National Trust Declines to Renew Stables’ Current Lease as it Considers Future Options for Historic Woodlawn Property

Posted on: August 31st, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 12 Comments

We've written about the threats to our Woodlawn historic property before, and wanted to keep you updated on the latest news about the site.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is considering two alignment options for widening Route 1 in Northern Virginia, adjacent to Fort Belvoir -- and both of these alternatives would negatively impact the historic resources on the Woodlawn historic property, a National Historic Landmark site owned by the National Trust.

A privately-owned for profit business, Scanlin Farms, Inc., leases land and barns on Woodlawn -- and although Scanlin Farms’ current lease isn't due to expire until 2016, its representatives have asked the National Trust to commit to extending the current lease beyond 2016. The following is a statement by David J. Brown, executive vice president and chief preservation officer of the National Trust:

“The National Trust’s primary focus is to preserve the National Historic Landmark and to support the long-term sustainability of our historic sites, including Woodlawn and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House. As such, the National Trust must consider the best use of its property at the Woodlawn historic site in order to meet our obligations as stewards of the property and our buildings housed on the site.

“As a responsible organization, we are focused on Woodlawn’s future as a vibrant historic site, which includes consideration of all options for this land. Therefore, we will not renew Scanlin Farms’ current lease that expires in 2016. The lease is not sustainable and extending it would not be a prudent business decision. Once the effects of the highway project on Woodlawn are better understood, the National Trust will consider all options for the property, including proposals from public or private parties.

“The decision we ultimately make with this property will be consistent with the highest preservation standards, the public’s interests and the protection of the historic resources. The National Trust wants to work with the local community and county, state and federal government agencies to ensure the protection of the valuable historic resources in the Woodlawn Historic District and maximize the best potential uses of the Woodlawn property and buildings.”


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12 Responses

  1. Kristen Fuzes

    August 31, 2012

    Might as well have said, National Trust, that the stables is too much of a cost to you and there is an insider in the trust who would rather promote infrastructure than a community business proposition.

    “The lease is not sustainable and extending it would not be a prudent business decision.” – Of course, it is easier to say “not a prudent business decision” to skate past the fact it was not a decision at all. Somewhere, somehow the trust predetermined the fate of the stable. Period. No legalaize will cover that up.

    “..will be consistent with the highest preservation standards,..” – Just like the BLM, right? Because the ruining of a historical site has everything to do with the animals there? The community that has thrived for hundreds of years is just destroying the precious land? And an expansion of a highway will not be detrimental? Who the heck wrote that speech, or rather decision, to be announced?

    “the public’s interests and the protection of the historic resources..” – Bull dinky, the only “interests” protected are the selfish bullhogs of business pricks – excuse me gentlemen if I have offended you – who only care for expansion versus the value of a business that can give back to a community in so many ways.

    It is a complete failure on the National Trust’s part to deny a lease for a stable in congruence with their supposed standards for historical land protection. It is undeniable the only reason the Trust denied the lease extension is for a cut from the top. Well, hope you gentlemen enjoy the extra money in your pocket – I don’t feel any sympathy for the Trust and the members should seriously be looked over before they make any more “business decisions”.

  2. Robert McNeil

    August 31, 2012

    The Trust has lost my trust over this, and has also lost my membership. I’ve been a Woodlawn area resident for decades; Woodlawn was one of the first historic houses I visited; I’ve been a member of the NTHP for over 20 years. But I also grew up seeing horses in the meadows of Woodlawn, and after I had children I became a “stable parent” whose daughter rode and worked at Woodlawn Stables for more than 10 years.
    Woodlawn stables became part of our life in the community in a way that Woodlawn house never did. During all those years no one from the house ever contacted my daughter, which was a tremendous community-building opportunity that the staff of Woodlawn missed.
    The fact that the NTHP, which fights to preserve viewsheds, is willing to destroy a vital community institution so they can put up a restaurant is just incomprehensible to me.

  3. Susan Friese

    August 31, 2012

    Short sighted and in the end bad for our community, your decision to effectively close Woodlawn Stables by the end of 2016 is a reflection of an insular institution that appears to hold itself apart and separate from the living and breathing community where it resides. Working together to find a solution would have been a beautiful example of bringing the past and future into the living present, reflecting the concerns of those who call this area home.

    I have lived in this area for forty years and first visited Woodlawn Plantation when I was 7 years old. I have visited many, many times over the years and pointed out of town guests in your direction. But this by-pass business has such a bad odor about it that I have made my last visit and recommendation, particularly as long as your current crop of Trust members are making decisions.

    My daughter has been riding at Woodlawn Stables for five years. As she heads out into the world as a young adult, her memories of her time at the Stables will be cherished, but her understanding of the decision making process that brought about it’s end will be remembered with disbelief and deep disappointment (and sadly, perhaps a tinge of cynicism). Certainly Woodlawn House and the “business” that takes the place of the Stables have lost her patronage. You can be sure that we will be watching closely, and with great interest, how you “will consider all options for the property, including proposals from private or public parties” and “work with the local community…..and maximize the best potential uses of the Woodlawn property and buildings.”. Should be interesting.

  4. Brian Purdy

    August 31, 2012

    It’s sad that the Trust has chosen not preserve living history (the stables) right under their noses..

    I find your comment about working with the community particuarly insulting since the Trust never sought public input and has completely ignored the comments submitted throu the FHWA meeting.

  5. Jaimee

    September 1, 2012

    I find it incredibly convenient that the bypass option that the Trust advocated for some very suspect reasons that don’t seem to really support a preservationist view led to this. I’d like to know what they’ll put on the property that works better with the property from a preservationist view in light of the period of history they want to preserve as well as the property’s history as a stable of one sort or another for the last 100 or so years.

    If the Trust is so concerned about being stewards of the property they may want to pay more attention to the property they are already in control of, which – lets face it – is in shambles. The house is crumbling, the “gardens” are an embarrassment and the sacred hillside reverting to the wild. On the other hand, the Woodlawn Stable’s side of the road, while not pristine, is well kept. I love driving by to see the horses in the fields. I don’t love driving by to see the weeds on the hill.

    They say they want to work with the community, but the community has made it extremely clear that they supported the widen in place option and then that they supported the stable’s lease being renewed.

    It saddens me that the Trust is overlooking these considerations and the ones that others have noted. If the Trust chose to work with the stables they could do some really cool events together that might actually generate revenue for the Plantation.

    I – as well as most of the community – believe that keeping the living history of Woodlawn Stables as a tenant on the property is vital to maximize the value of the historic property.

  6. D Sutch

    September 1, 2012

    As someone who has been riding at the stables for nine years, I am appalled at the National Trust’s decision. I drive more than half an hour one way to reach the stables, and I cannot say that I have ever made the trek out to see the house.

    No words can describe my utter disappointment in the board memebers. How dare they even think about saying that they are looking at what the community wants; if they truly were, the lease would be extended.

    Setting aside my affiliation with the stables, the reasons that the trust gave for discontinuing the lease are idiotic at best. As these comments show, almost everyone agrees that the stables are more historic and better kept than the house.

    All I can hope for now is that the Trust comes to their senses.

  7. M Merriman

    September 2, 2012

    I am so very disappointed with the Trust for their decision to not renew the Woodlawn Stables lease. Have you not heard the voices in the community asking you to preserve the equestrian history of Woodlawn? Clearly you have forgotten that horses are a part of our history. You are not even trying to work with the community, or preserve history. Please reconsider your decision and let the horses stay at Woodlawn.

  8. Frank A.

    September 2, 2012

    What a waste of the obvious passion and depth of affection our Mount Vernon community has for the stables. That could have been used to help the Woodlawn mansion climb out of the obvious financial distress it is in. How many other places have a built in constituency of thousands of supporters? This support was built on decades of families using and enjoying the horses at Woodlawn. If the National Trust truly cared about working with the community, they would come down to Fairfax County and explain their decision more fully, instead of hiding behind a press release issued the Friday before a holiday weekend. We will not renew our membership and will urge all your members in the area to do the same.

  9. Jackie

    September 2, 2012

    As a native to the area, a federal employee working at Fort Belvoir and a lifetime equestrian, I have ridden at Woodlawn over the years, but NEVER visited the plantation. The traffic in this area is an abomination; however, closing the stables is a crime! Why isn’t this something that the community gets to have a say in?

    “The decision we ultimately make with this property will be consistent with the highest preservation standards, the public’s interests and the protection of the historic resources.” – This means that a building, which as a public school student for 16 years, we never visited, is more important to the community than a stable where the community can utlize?

    “The National Trust wants to work with the local community and county, state and federal government agencies to ensure the protection of the valuable historic resources in the Woodlawn Historic District and maximize the best potential uses of the Woodlawn property and buildings.” – Do our local elected officials have any say in this decision? Is the land

    This organization’s website states, “The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places. We are the cause that inspires Americans to save the places where history happened. The cause that connects us to our diverse pasts, weaving a multi-cultural nation together. The cause that transforms communities from places where we live into places that we love. As the leading voice for preservation, we are the cause for people saving places.” – To never see horses grazing everyday is NOT a change I will love!

    If this is an organization that truly is a “leading voice…the cause for people saving places”, please explain this decision!

  10. Mary Ryan

    September 4, 2012

    The Trust has certainly lost my “trust.” I’ve visited Woodlawn Plantation a few times but can’t say it will be on my list of recommendations to future visitors. It would be too bitter to see the site that forced out a vibrant equestrian community. Since she started at Woodlawn, I would remind my daughter that she was riding horses right where George Washington would have ridden. With the cessation of Woodlawn Stables, I don’t think she’ll be able to continue riding because no other stable is located within easy reach. Don’t bother ever sending me any appeal for financial support. It pains me to say this because I’ve long been a supporter of historic preservation and am in the history profession.

  11. Zo

    September 6, 2012

    I call for a boycott of wood lawn plantation, and mount Vernon. If they will not listen to our voices, lets make them hurt in the pockets. If they get any federal money lets push for all of it to be withdrawn from them.

  12. Meredith

    September 20, 2012

    I am 14 years old and am currently taking weekly horseback riding lessons at Woodlawn Stables. I just started taking official lessons in the fall of 2011 and in the spring of 2012 won my first blue ribbons at a show hosted by Woodlawn Stables. Even though I just started riding, Woodlawn Stables and the people who work there have become my home and my family. Every week I get so excited about going to my lessons even if that means sitting in the car for 1.5 hours round trip. I have never felt so proud of myself and the horses that I ride in my life. To have a friendship with one of the beautiful horses the stables owns is heart-lifting. When I heard that the NTHP wouldn’t renew the lease, I broke out in tears. For the “Trust” to say that “The decision we ultimately make with this property will be consistent with the highest preservation standards, THE PUBLIC’S INTERESTS and the protection of the historic resources” is maddening, especially when the public has voiced their opinions very clearly and yet this announcement about the lease is the first negotiating I’ve heard about from the NTHP, and it’s not even negotiating for that matter! GET A GRIP, NTHP!!