Ben Lomond Manor House

Written by Martha Hendley - published in the August, 1993 newsletter of Historic Prince William

Ben Lomond Manor House is situated on land originally granted to Robert "King" Carter as part of his 6,700-acre Lower Bull Run Tract. In 1724, Carter patented the tract in the name of his grandson, Robert Councillor Carter, who divided it among his children, Sarah, Pricilla, and George. Sarah acquired the 730 acre portion that extended into Fairfax County and included the present day area of Sudley.

Sarah married Dr. John Yates Chinn and lived at Edge Hill in Richmond County. Their son Benjamin Tasker Chinn (1807-1866) inherited Ben Lomond and turned it into a working farm. He is thought to have built the manor house in 1837 for his new bride, Edmonia Carter (1813-1895). One of Edmonia's sisters lived at neighboring Portici and her other sister at Liberia. Edmonia was a descendent of Landon Carter of Sabine Hall. The manor house is built of locally-quarried red sandstone. Originally it was stuccoed and scored to give the appearance of finely dressed stone which was stylish at the time. Mount Vernon has a similar treatment.

During the Civil War the house may well have served as a field hospital. Some of the walls are covered with penciled graffiti in the form of names, dates, military units and places. The graffiti was discovered when wall paper was pulled off the walls during restoration attempts in the early 1980's. None of the names can be matched with anyone who served at first or second Manassas, so it is thought more likely that the names came from soldiers passing through the area.

The property stayed in the Chinn family until 1870 when it was traded to William H. Campbell for property in Washington, D. C. Two of the prominent 20th Century owners were John F. Rixey, Congressman from Fairfax, and Admiral P. M. Rixey, Surgeon General and personal physician to Presidents McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt. Rixeys and Roosevelts were close friends and the Roosevelt children visited at Ben Lomond on many occasions and held hunting outings there. It is thought that it was during this period of ownership that the kitchen wing was added to the east side of the house and that a full-length two-story portico was added to the north side (facing Sudley Road). A 1928 auction brochure shows this phase of the house.

The property passed from P.M. Rixey to F. W. and Emma Bruch (thought to have been a wealthy industrialist from Cincinnati), from Bruch to George E. and Fannie B. Harris in 1927 and, at auction, to Charles C. and Mary Neville Lynn in 1928.

It was John F. Rixey who established a major dairying operation on the farm and F. W. Bruch who built the large barn in 1926. The Ben Lomond Community Center is modeled after the barn.

In 1936 David Solomon and Sofia Esperanza Cruz de Costa purchased Ben Lomond. It is thought that he was a foreign diplomat. They sold in 1947 to Thomas J. and Marguerite Carey who sold to Robert Garner in 1951. It is during Mr. Garner's ownership that the house was "restored". This might well be when the stucco was removed. It is also thought that this was when the two-story portico on the north side was moved to the west side and smaller one-story porticos were installed at the north and south entrances. This is also probably when the attic insulation was installed as well as the four louvered vents in the attic side walls. In 1966 the property was acquired by Weaver Bros. and all but these 5.9 acres are part of modern suburbia now.

The Ben Lomond Manor House was donated to Prince William County in 1983 by Ridge Development Corporation upon completion of the Sudley Residential Planned Community and is now under the operation of the Prince William County Park Authority. After some early efforts at restoration, the Board of County Supervisors created the Ben Lomond Manor House Commission to function under the Park Authority to raise funds to restore the property.

In the summer of 1992, under the supervision of architect Joseph Lahendro, work was done to stabilize the buildings to prevent any further deterioration due to weather, birds, insects, etc. That included pointing up the stonework, improving the drainage around the house with a ground water drainage system and gutter repair, painting metal roofs and wood trim, adding chimney caps and louvered vents, cleaning the wood shingles of the two small outbuildings, draining the plumbing and the fuel oil tank and termite treatment.

This Spring the architectural firm of Browne, Eichman, Dalgliesh, Gilpin and Paxton, P.C. of Charlottesville was retained to complete a plan for the property. They have extensive experience in historical restoration. They have already reported that the house is structurally sound. Although it has been altered several times on the outside, the inside has undergone little change.

The property encompasses the manor house, the caretakers house, and three outbuildings on 5.9 acres. There was also a large modern masonry barn with a metal roof that has since been destoyed by fire. At one time there was at least one more stone outbuilding. The stones used for the front wall along the driveway by Sudley Manor Drive have remnants of stucco on them, indicating that they came from another structure which was dismantled. The rear wing of the caretakers house is of log construction which may predate the manor house. The slave quarters were originally on the opposite (east) side of the manor house and faced northward. It was moved in 1979 to avoid demolition when the church was constructed.

The two small outbuildings were used as a smokehouse and a dairy or laundry. They are thought to have been built at the same time as the house and were whitewashed over the stucco. Their roofs, however, are not the original ones. The red mulberry growing into the corner of the dairy was planted sometime around the turn of this century.

The Ben Lomond Manor House Commission is raising funds to preserve the Ben Lomond Manor House and provide a visual and literal interpretation of its evolution. An education experience is envisioned that will tell the history of the Manor House and the County through stories, photographs, and artifacts while opening the house and grounds to the community for activities and events such as art shows, concerts, weddings, and receptions.