The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Great Falls, Va., estate is seeking a buyer

Cornwell Farm, built in the 1830s, is on the National Register of Historic Places

The formal living room has a wood-burning fireplace. Its mantle has a carved eagle on the front. (Karen Briscoe)
Placeholder while article actions load

An earlier version of this story stated Cornwell Farm was at risk of demolition. The developer now says he had no plans to raze the house.

Cornwell Farm, an estate in Great Falls, Va., that is on the National Register of Historic Places, is seeking a buyer.

The property is one of Fairfax County’s few surviving examples of antebellum plantation architecture, according to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. At the time of publication, it was not known if there were ever enslaved people on the property. The farm was once part of Lord Fairfax’s Great Falls Manor estate. John Jackson purchased part of the land and turned it into a farm around 1801. Thirty years later, he began constructing the Georgian house for his daughter, Julia Jackson Davis. At the time, the property was known as Mine Ridge, and it was later called Fairview. B.F. Cornwell purchased it after the Civil War, and it became known as Cornwell Farm.

Distinguished homes for sale in the D.C. region.

Cornwell Farm | Cornwell Farm, an estate in Great Falls, Va., that is on the National Register of Historic Places, is at risk of demolition unless a group of concerned citizens can find a buyer. It is listed at $7.5 million. (Walt Lawrence)

Union soldiers camped at the farm during the war. Later, during a restoration of the property, the names of soldiers from New York, Connecticut and New Jersey were found inscribed on the plaster walls. Before Robert Thompson Pell bought the house in 1936, it had been abandoned. Pell, a career Foreign Service officer, hired architect Theodore W. Dominick to restore the house and make additions. Donald Opstad, a lobbyist for 3M, owned the house in 1977 when it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The National Register nomination form declares: “One of the most outstanding features of the exterior is the superb Flemish-bond brickwork on the south or main facade. Ranking with the most refined brickwork of its type in the state, the carefully tooled joints have an almost mathematical precision.” It goes on to state that the brickwork is of “a quality comparable to the finest townhouses of Georgetown or Alexandria.”

Jerry and Suzanna Huckaby were the last people to live in the home. He was a congressman who represented Louisiana’s 5th District for 16 years. She was a real estate agent. After she died in 2008, the estate was sold to developer Shawn Khorshidi of Versailles Custom Homes. Khorshidi said his plan is to build a five-house subdivision on the land, but he is willing to sell the house to a buyer.

The Georgetown Pike Rural Preservation Trust is heading up the effort to find a buyer. The nonprofit was founded recently to preserve and restore the rural heritage of Georgetown Pike and the communities it runs through. Georgetown Pike is historic in its own right. It was the first road designated a Virginia byway by the state highway department.

One of the trust’s first projects was saving a Civil War-era structure in Great Falls. Now the group hopes to save Cornwell Farm.

The trust is counting on Virginia’s generous tax breaks for conservation easements to tempt the right buyer. The trust’s website notes, “The majority of a buyer’s investment and restoration costs can be recouped from the tax benefits generated by the conservation easement.” A conservation easement is a deed restriction that limits the development of a property. In exchange, the federal and state governments provide significant tax benefits.

The four-bedroom, four-bathroom, 5,100-square-foot house, on six acres, is listed at $7.5 million. The trust estimates that the net cost will be $3.72 million after the tax benefits from the conservation easement. There’s also an option to purchase an additional seven acres.

9414 Georgetown Pike, Great Falls, Va.

Price: $7.5 million

Features: Cornwell Farm is one of Fairfax County’s few surviving examples of antebellum plantation architecture. The Georgian house was built in 1831 by John Jackson for his daughter. The house has nine wood-burning fireplaces. The living room and den fireplaces have gas log inserts. The grounds include a heated swimming pool, a caretaker’s cottage and a two-vehicle carport.

Bedrooms/bathrooms: 4/4

Approximate square-footage: 5,100

Lot size: Six acres, with an option to buy seven more

Listing agent: Georgetown Pike Rural Preservation Trust