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Designation Fills 'Historic' Gap

Lanesville House gains own plaque.

Volunteer Carl MacIntyre wants visitors to Claude Moore Park to notice the plaques along Vestal's Gap Road that detail the trail's historical use.

"The point is to try to bring to attention the value of it, to get them interested in the study of their own history," said MacIntyre, member of the Lanesville Heritage Preservation Society and a park volunteer.

Since last week, visitors might have noticed a new plaque installed on the restored Lanesville House that briefly explains the status and history of the house. The county Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services and the Lanesville Heritage Preservation Society planned a dedication ceremony on May 7, the day after the plaque was installed as purchased with a $500 donation from Sam's Club. The ceremony was scheduled during the National Trust for Historic Preservation's annual Preservation Week from May 5-12, but had to be rescheduled to May 21 because of rain that afternoon.

THE PLAQUE acknowledges that the Lanesville House and Vestal's Gap Road, contributing sites to the Lanesville Historic District, are designated as Virginia Historic Landmarks and listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. National Park Service.

"It's exciting to see the house restored and ready for visitors and noted for the historic site that it is," said Meredyth "Merry" Breed, assistant park manager.

The Lanesville Historic District received the national historic designation in 2000, a year after contractors began restoration work on the house to repair the plaster and historic locks, paint the interior and exterior of the building and replace the roof over the kitchen. A Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) grant of $200,000 funded the restoration work and a Make It Happen Grant funded an archeological dig along Vestal's Gap Road at the Lanesville House site. John Milner Associates conducted the dig to identify why the house should be a historic landmark. The Lanesville Heritage Preservation Society added to Milner's work by researching the district's history, documenting the house's use and incidentally finding the "ordinary" license for the house, along with applying for the grant funds.

"It was a volunteer effort to get the site listed," Breed said.

AT ONE TIME, the Lanesville House served as the Lanesville Post Office and as an "ordinary," a stopping place for travelers to get a common meal and stay the night. The Lane family built a single-room house in the 1770s and added a basement and additional stories and rooms in later years. Descendant Keturah Lane, who married John Keene, opened the "ordinary" in 1807 and operated it into the 1820s shortly after Route 7 opened.

"People would come here to get their mail and find out what's going on in the world," Breed said.

Keturah's descendants lived in the house until Claude Moore, a land speculator and philanthropist, purchased the 18th century Lanesmoore farm in 1941. Moore donated the 357-acre site to the National Wildlife Federation, which operated a wildlife habitat there from 1975 until 1986 when it sold the property to developers. Moore continued living in the house until his death in 1991 and unsuccessfully tried to sue the federation for making the sale. The county purchased the property from Miller and Smith in 1990 and opened Claude Moore Park that year.

"It's a nice green space that will always remain a green space as long as Claude Moore's vision and our mandate is the same for a multi-use facility," said Pam Sheets, park manager. "It's our goal to keep everyone educated about the house when they step into the park."

THE PARK AIMS to educate visitors about Vestal's Gap Road, which "is significant because the house would have been a farmhouse without the road going by it," Breed said.

Vestal's Gap Road, originally an American Indian trail, was used as a primary colonial roadway from Alexandria to Winchester from 1722 to 1825.

MacIntyre, a retired attorney of 25 years, and his wife Helen researched the use of the road, which cannot be developed due to a restricted covenant imposed by the National Wildlife Federation.

"It has been recognized by imminent historians as a historic link," MacIntyre said. "It's the last segment that is in pristine condition."

Breed pointed out that the road is "nationally significant because of George Washington's use of the road."

Washington used Vestal's Gap Road in 1753 to deliver a letter and again in 1754 with 120 militia men to confront the French. His defeat at Fort Necessity started the French and Indian War. He used the road again in 1755 to follow the troops under General Braddock, who was killed in the action.

Today, Vestal's Gap Road runs through the center of Claude Moore Park and serves as a walking trail to provide access to different areas of the park.

VESTAL'S Gap Road and the Lanesville House are among the 52 National Register of Historic Places listings in Loudoun County. The register lists historic, cultural and archeological resources "worthy of preservation" as authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. The register of 76,000 listings includes districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects. Seventy-seven percent of the listings includes buildings and structures and 23 percent, roads and districts.