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Insiders: Early History of Hollin Hall

Many Mount Vernon residents think of Hollin Hall as a neighborhood in Mount Vernon district. In modern times they would be correct. However, they may be surprised to learn that the original Hollin Hall was not a place, but a home and part of a 2000-acre plantation. Located near Sherwood Hall Lane the house was built in 1792 by Thomas Mason, son Revolutionary War figure George Mason who had owned the land since 1750. It was fashioned after a family home in Yorkshire, England.

The house burned down in 1827. The property was later purchased in 1852 by Edward Curtis Gibbs, a Quaker sea captain and farmer. Gibbs cultivated the land employing both black and white farmers , thus demonstrating that plantations could be made profitable without the use of slave labor.

After a succession of owners, Mr. and Mrs. Harley Wilson completed construction of a new Hollin Hall in 1919. The new home was a Colonial Revival mansion situated on a 600-acre estate near the Potomac River. Lavish entertainers, The Wilsons’ guests included Carl Sandburg, Herbert Hoover, Mrs. Woodrow Wilson, and other prominent Americans.

Their new mansion was appointed with teak floors imported from Japan and furnished with museum-quality antiques. Their guests swam in a shell-shaped pool, strolled along winding brick paths, lush gardens, and slept in a brick guest house.

After the Wilsons' death in 1934, the house and 89 acres were purchased by Roosevelt advisor, Merle Thorpe. The Mount Vernon Unitarian Church later purchased Hollin Hall and 10 acres in 1959. While the pool no longer exists and the guest house is now a private home, the windmill, greenhouse and carriage house remain.

Hollin Hall was placed on the Fairfax County Registry of Historic Sites in 1993 and is located at 1909 Windmill Lane in Alexandria, Va.