Several years ago, David Versel made the case for transforming Richmond Highway from a continuous strip of commercial development into a string of densely developed centers and distinct places. As part of that effort, Fairfax County erected a series of wayfinding signs. Additionally, the Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation is supporting redevelopment in each of these neighborhoods.
As residents of this area, Roberta and I were quite familiar with these places, especially Groveton and Penn Daw. We visited the Gum Springs Museum and I recently checked out the history behind Accotink.
On the other hand, we were surprised at not knowing anything about Mount Zephyr. And although we had a general idea of its location, much to our shame, neither of us knew precisely.
Took care of that yesterday with a morning walk. Mount Zephyr, a suburban neighborhood of some 200 homes, lies about a mile north of Mount Vernon. Roughly- speaking, its two main borders are Route 1 and Mount Vernon Road.
At first glance, Mount Zephyr appears to be a place with little or no history. As I found out, this is not the case.
“The History of Mount Zephyr” points out this part of Fairfax County is "uniquely connected to the extraordinary beginnings of our nation." George Washington farmed this land, calling it Muddy Hole Farm.
Bushrod Washington, George’s nephew, inherited the plantation. Aaron Leggett, a Quaker farmer bought 1600 of its acres in the mid 1800s and built an impressive three-story barn. He raised Merino sheep. Leggett did not use enslaved labor.
Samuel Whiteall of Georgetown purchased the property but his daughter and her husband never made a go of it. In 1886, Park Agnew, a wealthy shipping magnate in Alexandria, bought the property. His son sold the property to developer George Beach in 1938.
The early part of the building boom was on in Fairfax County. Farmland on either side of Route 1 was cleared and became peppered with affordable single-family homes. The population jumped from 40,000 in 1940 to 98,000 in 1950, then leapt to 275,000 in 1960.
In an article in the Connection Newspapers (“Paving Streets, Preserving History,” July 11, 2006), Dan Burrier, then president of the Mount Zephyr Citizens Association, pointed out the streets in the neighborhood were not paved until the late 1960s.
Community activist Ingeborg Catlett was instrumental in getting the asphalt laid and also helped preserve a small meadow that had been pastureland on Muddy Hole Farm. The neighborhood today is blessed with parks and green spaces, although not all are in the technical boundary.
Residents recalled halcyon days when their kids played in the upper parts of Dogue Creek. No one expects that situation to stay permanent in a growing region but my concern is the condition of the creek. I saw oily bubbles that sure looked like pollution.
All in all, a pleasant, quiet (almost too quiet) walk through Mt. Zephyr. I will point out that the wayfinding sign near Gold’s Gym, the one that caught our attention, says Mount Zephyr is .6 miles away. The actual distance is more like twice that.
This home is a real standout.
Would love to see these plants in full bloom.
This is Dogue Creek looking southward towards Washington’s Grist Mill. By 930, the fog had lifted north of Mill Road but on the other side it lingered. By the way, this part of the creek is not in the Mount Zephyr neighborhood.
Mount Vernon High School was located here prior to its move to its current location. Hope this landmark can survive.