Mason District has another historic marker, this time at Green Spring Gardens Park, in the Lincolnia area. The Virginia State Highway Marker celebrates the work of two renowned 20th century designers, Walter Macomber and Beatrix Farrand, who collaborated on the renovations of both the house and the gardens at Green Spring in the 1940s. The Farrand garden at Green Spring is her only Virginia garden.
Green Spring’s historic brick manor house was built in 1784, and the property was, at various times, a tobacco plantation, a family farm, and a country estate. Green Spring was purchased in 1942 by Beatrice and Michael Straight, who added to the house and raised their children there. Given the Straights’ significant social standing in the Washington area (he was editor of the New Republic magazine), Green Spring hosted such luminaries as Hubert Humphrey, Eric Sevareid, Dylan Thomas, and Justice Hugo Black. Sevareid was fond of the Straight children and gave them a pet goat, which proceeded to eat everything in sight, including the convertible top of an automobile!
Dr. Belinda Straight attended Saturday’s unveiling of the historic marker, and told the assembled audience that she and her husband were looking for property in the Virginia countryside, and they were on their way back to Washington when they saw the house, in somewhat dilapidated condition, surrounded by farm fields. They made their way down the narrow drive, and were enchanted by what they saw. Dr. Straight recalled that the purchase price for 40 acres was about $40,000 in 1942. They engaged the services of Walter Macomber, a restoration architect who had worked at Williamsburg and Mount Vernon, to complete a Colonial Revival rehabilitation of the building. Part of the wood paneling used in a new wing of the house was rescued from a tavern or bawdy house, and a bullet hole can still be seen near the fireplace surround.
Accompanying Mr. Macomber’s restoration was Ms. Farrand’s design and installation of the formal and informal gardens around the house. Although some of the plantings have changed over the years, the wall and garden bed designs are preserved, and now recognized by the historic marker. The Historic Green Spring marker was made possible through the generous sponsorship of the Friends of Green Spring (FROGS), and can be viewed on Braddock Road near the park’s entrance.
The Green Spring marker is the latest of several markers installed in Mason District. In early May, a Fairfax County historic marker to commemorate Mosby’s raid on Annandale during the Civil War was installed at Championship Drive and the Little River Turnpike service road. Interestingly, John Singleton Mosby, also known as the “Grey Ghost,” often visited Green Spring when it was owned by his fellow Mosby Ranger, Fountain Beattie. Both Civil War veterans maintained their friendship until 1916, when Col. Mosby died. The May marker dedication was marred by a surprise downpour that failed to dampen the enthusiastic stories by re-enactors who attended a celebration at the Mason District Governmental Center later that morning. You easily can tell the difference between state and county markers: state historic markers are silver and black; county historic markers are beige and blue, honoring the colors of General George Washington’s colonial uniform.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at [email protected]