Saturday, April 28, 2012

**Updated** U.S. 1 Widening & Woodlawn Stables

This past week, I've received quite a few emails and Facebook messages from people concerned about the future of Woodlawn Stables due to the widening of U.S. 1.

Here's what's going on.  U.S. 1 is going to be widened between Telegraph Road and Mount Vernon Memorial Highway/Old Mill Road (a.k.a. where Roy Rogers is).  The project is fully funded and is currently undergoing design and environmental reviews.  The Mulligan Road (Old Mill/Jeff Todd Way) project is also proceeding along the other edge of Woodlawn Estate.

I've written about it a few times:

At its northern terminus the road runs right in between the the Woodlawn Mansion and Woodlawn Stables.  Woodlawn was originally the main home on the 2,000-acre estate of  Eleanor Parke "Nelly" Custis Lewis - the granddaughter of Martha Washington who gifted the property to her.  Both properties are owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  This was also the National Trust's first property and was donated to them by former U.S. Senator Oscar Underwood of Alabama in 1952. The main house was designed by the Architect of the U.S. Capitol and was constructed between 1800 and 1805. 

There are also two other houses on the property that are historic - one between the main mansion and Fort Belvoir and the other south/east of the stables.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is currently considering two alternatives.  One is widening in place (Yellow) and the other is a Bypass around the south/east side of Woodlawn Baptist Church (orange).  The FHWA has had several meetings with the National Trust and Woodlawn Baptist regarding these plans.  These alignment proposals have been out there for at least six months. 

Recently, the folks at Woodlawn Stables have started a campaign to oppose the "bypass" alignment.  They were able to generate about 3,000 signatures in a very short period of time.

Here's the issue.  Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) requires governmental entities to take actions that will minimize harm to National Historic Landmarks.  In this case, that would be Woodlawn Mansion.  There is also a second historic home behind Woodlawn.  Additionally, there are historic graves in the cemetery right next to existing roadbed. 

[I had previousl made a map roughly depicting what I thought the plans were along with some older FHWA designs - the doc I've posted below is what I'm told is the most recent designs under discussion].

The National Trust also just issued a statement opposing the widening of U.S. 1.  Here is their statement:

“In addition to managing the historic resources on the site, the National Trust leases land at Woodlawn to a for-profit stable facility. We recognize that many Northern Virginians care deeply for Woodlawn Stables and consider it an anchor for the community. If the FHWA’s road project requires the stables to move its operations, the Uniform Relocation Act would provide funds for moving costs and related expenses to reestablish the facility at another site.

“Let me be clear, the National Trust adamantly opposes widening Route 1 through Woodlawn; however, we realize the road expansion will happen and we are doing what we can to be a good neighbor, to support the community, and to work with the county, state, and federal agencies involved to minimize harm to the nationally significant historic site that is under our stewardship and care.”

Over the next several months, the FHWA will finalize the alignment.  There will likely be a public hearing on any proposed alignments along with a public comment period.   

There is clearly significant community support for the Woodlawn Stables.  However, the legal framework will make it very difficult to accomplish this widening without some impact on that side of the property.  If you have any comments, feedback or ideas, please post them up below or email me at


  1. Scott - You are misrepresenting the group's position. They are against the bypass option. The widen in place option is an acceptable compromise, impacting both groups but saving the stables and historic buildings from being destroyed. - Mark Wainwright

    1. Mark - which group?

      The National Trust for Historic Preservation opposes all widening. Their statement makes that pretty clear.

  2. "Recently, the folks at Woodlawn Stables have started a campaign to oppose any alignment that will affect Woodlawn Stables."

    This statement is false. Woodlawn Stables will most likely be releasing something soon to rectify the confusion. I'm sure it was not an intentional misrepresentation of Woodlawn Stables' position.


  3. Ok. I just updated the post.

    No one has contacted me. I wrote what I did based on the information that I was able to glean.

    Sorry for the confusion.

  4. Dear Delegate Surovell: Thank you for commenting on this subject of the impact that the current bypass proposal has on the community's beloved Woodlawn Stables. While I appreciate you trying to explain this, I wanted to clarify and correct a few inaccuracies on your explanation.

    1) One of the inaccuracies you have already found yourself. As you realized, the map you drew depicted the Southern bypass alternative going through the Sharpe bank barn, rather than the site of the Otis Tufton Mason house and the schooling barn.

    2) Save Woodlawn Stables was not started by “the folks at Woodlawn Stables” but rather by three co-founders that are a mix of local citizens and students of Woodlawn Stables. I am one of three co-founders and have no affiliation with the stables other than having grown up in the Woodlawn community and attending Woodlawn Stables’ summer camps and horse shows when I was a child in the early 80’s. As you have seen, our supporters also are an equal mix of Fairfax Co. citizens, local business owners, equestrians from all over Fairfax Co. and Woodlawn students and their families.

    3) You state that the Southern bypass proposal has been out for “for at least six months”. As of the October 19, 2011 (6 months ago) public meeting--the last public meeting before the Environmental Assessment report will be presented--this proposal was not introduced, discussed or presented to the public. It was not until the January 12, 2012 private meeting minutes that were posted later that month on the FHWA’s website that the “Southern Bypass” alternative proposal was mentioned. Woodlawn Stables was never notified by any agency or their own landlord, the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) about the proposal; instead, they found out by word of mouth. Those of us that founded Save Woodlawn Stables only learned of said proposal when the media had revealed it to the public.

    4) I personally reached out to the NTHP’s director of Woodlawn, Susan Hellman, to discuss the communities concerns and to try working with the Trust on this issue before going public; my attempts were ignored. Despite the longstanding successful relationship they have had with Woodlawn Stables, they did not inform the Stables of the proposal endangering their business. When Woodlawn Stables found out about the bypass proposal in January, they requested to participate in discussions, the same other interested and affected parties were granted; this request was denied. Minutes from private minutes never show NTHP or any of the consulting parties recommend a meeting with the Stables or the community affected by the loss of the Stables and the historic equestrian land. Furthermore, questions about the proposal and the NTHP’s position on the bypass alternative have been met with a standard answer that a decision has not been made, yet public documents of the consulting meetings reveal that the NTHP was already supporting the bypass proposal over the widen-in-place proposal. We welcome the NTHP’s role as a good-neighbor and supporter of the community and encourage them to step forward as a consulting party participant and influence FHWA to come back to the table and find a solution that the entire community can be represented and coexist.

  5. 5) We appreciate that the NTHP must place priority on preserving “ a National Historic Landmark and other historic resources such as Woodlawn Baptist Cemetery and Grand View.” What they fail to mention is that Grand View, the cemetery and the Otis Mason house have all been designated with the same level of contributing historical significance. While we agree that Woodlawn Mansion should be given more significance as a National Historic Landmark, we question how the widening of one lane and a bike path so far from the mansion outweighs running a bypass through the Otis Mason House site, shutting down a local business, and destroying an iconic institution that has contributed to an entire new era of equestrian heritage associated with Woodlawn and our community for over a century.

    6) The fact that Woodlawn Stables is a-for profit business has no bearing on these issues. The NTHP not only benefits by receive funding from leasing their land to Woodlawn Stables for over 61 years, but also by the stables helping to defray the costs of maintaining the integrity of the historical buildings and structures on the property, as well as providing a huge constituency of supporters for historic Woodlawn adn the Trust. Not all recreation and sports programs are free, especially a teaching barn that struggles to maintain a costly facility so that local students can have the same type of equestrian learning opportunities that are usually afforded to more fortunate communities living outside our urban area.

    7) It is correct that under the Unified Relocation Act, there will be some expenses for relocation will be offered to the Stables. This does not solve any problems other than providing some compensation to the owners of the stables. There are no nearby facilities that can house 50 horses, facilitate a lesson barn and provide a customer base of students needed to maintain a working horse farm. This still leaves over 300-400 area children, teenagers and adults without a nearby equestrian facility. Most of these students will have to give up the sport of horseback riding because their riding barn has been forced out of the area and they have nowhere else to go.

  6. I agree there is much misinformation out there on this subject. Also, its not the Woodlawn owners making a stink - its the mommies whose kids are upset about their beloved Eli and Domino (horses at the Woodlawn). Earlier today, I corrected an error on as it seems some folks are getting this issue confused with another stable farther south along Rt 1 which IS being saved. I also agree with Shelly that there is a parsing of language going on here. This idea that the Trust does not support the 'widening of Rt 1' does not mean the Trust supports Woodlawn. What it means is that the Trust DOES support the 'bypass' option at this point and right now that means no more Woodlawn Stables since the 'bypass' sweeps so far into Woodlawn's property. I also agree kids around here will have to give up riding as a sport because there's no way I can take time to drive to Middleburg with my twins since me/my husband work for a living and can't take 2 hours to drive them out Rt 50 where most of the horse farms are. In addition, I don't get why Woodlawn is not listed as a 'stakeholder' in the meetings that have taken place so far. Even though they lease the land, they are impacted by this project. I could go on and on... I talked to some guy from Fed Hwy Admin today and he sent me info which I plan to parse through. Also, he told me the stables have an attorney and there's a meeting Friday with them. Please lets all keep an open mind, but I'm not feeling like I can trust much of the information available because the interests of the parties are all over the place. I thank everyone for their time because I know how busy we all are, especially Autumn and Shelley who have clearly been more involved than I.

  7. Well this article jumped up to #7 all-time on The Dixie Pig list today. There is obviously a lot of interest in this issue!

    I was first contacted by some concerned parishioners of Woodlawn Baptist back in October so the Bypass discussion has been around at least that far back. My recollection is that there might have been some maps up showing the Bypass alternatives at that public meeting in the fall, but I can't recall specifically.

    Thanks for all of the other clarifications. All of this is helpful information.

  8. I'm glad to hear there is great interest in this issue. If there is anything that I have learned about this process...It is very non-transparent. It wouldn't surprise me that there was a proposal floating around before the public hearing and never revealed.

    If you see the January 12, 2012 meeting notes on page 3, you can see that it was stated "The Southern Bypass Alignment has been developed since last public meeting" (in Oct.)

    Furthermore, you can review all the documents handed out and dispayed at the Oct. public meeting...You will see that there was not a bypass proposal mentioned or displayed.

  9. Thanks. More good info.

    FYI - Page 3 of the 11/19/11 meeting minutes shows that on November 9, Fairfax County DOT suggested a new alignment near Woodlawn Baptist. Page 6 also mentions some new alternatives around that area. I suspect that's the first time it came out.

  10. What do we have to do to make it #1 on Dixie Pig list Scott?

  11. Precisely, Scott! Now don't you think it is odd that up until this point, all the alternative proposals discussed and brought to the public's attention were various alternative adjustments to widening-in-place plan, but at the very next nonpublic meeting they elude to discussing an alternative proposal and don't describe the said proposal in the minutes? It is not like this is a minor adjustment, and they know that these minutes are published for public record.

    It is not until the January 12, 2012 minutes that the public finds out that this alternative puts a highway straight through the community's cherished green space, historical property and last remaining active public equestrian facility in our area--One that has been benefiting and servicing the citizens in our area for over 61 years.

    Just to be accurate and so folks can reference the meeting notes themselves, these were on pages 3 and 6 in the 11.03.11 Consulting Parties Meeting Minutes (not 11.19.11).

  12. Scott, when is the next public meeting on this issue? I am quite distressed to learn about the bypass option. I don't see what advantages it offers over the widening-in-place option. The Woodlawn stables are a point of pride for this community.

  13. The Dixie Pig "hit list" (on the right) is a function of public views. For some reason, a lot of people seem to care about the height of grass around the world....

    I don't see anything wrong with the process. They have been in discussion with the landowners. The stables are a tenant and they are now getting involved.

    Not sure when the next public hearing will be, but there will obviously be one.

    I'm just getting up to speed myself.

  14. Scott, is there a reason you keep referring to our citizen-based organization as "the stables", after we have given you a clear definition of who we and our supporters are?

    I implore you to learn a little more about this public process, what meetings have been held without input from interested parties (regardless whether they are a land-owner or not) and what documents should be posted as public record. Maybe then, you can change your mind and find something wrong with this process.

  15. Please excuse my previous use of the word "can" in the last sentence, I didn't mean to come across having that tone, but rather meant to say "may".

  16. It seems that it hasn’t just been landowners that were invited to participate as a stakeholder when this process began last summer. In the FHWA response to suggested additional stakeholders from the 6/19/11 consulting parties meeting, the FWHA invited the following to participate:

    -- Gum Springs Historical Society
    -- Fairfax County History Commission
    -- Mount Vernon Ladies Association
    -- Virginia Council on Indians

    I didn’t see where Woodlawn Stables was suggested by anyone to be contacted as a stakeholder, but the possible impact on the Stables was identified as an important issue. It is strange that in a discussion to identify stakeholders where an important issue is identified, the party that will be impacted the most by any action on that issue isn’t considered a stakeholder. Although I suspect (based on my own research) its because the FHWA is only following the bare minimum requirments of the National Historic Preservation Act law by saying that tenants don't count. Also, the relationship for the Stables is with the Historic Trust, so technically they were represented by the Trust, but the list of consulting parties is rife with overlapping representation. You can even find mention of concern over the impact on the Stables as far back as December 2010 from a survey by the FWHA at its original scoping meeting. The Stables was one of four issues that received multiple responses to a question on consideration of cultural resources in the project area.

    I’m glad these other groups were afforded the ability to represent their parochial interests, but it is a shame that the Stables were not afforded this same opportunity. Perhaps their issues could have been considered before the Southern Bypass became the preferred alternative.

    BTW I’m also surprised that the Southern Bypass is the preferred alternative given the acknowledged rush timeframe this project is on. Since they are moving the road bed through a historical district, I would think the Trust will require a lengthy (and probably costly) FULL impact study of what of historical interest may have been buried under the ground that will be permanently destroyed by the placement of new road bed. I doubt an “assessment” will be good enough to satisfy the Trust.

    BTW I traded emails with the FairfaxTimes today and they are doing a follow-up article this week on the Rt 1/Ft Belvoir commute (from a Nov 2011 story they did). I don't know if the Times will specifically mention Woodlawn Stables but I hope so :) The reporter's name is:

  17. It looks like their will be a meeting soon. I am very concerned about the loss of the stables as well, and concerned about the destruction of a Historic House. I wonder if graves have had to be moved before, when Route 1 was originally widened and put in. Lastly I would say that the Natiaonl Trust is natuarally sticking up for Woodlawn, but there should be a Section 106 review of the project, and the National Turst has not always been right on these issues. I would continue to bring up that the bypass would not only destroy the stables, a historicc legacy of Woodlawn, but would also destroy the Otis Mason house. I would also be concerned with the loss of open space, and impacts of increased development down route 1. I would continue to lobby the National Trust. Just because there is DOD funding also does not mean that is has to be spent. Here is the next meeting as reported by Save Woodlawn Stables: The hearing regarding the environmental assessment and NHWA reports that affect Woodlawn Stables will be held at Sherwood Hall Library on Tuesday June 5th from 6:00-8:00.

  18. Please note that the hearing has been moved to Hayfield High School cafeteria on June 5, 2012 at 6:00 p.m.

  19. What if funds were provided to rebuild the lost Stable buildings on the existing roadway area, and build an equestrian/pedestrian bridge over the highway to the remaining fields, and carve out some more land from the woods over there? Not ideal, from the Stable-users point of view being divided like that, but it looks like there's enough unused land there to keep the Stables running, even with the bypass. I know money might be an issue, but it looks like a creative solution could be arrived at.