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Sep 3Doug Smith

Northern Virginia Communities: Green Spring Gardens Park

Sep 3Doug Smith

Our youngest son Sawyer has been doing some volunteer work this summer in lieu of getting a paid summer job. He’s been helping out a few days a week at Green Spring Gardens Park, a historic and horticultural park that is part of the extensive Fairfax County Parks system.

The historic house, set amid the gardens at Green Spring, was built in 1784. John Moss built a brick house on 540 acres of farmland in Alexandria. The reclaimed tobacco fields that Moss and his family cultivated produced corn, wheat, oats and rye and supported cattle and pigs until 1843 when Moss’ grandson Alfred, sold the farm.Green Spring CFO DC Metro

The next long-term owner, Fountain Beattie, rode with his friend Col. Mosby during the Civil War. Between 1878 and 1917, Beattie raised 12 children, dairy cattle, fruit and vegetables at Green Spring. The farm’s proximity to one of Virginia’s best rural roads, Little River Turnpike, gave Beattie access to major area markets.

In 1942, Michael and Belinda Straight purchased the house and 33 acres surrounding it. Although they raised cattle, the Straights were not farmers. Michael Straight was an editor and publisher and often entertained interesting guests like Aldous Huxley and Hubert Humphrey at his “out of town villa”. A boxwood hedge designed by landscape architect Beatrix Farrand was planted in a semicircle behind the house, and a variety of trees and shrubs were added to the property.

After 30 years of living on what had become an island of undeveloped land, the Straights deeded their house and 16 acres to the Fairfax County Park Authority in 1970. The Park Authority purchased 11 additional acres to create Green Spring Gardens Park.

Green Spring Gardens serves Fairfax County residents and visitors by advancing the awareness and practice of gardening. The gardens and educational programs focus on practical landscaping techniques that are appropriate for the Washington metro area. Additional programs emphasize historic influences on the land and Fairfax County residents’ role in preserving cultural resources. Open to the public are a horticulture center, library, demonstration gardens, a historic landscape and buildings, and a wooded stream valley with ponds. Park grounds open from dawn to dusk.

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