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Monday, August 8, 2011

Old farmhouse is link to Annandale's rural past

Approaching Martha Grimsley’s Annandale house is like stepping into another world. The pre-Civil War farmhouse is completely surrounded by the Sleepy Hollow Woods subdivision. 

Martha, 83, says the original parts of the former farmhouse still in use are the kitchen, dining room, which still has the original hand-hewn ceiling beams, the loft, which is now two bedrooms and a bathroom, and the dirt-floor cellar. 

The Grimsleys bought the house in 1961. As soon as they saw it, they knew it was for them. Both Martha and her husband, Ellison, grew up on farms in Fauquier County. “We wanted our children to grow up the way we did,” she says.

The original ceiling beams in
the dining room
They added a rec room and air conditioning. An 1890s-era rolltop desk from her family’s farm is in the dining room. In the yard, there’s a large square rock from Martha’s family farm that had been used by ladies as a stepping stone to mount the horses they rode side saddle.

There’s also a red maple that was named the biggest of its species in the state in 1961. It’s now about 16 feet in circumference.

Martha doesn’t know who built the house. But she says it was occupied by the two Chanel sisters for many years in the last century. Their brother was the plumbing inspector for Fairfax County, and he renovated and expanded the house in 1938. A central heating system was added, and the original frame structure was covered with brick.

When the Chanel family sold the property, it was purchased by Burnett Anderson. The house was rented by several families over the years, including Ronald Dahl, the undersecretary of agriculture in the Eisenhower Administration.

Dahl kept horses on the property, but in 1960, the barn and carriage house were torn down to
make way for the Sleepy Hollow Woods development.

The giant red maple
Martha feels lucky the old farmhouse and a one-and-a-half-acre lot were spared when the new ramblers and split levels sprouted up all around it. At that time, there were still a few farms around Annandale, including a horse farm were Mason District Park is now.

When her five boys were young, they used to bring apples for the horses. They also used to play on another very old house in the neighborhood that was falling apart and reputed to be haunted. That house was burned down by the fire department in a training exercise in about 1962.

When asked if her house is haunted, Martha says, “we always wanted it to be but never found a ghost.”

The family used to play croquet on their lawn, and one of her sons, Doug Grimsley, who lives in Vienna, is one of the top croquet players in the country. She has 10 grandchildren and a 1-year-old great grandchild.

Martha and Ellison had been married 62 years when Ellison passed away a couple of years ago. He had served in the Navy in World War II and founded Brothers Furniture on Seminary Road in Bailey’s Crossroads in 1952 with two of his brothers and a brother-in-law.

The Grimsleys had been living in Bailey’s Crossroads before they moved to the house in Sleepy Hollow Woods. But before that, they lived in a little house in Annandale next to the cemetery on Columbia Pike, now the site of the Northern Virginia Korean Presbyterian Church.

The rear of the house
There was a field across the street from that house when they lived there, which later became the site of the Annandale shopping center with an  A and P grocery store. That spot was later occupied by a Magruder’s and in 2010 by Bloom. Where Maxx Fitness is located was once the site of Sterling Furniture, she says.

Where the Jiffy Lube is now, there had once been a little roadside market, Martha recalls, and before the K-mart was built in about 1961, Worden Farm occupied that site.

“When we got a Safeway, we thought we really had it made,” Martha says. The Safeway was on Columbia Pike in the building now occupied by the Bank of America. The ACCA building used to be the Annandale Elementary School, and there was a library on what is now Tom Davis Drive.

“We had the best little stores,” Martha adds. Iva Trice had a dress shop at the little shopping strip on Annandale Road, next to the Jimmy Bergen Men’s Shop and Herb Mooney’s drug store. That building is still there, occupied by a vacuum repair and other shops.

“Annandale was just a little sign post. It was lovely then,” Martha remembers.“There wasn’t much here.”

1 comment:

  1. I remember you and your family from my time living in the neighborhood back in the 60s. I was a school mate of your son Mike. We'd build models in his room accessed through your bedroom! I remember selling tomatoes in front of your husbands furniture store, riding the mini-bike in your yard and just having a lot of fun. Paul K.