Woodlawn Stables future still murky as road construction looms

Photo: Jay Korff

The future of a generations-old horse farm in the Alexandria portion of Fairfax County is anything but stable after a project to widen Route 1 continues to press forward.

Woodlawn Stables, the meadow once owned by George Washington that has been a home for horses in Alexandria for more than 200 years, sits right in the way of a planned bypass aimed to ease congestion on the congested highway. Richmond Highway currently skirts the facility, but the planned bypass would lead to the demolition of the farm's barn and equestrian center.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation owns the land that Woodlawn Stables sits on, and there's a preliminary plan in place to consider building a new barn on a site away from the bypass. However, that decision might not come for another several months. They don't have much time to decide; construction to widen Route 1 is expected to begin by mid-2013.

In the meantime, longtime horse owners and riders continue to fight the proposed road. A Facebook group, Save Woodlawn Stables, has more than 1,300 supporters. And many, such as horse rider and Woodlawn Stables lead instructor Laura Wainwright, call the potential demolition heartbreaking.

"We've held onto this little oasis for so long," Wainwright, who grew up riding at Woodlawn and recently bought her own horse, said. "I always thought this is where we'd be."

The organizers of Save Woodlawn Stables is looking for investors in case its owner, Cindy Mitchell, is forced to leave. Until then, Mitchell says she's on pins and needles waiting for a decision.

"I have 33 horses that I'm responsible for and I don't know how long I'm going to be here," she said.

For other owners like Laura Burger, the uncertainty is unnerving.

Burger purchased Earl, who was groomed to be a race horse, when it became clear that the thoroughbred wouldn't turn left. Now, both of them need some guidance on which way to go.

"We're on a couple of waiting lists...because we don't know," Burger said.