Sunday, June 1, 2014

Interesting historic grand homes to explore in Northern Virginia

The Washington, D.C. area is full of early American history. One of the interesting attributes of this area is the preservation of these original structures and homes. A good number of these properties are located in Northern Virginia and are open to the public.

From Alexandria in the east, to Loudoun County in the west, many historic and/or stately homes still remain in Northern Virginia, spanning several counties. Many of these homes belonged to prominent Americans who had set down roots during Colonial times. This blog post will take a look at some of my favorites.

Mount Vernon

The majestic Mount Vernon was the estate of first U.S. President, George Washington, and his wife, Martha Washington. The house is impeccable, the vast grounds are beautiful. The Mount Vernon Ladies Association has done a fantastic job restoring this grand property to its former glory. 

Mount Vernon
Visitors wait to tour the interior of Mount Vernon

Ongoing preservation continues. Currently, work has just recently been completed in restoring the home's grand dining room (officially referred to by the Washingtons as the "New Room") after new information surfaced. I haven't been back to see the New Room's reopening, but definitely look forward to seeing it sometime this summer. 

Update Oct. 28, 2015: Have visited Mount Vernon a couple of times since originally writing this post. It's always interesting to see the outcome of the work and reinterpretation done on historic properties. The room is displayed differently now and is no longer set up as a dining room. The restoration details are stunning.



Originally built on Mount Vernon's property, Woodlawn was built for George Washington's nephew, Major Lawrence Lewis and his bride, Eleanor “Nelly” Custis Lewis. George Washington had designated the land to his nephew upon his death. The home was built in Georgian-Federal-style between 1800 and 1805. 
Woodlawn Plantation

The property has undergone some substantial renovations in recent years and I'm thinking it is time for a return visit since my last one was several years ago.

Arlington House

In Arlington, the former home of General Robert E. Lee, head of the Confederate Army, still remains. The home is located on the hallowed grounds of Arlington Cemetery. Visitors can tour the interior of the home when visiting the Cemetery. The exterior overlooks Washington, D.C. The house (as of 2017 which was my last visit) is undergoing renovations and the rooms are empty until these are complete. 
Arlington House
Looking up at Arlington House

Gunston Hall

Gunston Hall is the home of George Mason and is located in Mason Neck, Va., just a few miles south of Mount Vernon and also is near the U.S. Army's Fort Belvoir. This property was once a grand tobacco and wheat plantation, comprised of 5,500 acres. Built in classic Georgian style from 1755 and completed in 1759, this house is in spectacular condition today. 
Gunston Hall
Gunston Hall front entrance
Gunston Hall is owned by The Commonwealth of Virginia and administered by a Board of Regents appointed from The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America. A more detailed post about Gunston Hall, with many more photos, can be found on this blog post I wrote. Additionally, there was a brief time during renovations that the interior of the home was allowed to be photographed.

Carlyle House 

In Alexandria, several notable properties still stand and are open to the public. In terms of homes, Carlyle House is probably one of the more prominent that still stand proudly. British merchant John Carlyle built this home for his bride, Sarah Fairfax, in the newly established settlement. 
Carlye House
Carlyle House

Construction for the home began in 1751. This home was the center of social and political activity in the second half of the 18th century and has a rich history. Sadly, the house later almost fell completely to ruin, but in recent decades the house has been brought back to the former splendor it possessed in the latter 1700s.



Located in Loudoun County, Va., Oatlands plantation was established in 1798 with almost 3,500 acres of prime farming property. The grand home was constructed by George Carter, a young bachelor who had inherited the property. Carter's ancestors, who arrived in 1649, were among the first families to settle in Virginia.
Oatlands' front entrance
Oatlands' front entrance

Morven Park

Located in Leesburg, Morven Park is a home that, as described in the pamplet, "captures the essence of Virginia's rural heritage." A grand house that, even today, has a lot of property. The home was built in 1780 as a simple farmhouse, but over the centuries evolved into a magnificent manor home, both inside and out. In the early 1900s the home was purchased by Westmoreland and Marguerite David and this is the era the house is currently interpreted (with the exception of one room that highlights the era of earlier residents). Westmoreland has an interesting history, he started out as a NYC attorney and eventually became an influential and groundbreaking farmer. He was also the governor of Virginia for a time. We just visited this one in September 2016 and really enjoyed the tour.

Several of the homes that hold significant historical value remain intact with the hard work of the organizations that have taken ownership and/or custodianship of them. These organizations have worked tirelessly to preserve many of the historical properties and keep them as close to original as possible. A truly remarkable job had been done to safeguard this history for current and future generations to see.

This is just a glimpse of a few of the historic properties to be found in the region. There are many other homes and other structures, but in my opinion these are probably some of the grandest of the homes within easy driving range from Washington, D.C., at least the ones I've seen. 

Even after a number of years, I'm constantly discovering new things here! If I can offer more information about touring one of these or if you have any suggestions of other grand homes in the region, please leave a note in the comments below.

1 comment:

  1. Okay, you have peaked my interest. That is a lot of amazing houses to visit in a pretty compact area.