Located in Alexandria, Virginia, Woodlawn is a 126-acre estate that was originally part of George Washington’s Mount Vernon. The main Federal-style house was constructed between 1800 and 1805 for Washington’s nephew, Major Lawrence Lewis, and his wife, Eleanor “Nelly” Custis Lewis.
During the Lewis’ years in residence, Woodlawn comprised over 2,000 acres and was supported by scores of workers, at least 90 of whom were enslaved people of African descent. In 1846, the Lewis’s son sold the property to Quaker families who made Woodlawn a “free labor colony,” selling lots to free black and white farmers -- a tremendously controversial social experiment.
Today, Woodlawn -- which is a National Historic Landmark, as well as one of the Trust's National Treasures -- is facing a set of possible threats due to a planned widening or re-routing of Route 1, which currently crosses through the site.
The following is an excerpt from National Trust Executive Vice President and Chief Preservation Officer David Brown's op-ed on the subject in the Fairfax Times:
Woodlawn’s historical and cultural significance cannot be overstated. The 126-acre estate originally was part of George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and its main house dates back more than 200 years. During the pre-Civil War era, Woodlawn was established as a “free labor colony,” selling lots to both free black and white farmers. The owners of the estate employed only free laborers to undermine the argument that the abolition of slavery would mean the death of the Southern plantation economy. Today, Woodlawn stands as a symbol of liberty and equality that we are honored to help protect for generations to come.
Making difficult choices when it comes to preservation issues is nothing new at the National Trust. Our privately- funded nonprofit is guided by its mission to take on-the-ground action to support and encourage grassroots preservation efforts and protect historic resources when necessary. The National Trust has helped to save and enhance thousands of places across the U.S. since its inception.
As the Route 1 project advances, we are committed to working with the community and the FHWA [Federal Highway Administration] to protect our most valuable asset: our history.
Read the entire op-ed online: Route 1 project leaves no good options.