Fairfax designates River Farm as a Historic Overlay District

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MOUNT VERNON, Va. (WDVM) — The Fairfax County board approved regulations to preserve River Farm, a 27-acre historical property once owned by George Washington, and now listed on the market for $32.9 million.

The property was purchased in 1760 by Washington, then purchased by Malcolm Matheson in 1919, and finally, in 1973, it was sold to the American Horticultural Society (AHS) with stipulations to make it open as a public park amenity.  

Fast forward to 2020 when the AHS listed the property due to pandemic-related financial struggles and said it would put the sale’s proceeds into an endowment to fund horticultural programs nationally, according to the Washington Post.

The listing of the property spurred concerns from the public about the land no longer being open for public use, leading the board to take action.

The board passed regulations to govern the property as a “historic overlay district,” ultimately giving the board oversight with how the property is used, even if it’s sold.  

During the board of supervisors’ Tuesday meeting, Chairman Jeffrey McKay said, “I fully and wholeheartedly endorse this effort and know that it is another tool at our disposal as conversations continue about what will happen with the property in the future; but it would be foolish for us to not take advantage of this opportunity to save so many treasures that are important to history, but important to the lives of people in Fairfax County.”

The vote passed 9-0 with an abstention from Springfield Supervisor, Pat Herrity. He expressed concerns when he found out the zoning committee had not informed the property owner about the board’s recommendations and how that might affect the value of the property.

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