For the past 30 years, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and his wife Elvera Burger lived in a two-story North Arlington farmhouse under towering oak trees. The house is typical of homes built in the Virginia countryside in the 1870s.
Now Burger has sold the house and its 5.8 acres, hidden from the public off Rochester Street near the intersection of Williamsburg Boulevard and Sycamore Street, to an Arlington developer, Reynolds Brothers Inc.
"This is a very unique property. There are very few large tracts remaining in Arlington," said Chris Reynolds, vice president of Reynolds Brothers.
Plans call for building 23 town houses in a development that will be known as Brandymore at Minor Hill on the site of the Burger home, which is near the crest of Minor Hill, one of the highest points in Arlington County.
The fate of the old farmhouse is undecided. "We are working on moving the house. It may be possible. The house itself does not have as much historical significance as the site," Reynolds said. Portions of the house already have been dismantled, but more work would have to be done if the house is eventually moved, he said.
Meanwhile, construction has begun on the first phase of the town-house project. The old house is not in the path of that construction.
The Minor Hill area was the site of much Civil War activity. When war was not raging, Washington residents flocked to that part of Northern Virginia because of the shade and dense woods that offered relief from the summer heat, local historians say.
The house that Burger just sold was built in the 1870s by Charles Wesley Phillips, the son of a wealthy Washington contractor. Phillips built the house on land reportedly given him by his father-in-law, Charles Kirby. A major street in nearby Fairfax County is named for the Kirby family.
The house, which Burger bought in 1955, may have been built from lumber that originally was used to build army barracks during the Civil War, according to historical data supplied by Reynolds.
After the Burgers sold the house, which maintains its 19th-century charm, they bought a luxury town house just a few miles away in the new Analostan development near North Wakefield Court and 24th Street in North Arlington.
Ironically, the 20 units in that development are being built in the woods that were part of another large, older homesite. Its owners, Jack and Helen Jones, are jointly developing their land with business partner David Dodrill. WBW Builders of Arlington is building the units, which range from $300,000 to $400,000 apiece. Both Jack Jones and Dodrill are associated with Rucker Realty, a longtime Arlington firm.
The Jones' home was built in the 1950s but looks much older because it is made of 100-year-old bricks and was designed to look like many early Federal-style houses that were built in Northern Virginia, Dodrill said.
Analostan was named for a tribe of Indians that were supposed to have been in the Virginia area when John Smith sailed up the Potomac River, developers said. The Jones-Dodrill development has "an early Federal type of architecture" in keeping with the look of the Jones' house, the developer said.
The town houses are built together to look "like one giant English manor house" rather than individual units, Dodrill explained.
Both Reynolds and Dodrill said they are preserving land surrounding their town-house developments in its "natural state."
"We are maintaining 30 percent of Brandymore in hardwood forest," Reynolds said.
Dodrill said Analostan is secluded, surrounded by church land and county-owned land.
Brandymore is "cluster residential development by Arlington County's definition," Reynolds explained. Construction has started on the first section of those units, which will be priced "from the low $200,000 range," he said. Reynolds Brothers markets its own product. "We are already taking reservations," Reynolds said.
Designed to cater to a market that includes young professionals and older couples, the units will have "two functional social areas on one level" -- meaning the family room and living room are on the same floor, Reynolds said.
In addition, all units have either a master bedroom or library on the first floor. That feature is designed to make them attractive to people who would like to keep much of their day-to-day living space on the same level while accommodating guests in rooms on other floors, project manager Ross Richmond said.
Reynolds said his company is a family operation involving himself and brothers Bartley Reynolds, Rick Richardson and a sister, Sherry Crittenden. Their father, the late Walter Reynolds, was an Arlington developer.
"You get the bug" for going into the development business, Chris Reynolds said.
He talks little about his direct dealings with the chief justice, but obviously is pleased at landing the deal, which has given him one of the area's prime pieces of in-fill development land. Reynolds said he met the chief justice at another Reynolds Brothers project, Rixey View, a small town-house development at the corner of Glebe Road and Old Dominion Drive in Arlington.
After working for many months with Arlington and Fairfax counties, Reynolds is now building on a rare commodity in Arlington -- a private, wooded six-acre site.
Fairfax and Arlington governments were both involved in final approval of the project because a small piece of the land that is to remain in open space is in Fairfax County.