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The Pope-Leighey House was owned first by Loren Pope, a journalist. He was intrigued by Frank Lloyd Wright’s home designs and wrote to the architect asking to be considered. At the time, Wright made his decisions based on the location and family. The house was commissioned in 1940 and became part of the more than 100 of these modest homes, referred to as Usonian, which were constructed between 1936 and Wright’s death in 1959.

The Leigheys were the second owners of the home. In the 1950s, when Hwy 66 was being widened and in danger of being destroyed due to eminent domain, Mrs. Leighey graciously gave the property to the National Trust, which relocated it to nearby Woodlawn. They granted her lifetime tenancy and Mrs. Leighey lived in the house at Woodlawn until her death in 1983.

In 1995-96, the house required another move due to the unstable clay soil but this time, it only had to be moved thirty feet up the hill. Currently, Route 1 is expanding and Woodlawn/Pope-Leighey House are along the route. Wisely, the decision makers went with the other side of the road so both historic sites wouldn’t have to be moved.

Pope Leighey carport and front doorFront Entrance and car port Pope Leighey dinosaur

Detailed woodcarving on all the windows.

Pope Leighey porch

Between 1936 and Wright’s death in 1959, he focused on designing and constructing over 100 affordable, middle-class residences. The style was referred to as Usonian, thought to mean “the United States of North America.”

Pope Leighey House I
The house is very small and would be ideal for a beach or lake house but I couldn’t imagine a family of five, like the Popes, living in it comfortably. No privacy whatsoever. On the positive side, it blended in nicely with the environment and all the little details inside the home were clever and quirky.

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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 House Alexandria VAWoodlawn 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 front door
Woodlawn is a Georgian/Federal style home designed by Dr. William Thornton who was the architect of the U.S. Capitol

Photography is not allowed inside the house but I snapped a few of the exterior:
Woodlawn Flowers
Crepe Myrtle flowers

Woodlawn Crepe Myrtal
Crepe Myrtle archway
Sign to housesWoodlawn on Bench
Bench at Woodlawn

Woodlawn Lion BenchWoodlawn pond and gardens
Pond and Gardens at Woodlawn

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…

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