Several weeks ago, readers of Greater Greater Washington were discussing the need for pedestrian/bicycle paths over the Beltway between Springfield and Alexandria. Most folks don’t realize it, but there is an historical precedence of sorts for this.
According to Virginia Highways there were 3 such crossings over the Capital Beltway between Van Dorn Street and Telegraph Road.
Can’t speak about two of them, but using Historical Aerials, a report by Thunderbird Archaeology, a historical marker erected by the city, and Don Hakenson’s “This Forgotten Land,” I was able to put together some information on the Bush Hill overpass, as well as the country home of the same name.
This bridge crossed over the Beltway about a half-mile west of the Eisenhower Connector exit. On the north side of the Beltway, the Eisenhower Avenue industrial and residential units were built over the path that led to Bush Hill, a Georgian country house that stood from about 1790 to 1977.
On the south side of the Beltway, suburban homes stand where the path once ran from Franconia Road (nee Old Fairfax Road). That last segment of the old dirt road exists as Bush Hill Road.
Using Historic Aerials, I drew what I believe is its path on the accompanying map.
Bush Hill has quite a story. A brief summary follows.
The Bush Hill country home stood on the top of hill overlooking Backlick Run and Holmes Run.
Georgian house with sixteen rooms, built circa 1790, probably by John Richter.
First occupied by Josiah Watson, a wealthy Irish merchant and postmaster in Alexandria.
Watson likely gave Bush Hill its name.
He conveyed the property to Richard Marshall Scott of Alexandria in 1797. Scott was an attorney, bank president of Farmer’s Bank in the city, and a planter.
After Scott passed away in 1833, his son Richard Marshall Scott II inherited Bush Hill. He died in 1856.
His widow Virginia-Gunnell Scott lived there with her children until 1913.
A family cousin, Leonard C. Gunnell lived at Bush Hill until he passed away in 1941.
Colonel Oliver O. Howard set up his headquarters (Third Brigade, Third Division) at Bush Hill, after the First Battle of Manassas/Bull Run.
During World War II, the Gunnell family leased their house to the U.S. Government. The secret guest was Ernst Hanfstaengl, Adolf Hitler’s former counselor of foreign affairs. FDR put him here as part of the S Project. Hanfstaengl monitored radio reports for the U.S.
In 1948, Bush Hill housed the Holly Hill School.
In 1977, the historic home went down in flames. Arson was suspected.
Bush Hill ruins and remains were bulldozed into the cellar. Some were removed by heavy equipment and filled in.
The foundations brick walkway and front yard stairway were visible in 2000.
This photo shows a rare “remnant” of the path, taken near the intersection of Lavista and James Gunnell Lane.
These signs are more or less where the overpass was located.
The city erected a interpretive marker for Bush Hill. If my calculations are correct, Bush Hill stood where The Reserve at Eisenhower residential is located at 5000 Eisenhower Avenue.