacant Otis Mason house and one of the barns to a different location on the property. We all understand that this is not an ideal situation, but it is far preferable to the alternative, which I describe below. FHWA has taken several steps to minimize harm to the stables. They have met with an architectural firm that specializes in building equestrian tunnels, and will build a below-road culvert or tunnel so that the horses may easily move from one side of the property to the other. Representatives from this firm have assured FHWA and NTHP that Woodlawn Stables can easily continue operations during and after the road widening. An under-road culvert is a fairly common feature in equestrian facilities. IF the stables owners determine that they cannot continue operations if the bypass is built, their lease will be bought out and they will be moved at no expense to them. Fairfax County has suggested that they may be interested in moving to the equestrian facility at Laurel Hill, about 6 miles away.

Instead, Save Woodlawn Stables is forcefully arguing for a widening in place. This means that they want the road to go right through the historic Woodlawn Baptist cemetery. That’s right. If Route 1 is widened along its current alignment, every single individual buried in Woodlawn Baptist cemetery will be moved. There are at least 177 known burials, including members of the free-labor community founded at Woodlawn in 1846. It would be a travesty to move them. This option would also bring the road closer to Woodlawn Friends Meeting, endangering their house of worship and cemetery. Founders of the Woodlawn free-labor community are interred here as well. As Director of Woodlawn and Pope-Leighey, I am of course concerned about the impact to our property. Widening in place would bring the road closer to Woodlawn and Pope-Leighey, and require moving Grand View and its tenants. But the single worst effect is disinterring the families in the Woodlawn Baptist cemetery. And no, FHWA can’t shift the road north to miss the cemetery. I asked that about a year ago. That will create a dangerous curve on the hill, plus bring the road right up to Woodlawn Friends.

The Save Woodlawn Stables group also argues that open space will be lost if this bypass is constructed. The same amount of space will be lost no matter where the road is built. It will go from 68 feet wide to 148 feet wide. Wherever the road is built, we will lose 80 feet of space for the length of the road through the district. If the bypass option is selected, the current Route 1 will be taken up and returned to grass.

While both options are awful, the bypass option is slightly less awful. Supervisor Gerry Hyland and Congressman Jim Moran were here for a site walk-through last week. Supr. Hyland said he received 1500 emails from stables supporters, but none from people concerned about the cemetery, Woodlawn, or Grand View. Would you please advocate for the historic district and ask these politicians to save the historic district?

I realize that as a local historian, cemetery guru, and Director of Woodlawn/Pope-Leighey, I am biased. To form your own opinion, please go to the FHWA website, which includes maps and meeting notes.

Scroll down to US Route 1 Improvements at Fort Belvoir. To contact Mount Vernon District Supervisor Hyland, you can access his constituent feedback form here:

Additionally, there will be a public meeting on the Route 1 project on Tuesday, June 5 at 6:00 at Hayfield High School.

Thanks for your help,

Susan Hellman

Acting Director | Woodlawn and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House
Historic Sites of The National Trust for Historic Preservation
9000 Richmond Hwy | Mailing Address: PO Box 15097 | Alexandria, VA 22309
Phone: 703.780.4000 x26325 | Fax: 703.780.8509 | Email:

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