“If you go back . . . which I have done — to the John Adlum deeds — this was at a time before there was any platting done,” Ludlam said, “it doesn’t give you an address or a GPS, it refers to boulders and trees. So, we will never know exactly where his land lay.”
Springland Farm was once the sprawling vineyard of John Adlum. While that historical marker may be what binds this community, Ludlam gave new life to the history.
“I use our common history to give our community an identity — an emotional identity,” he said.
The Peace Corps volunteer lived in Springland Farm from 1988 until last year, when he downsized and moved a few blocks away. Before moving to the neighborhood, he had to convince his wife, Paula Hirschoff, that it could be a home for both of them.
Paula desperately wanted a sense of community, something Springland Farm was lacking at the time, so Ludlam said, “Okay, I’ll organize a community for you.” And he did. Now a collaborative “small village,” there are email discussion boards, committees, events and easily organized play groups for kids, Ludlam said.
Joe Himali of Best Address, a local expert in selling historic homes, described Springland Farm as “a quiet little neighborhood right in the middle of the city.” Himali sold Ludlam’s house and once lived just outside its borders.
The residential neighborhood encompasses about 100 homes on three blocks. Bright Colonial houses cover the community. Their two-story porches, adorned with rocking chairs, overlook well-kept lawns, scattered with toys and gardens.
Adlum, a Revolutionary War officer who became a prisoner of war, made Washington his home in 1814. Adlum was a surveyor and judge, but his true passion was wine. Known as the father of American viticulture, Adlum created one of America’s most popular vineyards of the 19th century. This half-mile of undeveloped land would become Springland Farm.
Adlum’s love of wine was as much practical as it was passionate; he believed that people would be less intoxicated and of better use to society if they were drinking wine rather than whiskey. While that theory didn’t drive down whiskey sales, it led to advancements in U.S. viticulture. Adlum became the first to cultivate the Catawba grape, which grew to be the most widely planted grape in the United States by 1850.
Adlum was an enslaver, with eight known enslaved people. These enslaved people worked on the vineyard, but after enslaved people were freed in the District in 1862, their records disappeared. Ludlam is still searching for information on what happened to those who were forced to work on the Adlum estate.
The south-facing vineyard would remain just as it was when Adlum cultivated the land until the Adlum heirs developed the land for houses in the 1930s and 1940s.
The neighborhood is seeking to rename Melvin C. Hazen Park, which honors a former president of the D.C. Board of Commissioners. Hazen created plans to level growing Black communities in the District in the early 1900s. Ludlam and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) are working to change its designation.
Ludlam’s advocacy goes far beyond name changes. The Adlum estate’s historic spring house was almost destroyed after the owner, an Adlum descendant, died in 1999. Developers swooped in and wanted to level the structure, but Ludlam ensured its protection.
Now, Jane Paul and her family own the land and take care of the historic structures.
Paul and her family didn’t plan on moving to a home with a historic structure, but Paul said her family “loved the idea of having a country house in the city.”
Springland Farm provided “that sweet spot of floor space and still being able to walk to a convenience store to buy a gallon of milk,” she said. Paul has since found more of a community than expected.
Maintaining the spring house has not always been easy, but it’s been a welcome challenge for Paul and her family. “We worked with the Office of Historic Preservation to find out how to restore it to a way that was historically accurate,” she said, “everything from putting cedar shakes on the roof, to a Benjamin Moore historic color palette.”
Paul’s favorite memory of the community was how it came together to give children a socially distanced trick-or-treating experience.
“It was a really nice example of the community spirit and the collective responsibility that the community has,” Paul said.
Still, few in Washington know Springland Farm exists.
“We would like to be officially recognized by the District, but that’s an extremely long process,” Ludlam said. “We have history on our side.”
Living here: Springland Farm’s northern border is Van Ness Street NW; from there it intersects with Connecticut Avenue to form its eastern flank. Its southern boundary cuts along Melvin C. Hazen Park and meets 37th Street NW to form the neighborhood’s western side.
In the past year, one house has been sold and one house, belonging to former Washington Wizards center Ian Mahinmi, is under contract. According to Himali, the house that sold was a five-bedroom brick Colonial. It went for $1,687,500.
Schools: Hearst Elementary, Alice Deal Middle and Woodrow Wilson High.
Transit: Sandwiched between Connecticut and Wisconsin avenues, Springland Farm has access to multiple bus lines. The Van-Ness-UDC Metro station, which is on the Red Line, is also a short distance from the neighborhood.
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