When the subject of horse shows comes up in Washington, equestrian fans in the region point to Loudoun County’s famed horse and hunt country, or the annual International Horse Show in the District. A few mentions are given to the hounds and hoofs who run and trot every December at Mount Vernon.
It’s hard to believe now, but a century ago, one of the best known places in the area for such events was south of Alexandria in the Huntington neighborhood. The Cameron Run Hunt Club and grounds was located at the end of Hunting Creek Drive, which at that time ran all the way down to Great Hunting Creek.
Although it was short, the club had a hey day after the turn of the century. The Washington Post covered some of their events. The second annual horse show in 1904 was described as “one of the greatest exhibits of hunters and jumpers ever seen in the South.”
The spring before, the Cameron Run Hunt Club’s first exhibition kicked off the season for the Virginia Horse Show Association. Categories included Farmer Class, Horse and Runabout, Pair of Horses, Tandem, Four in hand, Roadsters, Thoroughbreds and Equestrian. The Post reported many prominent persons from Washington and Baltimore were in attendance.
Courtland H. Smith II (1878-1952), who was born, raised and lived in Alexandria, organized the Cameron Run Hunt Club and gave it appeal and fame. Smith raised show horses and broodmares and was said to be one of the richest men in the area. His stock was also praised as one of the largest and finest in the nation.
In his later years, Smith served as Mayor of Middleburg. He passed away there in 1952. His obituary noted he was one of the best-known horsemen for more than 50 years. Smith won the Warrenton Gold Cup five times, and was the Master of Hounds at the Cameron Run Hunt Club.
Smith got his start as the organizer of the Hampton Hounds club, located at his farm in the modern day Fairlington neighborhood. That land once held John Carlyle’s farm and country home Morven, which stood near Four Mile Run until it was demolished in 1942.
Carlyle imported thoroughbred horses from England. The famed Scotsman and his friend George Washington were members of the Alexandria Jockey Club. At one time, their clubhouse was at 814 Franklin Street in Alexandria, a structure that although built on to, still stands.
Smith’s wife, the former Sarah Carlyle Fairfax Herbert, also knew how to ride. She took home blue ribbons in several events.
In her book "Arlington Heritage, Vignettes of a Virginia County," Eleanor Lee Templeman touches on Smith. He moved out to Loudoun County in 1908. His two sons - Colonel Mark Alexander Herbert Smith and Captain Courtland Smith III - were prominent citizens and businessmen in Alexandria.
The 1904 show at Cameron Run had a special guest. Quentin Roosevelt, youngest son of President Theodore Roosevelt. Born in Washington in 1897, Roosevelt would go on to attend Episcopal High School in Alexandria. Sadly, he died in his ride, an aerial fighter in France during World War I.
The maps seen at historicaerials.com reveals the growth of the Huntington neighborhood. In 1945, there was next to nothing between Huntington Avenue (labeled on the map as Blunt Road) and Great Hunting Creek. The only road was the one that ran down to the club. This road today is Hunting Creek Road, which ends before reaching the water’s edge.
There’s not much else on the Cameron Run Hunt Club on the web. It was off the map by 1951, giving way to the suburban homes built during the building boom after World War II. A trail runs in its vicinity but unfortunately, there is no access to the site.
Perhaps a marker could be installed at nearby Huntington Park.
Photo: Partial, from Arlington Heritage, Vignettes of a Virginia County, Eleanor Lee Templeman, published by author, 1959.