July 10, 2002
Several legends surround Bachman Farm.
There are tales about animal-lover Martha Harrison, known as Aunt Martha, who would dress up in white sheets and wander around the property to scare hunters. Harrison, who lived at the farm around the turn of the century, is reportedly buried on the property. There are rumors that George Washington once did some surveying at the farm. And there is speculation about a log cabin, estimated to have been built between 1780 and 1800. The cabin, one of the first buildings on the farm, is still standing, but some nearby residents fear that it may not be standing for much longer.
Renaissance Property, a local developer, currently owns the 116-acre property and has plans to build residential units. The property is located along Hunter Mill Road near the intersection with Hunting Crest Lane. The Hunter Mill Defense League, a local group devoted to preserving the character of the Hunter Mill Road area, has been trying to arrange meetings with representatives from Renaissance Property for about a year. The defense league would like to discuss the future of the cabin. The group would also like to have the structure assessed by Karen Washburn, history commissioner with the Dranesville District of Fairfax County, where the property is located. But the developer has not yet agreed to meet over the cabin.
“We just want to talk about it,” said Jeannette Twomey, president of the Hunter Mill Defense League. “We want to get all the people interested in the history of the cabin, including the developer, together to talk about it.”
NO LEGAL restrictions exist on the cabin. Renaissance can tear down the cabin at any time, without repercussions. After former owner Leo Bachman died in 1997, his family sold the farm to Renaissance but did not make any development requirements, called proffers, regarding the preservation of the cabin.
“We weren’t part of any transaction,” Twomey said. “But maybe we could have talked to them before they made the sale. Some of the remaining members of the Bachman family would like to see the [cabin] saved.”
Twomey said she would like to see the cabin incorporated into a future development, as a historical museum. She has seen pictures taken of the inside of the cabin, and said it is in “pristine shape,” built of one-foot logs each separated by eight inches of chinking. Washburn said she will have to examine the craftsmanship of the cabin, and research the history of the building, in order to determine whether or not it is worth saving.
“Not all things that are old are significant,” Washburn said. “It depends on what kind of an example it is of what it was.”
Recently, Washburn made a decision regarding a farmhouse at Evan’s Farm in McLean. Washburn said the farmhouse was not worth saving, and it was destroyed.
The Bachman cabin is currently part of a larger house that has been expanded over the years. After the cabin was built, the mid-section of the house was added between 1890 and 1910, according to Twomey. A third section was added in 1966. Washburn said the mid-section of the house may be worth salvaging along with the cabin.
Mavis Kisner, who now lives in Reston, used to be one of the Bachman family’s neighbors. She was friends with the family, and remembers visiting the cabin for drinks and socializing.
“Things like that should be preserved any place,” Kisner said. “It doesn’t mean you can’t have homes around it.”