House of the Week | Lorton nature retreat for $1.395 million

September 27, 2013

Of the many causes the late Joseph V. Gartlan Jr. supported during his seven-term career in the Virginia Senate, few were as near and dear to him as the environment. So it’s no surprise that in 1987 when Gartlan, who also served as chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, and his wife, Fredona, went looking for a place to build a home, they selected a spot surrounded by nature.

Their Lorton home not only is a short walk to the Joseph V. Gartlan Jr. Great Marsh Trail, which leads to a bald eagle nesting area in the Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge, but also counts osprey, geese and red fox among its neighbors.

The Gartlans originally were looking for a weekend home when a friend told them about this lot along the Potomac River in the Hallowing Point neighborhood. Fortunately, it was in the Fairfax County Democrat’s district and the couple ended up living there full time.

“They felt incredibly lucky and blessed to live on the water in such a beautiful setting and to be able to share that with their family and their friends,” daughter Joan Gartlan said. “They were never happier there than when they were surrounded by their children, grandchildren, ‘granddogs’ and close friends.”

The architect, John Savage, came up with the idea of angling the 4,000-square-foot house to take advantage of the peaceful waterfront views on three sides of the home. On a clear day, you can see across the Potomac to Maryland and down the river about 15 miles south.

“On the dock to the left of us is an osprey nest,” Joan Gartlan said. “We would sit outside and watch the ospreys born every spring on one of the pilings there.”

By the time they moved into the home, the Gartlans’ six children were grown with families of their own. The house became a family gathering place.

“When they built the house, my mother wanted a pool and a screened porch,” Joan Gartlan said. “My father didn’t want them. Of course, my mother won. Then, my father had to admit they were two of the best parts of the house.”

It also became the ideal spot to age in place. Before she died in April, Fredona was confined to a wheelchair in the last years of her life. Because she made sure when the house was built that the doorways were wide and everything she needed was on the first floor, she was able to remain in her home — despite her failing mobility.

“I think everybody down here feels very lucky to be here,” she said. “More and more young families are moving in. A lot of people here were empty nesters, like my parents.”

The four-bedroom, three-bathroom home is listed at $1.395 million. An open house is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m.

Listing: 5813 River Dr., Lorton

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@KathyOrtonWP, @postrealestate

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Kathy Orton is a reporter and Web editor for the Real Estate section. She covers the Washington metropolitan area housing market.
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Kathy Orton · September 26, 2013