Woodlawn, the first site operated by the National Trust, was part of George Washington’s Mount Vernon. In 1799, he gave the site to his nephew, Lawrence Lewis, and Lewis’ new bride, Eleanor “Nelly” Parke Custis, Martha’s granddaughter, in hopes of keeping Nelly close to Mount Vernon. The newly-married couple built the Georgian/Federal house designed by William Thornton, architect of the U.S. Capitol.
In 1846, the entire plantation was sold to Quaker timber merchants, who purposefully operated the farm plantation with free labor, making a statement in Virginia on the eve of the Civil War.
At the turn of the twentieth century, two separate owners, Paul Kester and Elizabeth Sharpe, lovingly restored the property using the best Colonial Revival architects and builders. Senator Oscar Underwood from Alabama, an uncompromising advocate for civil rights, lived at the mansion from 1925 until his death in 1929.
Operated as a historic house museum since 1949, Woodlawn is an interesting case-study of the cultural relevance of the house museum.
Pope-Leighey House History
During the 1930s, Frank Lloyd Wright set his formidable attention towards designing affordable middle-class residences. More than 100 of these modest homes, referred to as Usonian, thought to mean “the United States of North America,” were constructed between 1936 and Wright’s death in 1959, including the Pope-Leighey house (1940). Commissioned in 1939 by Loren Pope, a journalist in Falls Church, the residence was sold to Robert and Marjorie Leighey in 1946. The house was in the path of an expansion of Highway 66, so in an effort to preserve the building, Mrs. Leighey gave the property to the National Trust, which relocated it to nearby Woodlawn and granted her lifetime tenancy. Mrs. Leighey occupied the house at Woodlawn, until her death in 1983. Unusually, the house required a second move due to the instability of the clay soil, and was relocated about thirty feet up the hill in 1995-96.
We will take a tour of both houses beginning at 1:00. More info to follow on that.