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May 07, 2012

Comments

Steve Wolfsberger

The "Willcoxon Farm" or "Willcoxon Place," as it was traditionally called, got the name Blenheim around 1900. The origin is undetermined.

Andrea Loewenwarter, Office of Historic Resources, City of Fairfax

Greetings! I work at Historic Blenheim and can answer to the best of my knowledge and conjecture as to the use of the name Blenheim for the Willcoxon Farm.

First of all, thank you for coming to our event. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. We had about 1000 folks enjoying the day and about 100 volunteers participating!

The first time we have found the home to be called Blenheim is in a 1903 obituary for Mary Willcoxon (wife of Albert, first owners of the house). It is also referred to the same by family members in the early 20th century, though most local folks just called it Willcoxon Farm or Willcoxon Place.

Why Blenheim? Historically there are 5, now historic, Virginia homes that were named Blenheim. One is now part of the Blenheim Vinyards in Charlottesville run by Dave Matthews and his sister. Another one is currently a CSA organic farm near George Washington's birthplace. They range in date from the early 1700s until the mid-19th century.

Now a "Blenheim" history lesson and my guess for the name. In 1704 the Duke of Marlborough won the Battle of Blindheim (Germany) which was a turning point in the War of Spanish Succession. The Duke (a Churchill) received a present--a palace that he called Blenheim Palace.

I don't know if some of the owners of the early 18th-century Virginia Blenheims were descended from that family, or whether they just selected a famous name for their estates from something familar back in England.

Now for our "Blenheim". We believe the name was a post-Civil War name--obviously in use before 1903. In 1874, Jennie Jerome, a beauty from Brooklyn, NY, married the 7th Duke of Marlborough, who was also a Churchill. She was know as Lady Randolph Churchill. Their first son, the next year was Winston Churchill.

As Americans seem to be quite taken by British nobility and royality (remember Lady Di and Prince Charles and more recently "Kate and Will"), I am wondering if the press coverage got the best of The Willcoxon's and they developed Palace envy.

When local citizens first heard of this property and its historical value and began to petition for its preservation, that name came up in a document...and stuck!

That's the long of it. Thank you for asking and coming to Fairfax Civil War Day.

Jay

Thanks Andrea, fascinating. One of those things hard to nail down, but given our endless love of watching the Royals, yes, very well could be.

Whatever the origin of the name, an amazing place, perfect for the event.

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