A couple of weeks ago, Patch reporters in and around Alexandria provided the exciting news about “City View Brewhouse,” a restaurant and microbrewery slated to arrive next spring. With the bulldozers already clearing the weed-invested patch of crumbled pavement and long-unused land at 6925 Richmond Highway (Tastee-Freez in the 80s), residents learned City View will offer craft beers and patio dining with a spice garden.
Commenters praised the news as a stirring example of Groveton’s on-going remake, perhaps the best “get” yet, but the name of the restaurant was puzzling.
One person wondered:
However, not sure why the owners are naming it "City View" Brewery as the site is below grade on Richmond Hwy and has no view of the city unless the building will be quite high.
Good point. From that location, “valley view” would be more appropriate and it would take something like a 12th story view to see northward to the City of Alexandria.
How to explain, then, the name City View?
In the 1940s and 50s, citizens in Old Town Alexandria began to caress the history of the seaport and fought for protections under the law. Urban renewal took away dozens of old homes, but much of the historic stock was saved.
On the other side of Hunting Creek and the Capital Beltway (completed in 1964), on what some call “the Alexandria part of Fairfax County,” it was quite another story. The suburban building boom transformed Fairfax County, a remarkable period of growth that swelled the population from 40,000 in 1940 to 275,000 in 1960. By 1990, the numbers reached 800,000.
Although Old Town Alexandria holds much more history than its suburban counterpart, the Route 1 Corridor has stories to tell too. George Washington dined and danced in Alexandria, but he lay his head down at night at Mount Vernon. During the Civil War, on the hills overlooking the city, a locale we now know as in and around the Huntington Metro, Fort Lyon and other earthworks protected the Union-held city and the capital from confederate attacks. In the 20th Century, on both sides of the old Indian path (one of the oldest roads in the state), farms, airports and motor inns spread out over Groveton and Penn Daw.
Paradoxically, state highway markers in this part of the Richmond Highway Corridor are few. In fact, there is just one on Route 1 between the Beltway and Hybla Valley, a marker in Penn Daw that recalls those Civil War forts.
A strong candidate for a highway marker are the mansions that once graced the area. The list includes “Mount Eagle,” built by Bryan Fairfax in 1790 (demolished in 1968, now the Montebello Apartments) and “City View,” built by Benjamin Barton in 1878, and City View II, built by W.F.P. Reid Sr. in 1920.
Men who made their money in Alexandria sometimes chose the quiet and solitude of the hills south of the city as the place to spend their retirement days. One such man was Barton, who built his county home on land we now know as the Beacon Center.
If you lived in Alexandria in the first half of the 19th-century and were tardy, you couldn’t blame the Barton family. Before he passed away, Benjamin Sr. earned a sterling reputation as a master clock maker and silversmith.
From his shop at 324 King Street, Barton II carried on the family tradition, sometimes with the help of his brother Thomas. Benjamin, Eliza and their three children lived on South Royal Street (corner of Prince and S. Royal). He maintained the City Clock at City Hall and became President of the Hydraulicon Steam Fire Company, a position he held for 42 years.
Barton retired in 1868 and built his new house. After City View burned down in 1918, W.F.P Reid Sr. built City View II.
The history of City View I and II is covered like a blanket at Beacon Field Airport. They write that the four-story Greek Revival beauty with 25 rooms and four front columns was, “visually massive and a prominent landmark on Route 1.”
An observation room, later replaced with a weatherproof deck, provided a “magnificent panoramic view” of Alexandria, Washington, Fort Washington in Maryland and the Potomac River. Reid no doubt showed off this view to guests such as Ulysses S. Grant II.
City View II was torn down in 1959. Using Historic Aerials, it appears the house stood on land now used for parking in the strip mall (Marshall’s, Panera) north of the Giant and Lowe’s.
Things are looking up in Groveton. Prestige will be gained with City View Brewhouse, a place owned by two restaurateurs who have plied their trade in Del Ray, a neighborhood known for family living, mom and pop shops, and good restaurants.
No, there won’t be any views of the city from this new place, but the City View name is inspiring folks to look back at the history of Groveton and Fairfax County.
“In the Neatest Most Fashionable Manner, Three Centuries of Alexandria Silversmith,” Catherine Hollan
“Dixie Clockmakers,” James W. Gibbs
“A Seaport Saga,” William Francis Smith and T. Michael Miller