I must have driven past the signs for Woodlawn and the Pope-Leighey house several hundred times and last week I finally turned onto the road leading to the two historic and contrasting homes.
Woodlawn was a gift from George Washington to his nephew Major Lawrence Lewis and his wife Eleanor “Nelly” Custis (Washington’s step-granddaughter). They were married on February 22, 1799 which was George Washington’s last birthday. Nelly was raised at Mount Vernon after her father died when she was two and her mother was unable to raise her two youngest children. Nelly continued to live at Mount Vernon with her husband Lawrence Vernon until Woodlawn was completed in 1805.
The Lewis family lived in the home until 1846. Since 1846, there have been numerous owners including the Troth-Gillingham family who were Quakers intent on proving that successful farming could be done with a free-labor colony as opposed to slavery. They sold off parcels of the 2,000 acre estate to other Quakers, like-minded Baptists and freed slaves, leaving 120 acres today where the two houses are located.
Woodlawn is a Georgian/Federal style home designed by Dr. William Thornton who was the architect of the U.S. Capitol
Woodlawn and the Pope-Leighey House are both owned and operated by the National Trust of Historic Preservation. The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture formed a partnership in 2013 for the purpose of providing visitors a place eat, learn and garden. Arcadia, which has been operating a garden, agriculture programs and a Mobile Market bus at Woodlawn since 2010 will expand to include dining, agricultural production, educational programs and retail operations. Woodlawn seems like the perfect place to have experimental agricultural since George Washington was an innovative farmer when he owned the land.
Plan on two hours to visit both homes. Opening hours are Friday through Monday with guided tours at Woodlawn at the top of every hour from noon until 4pm.The Pope-Leighey House offers guided tours every half hour from noon until 4 pm. For more information and directions, click here.
It’s a short walk from Woodlawn to Frank Lloyd Wright’s house but more about Pope-Leighey house next time…