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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Old Annandale farmhouse is for sale, but owners won't sell to a developer

There are many 100-year-old boxwoods around the house.

If you’d like to live in the country but don’t want to give up the convenience of being close to the city, Boxhill Farm is the place for you. It’s a restored farmhouse on seven acres of land in Annandale just outside the beltway, and it’s for sale for $1.195 million.

“We don’t want to sell to a developer. We’re looking for the next steward of the property,” says Nell Miller, who owns the house with her husband, Ron.

The house has four bedrooms, two and half bathrooms, living room, family room, sun room facing Wakefield Park, two fireplaces, large-walk-in closets next to the master bedroom, and a butler’s pantry. Outside, there’s a tennis court, large shed, and a pond. The house, totally hidden from the street, is down a path from a cul de sac at the end of Queen Elizabeth Road.

The back of the house.

Boxhill Farm was built in 1896 by Frederick Segessenman, an immigrant from Switzerland who was a professional florist and landscaper.

Ron describes Boxhill Farm as a great example of a “blue collar farmhouse.” When it was built, it was a two-story house with just four rooms and no indoor bathroom or kitchen. The original part of the house still has the original wood floors and wainscoting. There’s an 1890 Seth Thomas clock on the mantelpiece in the family room that the Millers think might have belonged to the original owners.

The Millers in the kitchen.
After the Segessenmans sold the property in 1947, the house had just three owners before the Millers purchased it in 1999. One of the former owners ran a business there, Boxhill Farm Antiques. The Millers bought the property from Dr. Russell Seneca, the chief surgeon of Fairfax Hospital, who expanded and renovated the house.

The Millers had lived in the Wakefield Chapel neighborhood for 25 years when they discovered Boxhill Farm. “I had always wanted an old farmhouse. When we came across this house, we fell in love with it,” Nell says.

The pond in the backyard.
“Living here is like living in a combination park, arboretum, nature preserve, historic home, and haven in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Northern Virginia,” says Nell. “It really is a sanctuary,” adds Ron. “When you come home from work and turn into the gate, it’s like turning off the rest of the world.”

The bedroom has a view of the backyard lawn with the tree-lined Accotink Creek at the edge of the property. Ron says he counted as many as 230 geese at the pond at one time and has seen otter in the creek, along with red foxes, turtles, herons, egrets, woodchucks, and, of course, plenty of deer. 

The sunroom.
According to Ron, there are some boxwoods and non-native trees—Norwegian spruce, black walnut, white pine, and pagoda trees—that are at least 100 years old, which he thinks might have been planted by Segessenman. About half of the land is a flood plain, so it can’t be developed under current law. At one point, the Park Authority was considering purchasing it, but couldn’t afford it, he says.

Ron calls the Boxhill Farm“a wonderful surviving example of life in 19th century Fairfax County,” and has done a lot of research to see if it could be designated a historic site. He found it would have to have been the residence of a person of “historic quality,” have been the site of a historic event, or have a “highly unusual character.” 
The master bedroom overlooks the park.
He thinks Segessenman should qualify as “a person of historic significance,” so there’s a possibility the house could qualify as a historic site at some point. Segessenman did the landscaping for Ravensworth Mansion, which was located at what is now Ravensworth Shopping Center, as well as nearby Oak Hill, the oldest house in Annandale, and the historic house at Green Springs.

There’s also a legend that “Braddock’s gold” could be buried somewhere on the property, although a search with a metal detector didn’t lead to any lost treasure.

According to the legend, English General Edward Braddock was leading his troops through Virginia in 1775 on the way to attack the French at Fort Duquesne (what is now Pittsburgh). They were carrying lots of artillery and gold to buy supplies, but it was rough going on the muddy roads, so he decided to bury two cannons filled with gold coins and collect them later. He died in the battle, and the location of the gold was lost.
The dining room and stairway are part of the original house.
The Millers paid $875,000 for the house and spent about $500,000 in improvements and maintenance. Among other things, they redid the kitchen, finished the basement, and put in a new HVAC system.

They’re selling Boxhill Farm because they’ve both retired—Nell was a special education teacher at Woodson High School and Ron is the co-owner of Twin Construction Co.—and are moving to their other home in the Shenandoah Valley where they are developing a winery.

To prospective buyers, Nell says, “you’re not just buying a house; you’re buying a lifestyle.” If they can’t sell it, the Millers say they will hold onto it. “We won’t sell it to anyone who wants to subdivide,” Ron says. “We took it on. We feel it’s important to be stewards,” adds Nell. 

Boxhill Farm is like a country retreat in the midst of suburbia.


  1. Thank you, Millers, for your attitude of stewardship. I hope you find the right buyer, one who cares as much as you do about taking care of the land and house.

  2. If I had the money I would love to live here. I would never leave my house. How beautiful!!!

  3. Just gorgeous! Thanks for posting this article so others can learn about such a treasure.

  4. Vanessa Rogers1/22/13, 10:32 PM

    Oh my! I would love living there. How lucky the buyer would be. That's a great treasure indeed.

  5. walked through the house today.

    beautiful lot, very nicely landscaped. the house itself is very charming with lots of old-farmhouse elements. the modernized kitchen is very nice, as is the living room and sunroom, but the bedrooms are very small, and the 'finished basement' is just a storage area. the open view to the back of the lot is quite stunning, but about 2/3s of the land itself is in a flood plain and can't be built on (so the current owner's reluctance to sell to developers is probably moot.)