They call it an “unincorporated community” though the place has much historical significance. Today, we know it as the intersection between State Route 7 aka Leesburg Pike and State Route 244, Columbia Pike. The location is 2 square miles square with Munson’s Hill on the west.
Because the area is level, the Union Army used it for troop review during the Civil War. On November 20th, 1861 President Lincoln arrived to see a parade formation of 50,000 troops. Today, Skyline Center is located there and houses many Department of Defense offices.
The area is more or less a stepchild of Fairfax County as it is on the border with Arlington County. It is sort of an extension of Falls Church too, but not legally a part of it.
What I ponder in doing these neighborhood sketches is asking what was it like then? What is it like today? Which is better?
If we don’t like what we see today, then citizens have every right to tell officials we want something better. Sometimes, we have done a good job in using our scarce resources, and other times not so good as reflected in urban planning and development.
I am beginning this series at the southern edge of the county divide between Arlington and Fairfax Counties.
According to Glen Forest resident, Susan Flinner, “The 330 acres of the immediate crossroads area and Glen Forest Fairfax were sold to Captain Simon Pearson in 1729. By 1773 the land was bought by John Luke Sr. as a wedding gift for John Jr. and his bride Elizabeth. They built a brick colonial style mansion house at the present site of Durbin Place. They also leased a house on Leesburg Pike to Jacob Bontz who turned it into Bontz’s Tavern Hotel in 1797. (The windmill is there now.)”
Who were the Baileys?
Hachaliah Bailey came from New York on December 19th 1837 and built a mansion called Moray that had 100 rooms. Probably named for a castle in Scotland, Moray was located at what is now called Durbin Place next to Glenforest Road with access to Leesburg Pike.
Now, here is the part of the story that I truly enjoy.
Hachaliah has a son, Lewis. Lewis operated a travelling circus and pioneered the use of canvas tents.
Lewis settled in 1840 creating a farm at this location.
Hachailiah’s nephew, George F. Bailey managed several circus shows. George is credited with designing a tank for a hippopotamus. Another nephew, Fred Harrison Bailey discovered a circus talent, James Anthony McGinness aka James Anthony Bailey. James introduced Cooper and Bailey circus to Phineas Taylor (PT) Barnum resulting in Barnum and Bailey Circus. That eventually joined with Ringling Brothers to become Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.
Needing a place to winter the circus animals, the Bailey’s bought hundreds of acres of land in Fairfax County near present day Arlington County at Bailey’s Crossroads. Eventually, Bailey became a dairy farmer, but that is mundane compared with the circus lore.
The next chapter in this story is the punch line.
In the Civil War, this area was described as “no-man’s” land. Confederates were on the Falls Church side and the Federal Troops policed from the eastern direction.
Confederates occupied Munson’s Hill overlooking Bailey’s crossroads. They had chased the retreating Federal Troops after the first battle at Manassas. Bailey’s Crossroads was a “killing field,” subject to targeting by Confederate snipers.
Eventually, the Confederate troops withdrew back to Manassas to ready for a second battle there.
Thousands of Federal troops were sent to reoccupy the vacuum created by the departing Confederates.
When the war was over, the area returned to farming until post World War II development enveloped the land.
Next is what didn’t happen here: 1) the Metro line never made it to Skyline and 2) this is not the location that inspired the Battle Hymn of the Republic that I will report later.
In keeping with the style of “Our Neighborhood” stories I will share 1) photos from the location today and 2) an illustration of how it may have appeared in the 1860’s.