Where We Live

Evans Farm: From farm to table, to luxury living

By Amy Reinink
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, December 17, 2010; 10:36 AM

Drive through the grand gates guarding the entrance to Evans Farm in McLean, and it's easy to connect the neighborhood's present to its past.

A stone mill with a wooden wheel sits beside a quiet lake. Red oaks, pin oaks, American beeches and southern magnolias, some of them 60 to 80 years old, tower over the narrow, hilly streets. Details such as stone accent walls lend the neighborhood a quaint charm and a historic feel.

They're all relics from the 24-acre property's past life as a farm and restaurant. Residents say that sense of history, plus proximity to Tysons Corner and downtown Washington, make the Fairfax County neighborhood attractive to a wide variety of high-powered Washingtonians.

"The wooded areas with the old trees are magnificent, the landscaping is beautiful, and the pond, the old mill house and the large, geared machinery near the entrance from [Route] 123 certainly leave the flavor of what the neighborhood was in days gone by," said Evans Farm Homeowners Association President David T. Hart, 63, a retired admiral who now works for a defense contractor.

The Evans family's decision to sell the property in the late 1990s led to one of the area's most contentious development debates.

In the 1940s, Bayard Evans bought the property, which had been part of a large plantation in the 1700s, in bits and pieces and built an upscale restaurant, a mill house and other buildings from scratch to create the appearance of a Colonial-era farm, with horses, cattle, pigs, geese and other livestock.

The farm and restaurant became a popular local attraction, and hundreds of area residents unsuccessfully protested the sale and development of the land.

A decade later, West Group and Elm Street Development have won multiple awards for the design and development of the neighborhood, including an honorable mention for historical/adaptive reuse in Fairfax County's 2010 Exceptional Design Awards Program.

Ralph B. Evans, Bayard Evans's son, said developers' attention to preservation maintained what he liked best about his family's property.

"By keeping the trees that were already there and keeping so much open space, they did a great job of keeping the character of the land intact," he said.

Frank McDermott, 66, a lawyer with Hunton and Williams in McLean, said he and his wife, Arlene, were drawn to many of the same features when they bought a house in the neighborhood in June 2005. Arlene McDermott now serves as co-chair of the community's landscaping committee, which has an arborist on contract to tend to the neighborhood's trees.

"It's just a beautiful community," Frank McDermott said. "The architecture is impressive and stunning, but at same time warm and inviting. The way the community is designed, with those signature trees and the mill preserved, really lends it the feeling of an older, established neighborhood."

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