Woodlawn

photo by: Gordon Beall

Historic Sites

Woodlawn

  • Constructed: 1800-1805
  • Architect: Dr. William Thornton
  • Location: Alexandria, Virginia

Woodlawn is a 126-acre estate that was originally part of George Washington’s Mount Vernon. The main Federal-style house was designed by the architect of the U.S. Capitol, Dr. William Thornton, and constructed between 1800 and 1805 for Washington’s nephew, Major Lawrence Lewis, and his wife, Eleanor “Nelly” Custis Lewis.

Interior of Woodlawn

photo by: Gordon Beall

During the Lewises’ years in residence, Woodlawn comprised over 2,000 acres and was supported by scores of workers, at least 90 of whom were enslaved people of African descent. In 1846, the Lewises’ son sold the property to Quaker families who made Woodlawn a “free labor colony,” selling lots to free black and white farmers – a tremendously controversial social experiment.

By the turn of the 20th century, Woodlawn was sadly deteriorated and only saved through the efforts of Elizabeth Sharpe, a Pennsylvania coal heiress. In 1952, Woodlawn became the first historic site owned by the National Trust. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House, scheduled for demolition due to widening of Interstate 66, was donated to the National Trust in 1964 and relocated to the grounds of Woodlawn.

Woodlawn is a National Historic Landmark, recognized for its role in the development of the American preservation movement. Two residences on the property—one a Federal-style mansion, the other a groundbreaking Usonian house—make the estate one of the most unusual historic sites in the country.

Woodlawn and the National Trust for Historic Preservation worked together to ensure that the 2012 widening of adjacent Route 1 would not adversely affect preservation of the estate and completed restoration projects at the 1805 mansion.

Today, the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture—a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a more equitable and sustainable local food system in the Washington, D.C area—is based on the historic grounds of Woodlawn's estate. Woodlawn hosts a wide array of events and provides private tours between April and December.

Woodlawn is also a member of the National Trust's Distinctive Destinations program.

Opportunity

Reinvent the first National Trust Historic Site, providing a sustainable future for the estate through new and non-traditional uses and development.

National Trust for Historic Preservation Member Discount

Fifty percent discount on regular public tours: one adult for individual Members; two adults and all children under 18 years of age in the immediate family for all other Members. Discount does not apply to other programs and cannot be combined with other offers.

To receive discount, valid membership card must be presented at time of visit. Please contact site directly to ensure that discount is available on date of planned visit and for specific tour desired.

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