The 691 houses of Hayfield Farm, a wooded community built in the late 1960s near Fort Belvoir, takes its name from the land that once belonged to Lund Washington, one of George Washington’s cousins and a caretaker at Mount Vernon.
On that land was a 16-sided barn built in the late 1800s. Four grade-school boys burned it down in 1967, according to a news report at the time. But as Wills & Van Metre developed the community in the 1960s, it touted the area’s historic origins in its sales materials.
“George Washington himself laid out the original 16-sided hayfield barn which sat at the center of the development,” said one brochure handed out to prospective buyers in 1968. (The barn stood at what is now Hayfield Park, not far from the community’s Hayfield Road entrance.)
Today, the Fairfax County neighborhood is surrounded by wooded military facilities and parkland. To the north lies a U.S. Coast Guard station, separated from Hayfield by a dense strip of trees. Huntley Meadows Park stretches to the east, and an engineering facility — also bordered by thick trees — lies to the south. Beyond the engineering facility lies Fort Belvoir.
Stephanie Hutchison, who has lived in the community for three years, said the setting suggests the leafy enclave won’t suddenly give way to strip malls and more houses. Kingstowne is already developed across Telegraph Road on the west side. But it’s hard to picture development popping up in the wooded areas, she said.
The buffer of trees and parkland and the nearby military presence instill a sense of security in the community, Hutchison said, observing: “We’re protected on three sides.”
But the setting was only part of the attraction. The initial draw for Hutchison and her husband, Todd, was the houses’ size and price point, she said. Added perks are the Halloween festival, the annual reading of the Declaration of Independence by an actor dressed in period costume, and the informal gatherings at the neighborhood park and the Hayfield Farm Swim Club, Hutchison said.
Lisa Verver said the swim club is the most popular destination for her daughter Victoria, a student at Hayfield Secondary, and her daughter’s friends. Membership costs $550 (a one-time fee) and the annual fee is an additional $425 for the pool, which is open from the week before Memorial Day until the week after Labor Day, Verver said.
Another big draw for parents is the neighborhood’s proximity to elementary, middle and high school. Students can walk to all 12 years of public school — a rare luxury for northern Virginians.
“We never had to bus the kids,” said Zi Peppard, who moved with her husband to the neighborhood 37 years ago.
The community includes a mix of colonial-style homes, ramblers and split-levels.
The colonials — which typically offer four bedrooms on the upper level, an office or fifth bedroom on the main level, and a little more than 3,000 square feet with the finished basement included — are especially popular when they hit the market, said Tom Pietsch, a Long & Foster agent in Alexandria.
The office in particular is essential for some of the residents who have have home-based businesses. “We have a significant small-business community,” said Tracey Pilone, vice president of the Hayfield Citizens Association, who co-founded a consulting and software development company with her husband, Dan.
The Hayfield Farm Garden Club, which has been around for more than 40 years, tends to the community’s common areas, including the wide medians, the entrances and the neighborhood park, said Lisa Gray, the garden club’s former president.
Gray, who has lived in the community for 16 years, said the meticulous attention by neighborhood residents to their gardens shows. “I love the spring in this neighborhood. . . . I love looking at people’s gardens. Everyone takes a lot of pride in their homes and yards,” she said.
There are about 60 original owners in the community and a number of second- — and even third- — generation residents, said Hayfield Farm resident Dick Belt. Belt and his wife, Maxine, bought their split-level in 1968 in what was known as the Harvest Walk at Hayfield section of the neighborhood.
The Belts have four children, and one of them lives just up the street, giving the Belts easy access to three of their grandchildren.
Although there are a few things within walking distance — the neighborhood park and swimming pool, for example — residents say they drive everywhere. But current and future traffic congestion is a concern. About 19,999 civilian and military personnel are expected to be transferred to Fort Belvoir as part the federal government’s base-realignment initiative, according to the Army base.
“Traffic continues to increase. People complain about traffic all the time,” Belt said. Even getting out of the neighborhood can be a challenge. Residents say making a left turn out of the community onto Telegraph Road is tough.
But the fact that the community is tough to get into and out of is also part of its charm, buffering it from an onslaught of through traffic. That’s part of the reason so many have stayed put. “They love the neighborhood,” Gray said.
Susan Straight is a freelance writer.