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FairfaxMcLean estate placed into conservation easement

McLean estate placed into conservation easement

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An 8-acre Civil War-era McLean property known as Elmwood recently became the 129th conservation easement for the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust (NVCT).

The estate, once the centerpiece of a homestead that spanned from the Potomac River to the center of McLean, was built by the Ball family of Virginia, NVCT officials said Feb. 23.

Elmwood most recently was the home of the late television journalist Roger Mudd, whose family lived in the house for nearly half a century.

Roger Mudd died in March 2021 at age 93. In keeping with his wishes, the family has elected to preserve the property’s historical, natural and scenic character, ensuring it will remain intact rather than be subdivided like so many other significant semi-rural properties in the area, NVCT officials said.

“What the Mudd family has done in forever protecting this unique piece of our region’s history is truly remarkable,” said NVCT executive director Alan Rowsome. “At a time when so many beautiful places in Northern Virginia have been lost to the pressures of development, nature and history will live on and thrive at Elmwood.”

Elmwood hosts sweeping lawns, magnificent legacy trees and landmark structures including its circa-1876 log-hewn “Bachelor’s Hall,” an 1879 guest house and the distinctive 1905 white-clapboard house that provides a unique island of calm within McLean.

Elmwood now is listed for sale for $8 million, presenting a rare opportunity to own a significant property inside the Capital Beltway. The NVCT conservation easement allows for expansion, renovation, restoration and modernization of the main house and other buildings, as long as the home’s historic character remains unspoiled, officials said.

Elmwood was part of a large land grant dating back to 1724 that passed from the Turberville family to members of the Ball family from the early 1800s through the start of the Civil War. The original home was destroyed in that war, and William Selwyn “Selly” Ball returned afterward to build the structures still on the site today.

The Ball family continued to own Elmwood until the 1930s. Two other families, the Magills and Paysons, owned Elmwood until the Mudds purchased the property in 1972.

The Mudds restored the Bachelor’s Hall and the guest house, adjoining the latter to the main house, and preserved the house’s plank floors, raw-beamed ceilings, columned porches and many fireplaces. Elmwood is listed on the Fairfax County Inventory of Historic Sites.

“We’re delighted that it’s been protected,” said Carole Herrick, president of the McLean Historical Society and member and former chair of the Fairfax County History Commission. “It’s an important story that the property offers us to the history of McLean, a story that goes back well before the Civil War.”

“When you stand in this place, you get a sense not only of an earlier era but of the long line of people who have cared for this land,” said NVCT conservation director Matt Gerhart. “Both in times of strife and times of plenty, Elmwood has stood literally atop the hill as a prime example of living, breathing history. We look forward to working with future stewards of this special place.”

NVCT now stewards 50 natural areas totaling more than 630 acres that have been safeguarded to connect critical wildlife habitat and the region’s history.

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