Centreville’s Hidden Heritage: A Driving Tour
Spencer is the immediate past president of The Historic Centreville Society and collaborated on putting together this driving tour and brief history of our town.
Two Hundred and Ten years ago this year the Town of Centreville was born. The residents of Centreville can be proud of our long heritage. It is an area rich in history, both unique and varied. Projectile points and stone tools used by Indians, old metal farm tools from early settlers and relics from Revolutionary and Civil War soldiers are still found today.
The landmarks you will find in the driving tour outlined below come together to give us a sense of “place”. They give us a sense of where we came from and allow us to associate our surroundings and ourselves with events from the past. In the fast paced, hustle and bustle of Centreville today these landmarks are frequently overrun in the haste to build the new. We must protect these precious links to the past. They provide us a sense of continuity and stability. They are our heritage.
This tour was put together to bring our “hidden heritage” to light, to encourage you to learn more about it and to foster pride in our rich heritage. As you take this tour think of how those before us lived and the legacy that they left us then think of the legacy that you want to leave. Let those in the future say that we were good stewards of these icons and that we saved the past for the future.
Centreville was chartered as a town in 1792, but its history began long before that, with the arrival of paleo-indians 12,000 years ago. European settlers arrived in the 1720s and by the 1760s they had established a thriving village called Newgate. When the Virginia Assembly authorized town status for Newgate its name was changed to Centreville.
Centreville has experienced good times and hard times. Perhaps its most dramatic period was during the Civil War, when the town was occupied alternately by Union and Confederate troops and the battles of First and Second Manassas were fought on its doorstep. The war destroyed Centreville, but it did not destroy the courage of the people who called it home. It took years, but they reclaimed the land and made it bloom again.
Centreville has evolved from a post Civil War farming community, through a 1960s suburban town, to the budding city of today. For all the future generation of Centreville residents, it is important that we strive to preserve that rich historical heritage.
Through the efforts of The Historic Centreville Society, the oldest written record in Fairfax County, the 1737 Willoughby Newton boundary stone, was saved from encroaching development and is now on loan in the Centreville Regional Library for appreciation and enlightenment of all Centreville citizens. Working with a land developer and the Farifax County Government, the society also was instrumental in the preservation of the 1760 Lane’s Mill ruins. The site is now the county’s first archeological park. The Society has also been instrumental in protecting The Mitchell Weeks House (circa. 1770) and the Cross Farmhouse in Chantilly.
1. Mount Gilead
While it is believed that this building was constructed in the mid to late 1700’s it is documented to have existed at least as early as 1785. Originally it was constructed as a tavern called the Ordinary at the sign of the Black Horse. Local tradition has it the George Washington visited the home but this has never been verified. It was used as the Confederate military headquarters during the winter of 61-62 when over 40,000 troops were camped in the Centreville area. The headquarters was a short walk away at the Grimsby house (Four Chimney House) which stood where the ramp on 28 and 66 is now located. This home is an excellent example of Potomac River architecture and is the sole survivor of the original “village of Newgate.”
Directions (there is interpretive signage):
From the intersection of 28 and 29 take 29 E toward Fairfax.
Turn left onto Braddock Road at second light.
(NOTE: As you turn down Braddock, note the low stone wall on your right. This is part of the Royal Oaks site. Royal Oaks was built in 1770 and was named for the trees that lined the drive from Braddock Road to the house. It was occupied by officers of both armies, including Mosby, and was the headquarters of Gen. McDowell and Gen. Pope. It was carefully dismantled in 1959 and moved to Fauquier County where it has never been reassembled).
Turn right onto Mt. Gilead Road
Bear left at St. John’s Church
Mt. Gilead will be on the left
2. St. Johns Episcopal Church
The original church was constructed and consecrated on July 14th, 1851. The forerunner was constructed in 1746 at the intersection where Braddock Rd crosses Rocky Run west of Rte 28. It was used and occupied for almost the entire civil war used alternately as a hospital and a campground. At one point it was burned and was rebuilt on the same foundation in 1867. The cemetery contains the final resting places of a number of civil war soldiers and many names from Centreville’s past.
From Mt. Gilead take Mt. Gilead Road back toward Braddock Road
The church is on the left before the road bears right.
Mt. Gilead and St. Johns are within sight of each other.
3. The Harrison House
It is believed to have been constructed about 1840. It is a two story white frame structure with stone walk-in basement and chimney. It is believed that services for St Johns were held here while the church was occupied during the civil war.
From St. Johns church, take Mt. Gilead Road back toward Braddock Road. The house is on the right where Mt. Gilead Road intersects Braddock Road
4. The Havener House
It is unknown the exact time this home was constructed but insurance information places the date at 1790 and photographs document its existence during the civil war. At one point it was an inn and it was used as an aid station during the civil war. In 1912 it served as Centreville’s Post Office and in the 1920’s was a combination private residence and general store.
As you look at the house notice the “Stone House” in the back. This building was originally one of the first freestanding gas stations in America. (At that time stations were part of a general store.) It was originally located on Rte 29 and was moved here in the late 80’s to protect it from development. The stone used in its construction was from the chimneys of the “4 Chimney House”, one of the original buildings in the village of Newgate. The same stone that was used in the original construction of this building was put in the stone foundation when the building was moved.
From Harrison House turn right on Braddock Road. House will be on the right about 1 block down from Harrison House
5. The Old Stone Church
Original construction was completed in 1855 and it was used as a hospital during the 1st and 2nd battles of Manassas. It is thought to have been the army’s first use of a Mobile surgical Hospital as it saw use after the Battle of Blackburns Ford in July of 1861. The original structure was destroyed in the 2nd battle and the church was rebuilt in 1870. A stone addition to the church was completed in 1945.
Directions: Across the street from the Havener House
6, 7 & 17. Miscellaneous Trenches
During General Johnstons occupation of Centreville late in 1861 a large system of earthworks was created for the Confederate defense. They were part of a system, which extended 17 miles between Centreville, Union Mills, Occoquan and Dumfries. There were over 5 miles of earthworks with 13 forts at key positions.
The largest of which was “Artillery Hill” which stood on the western side of the intersection of Old Centreville Rd and Rte 29. In spring of 1862 the confederate army abandoned these earthworks while facing a much, much larger union force but not before pulling off one of the greatest deceptions in military history. They bought themselves time to escape by creating the impression that they were a much larger force than the union general had thought. They did this by creating fake cannon made out of tree sections painted black. These were called “Quaker” guns.
While much of the trench line has fallen prey to developers evidence of these earthworks can still be found in these locations. In addition they can be seen at Mt. Gilead and St. Johns Church. In the fall or winter as you travel south on Union Mill Rd look between the road and the houses of Little Rocky Run and there is a large section of intact trench running parallel for a good ways.
Directions to #6 Pickwick Trenches (there is interpretive signage):
From the Old Stone Church Right onto Braddock Road, Left onto Rt. 29, Left onto Pickwich Road Trenches are on the right.
You can also take Mt. Gilead to Warton Lane, Right on Wharton Land, Right on Pickwick and trenches will be on the left.
Directions to #7 Deerfield Ridge Trench:
From the trench at Pickwich take Pickwich Road back to Rt. 29, Right onto Route 29
Left onto Old Centreville Road at second light
Deerfield Ridge is on the left up from the Burger King
Right onto Sawteeth Way (townhouse development)
Bear Right, Right onto Saint Hubert Lane, Left on Gothic Drive (when you turn, you’ll be facing the trench. Notice how it’s surrounded by townhomes).
Directions to #17 (See #17 below.)
The original log structure within the walls of this home originally stood under Artillery Hill. Over the years a kitchen, additional rooms and a wrap porch have been added. In 1965 it was moved to its present location and a full basement and patio were added.
From Deerfield Ridge, take Old Centreville Road to Rt. 28
Left onto Rt. 28 at light, Right onto New Braddock Road at next light
Left at stoplight, Centrewood Drive, to immediate Left on Old Centreville Road (next to the Methodist Church, it’s a cul-de-sac)
Sunnyside is on the right next to daycare center – house number is 6321
9. Confederate Railroad
The first railroad ever constructed solely for military use terminated near this spot. It was constructed and used during the Confederate occupation of Centreville to ferry supplies from Manassas Junction to the 40,000+ troops in Centreville. The rail line was abandoned when the confederates withdrew in spring of 1862. The rails were later pulled up by the union army and used to repair other rail lines.
Directions (there is an interpretive sign):
From Sunnyside, make a left onto Old Centreville Road, follow until it dead-ends on Compton
Right on Compton Road
Unfinished Railroad is on the right .35 miles from your turn.
The sign is just before Richard Simpson Lane
10. Union Mills Archeological Sites
This site contains two spectacular examples of Civil War forts as well as 19th century mill ruins and a prehistoric soapstone quarry. It was strategically significant during the Civil War and it was occupied by either Confederate or Union forces throughout the war. The bridge at Union Mills for the Orange & Alexandria railroad was destroyed more times than any other bridge in the war. Its topography was recognized early on for its waterpower and a series of mills were constructed along the tributaries of Bull Run. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places it is located in the picturesque Balmoral subdivision. The land the forts are on is owned by Fairfax County.
From the Confederate railroad, turn around and take Compton Road back across Rt. 28 to Balmoral Greens Road
Right onto Union Mill Road/Balmoral Greens Ave. – go approximately 7 miles
Just past golf course entrance approx. 50 feet you will see an interpretive sign on the left
11. Orchard Hill
Orchard Hill was reportedly built in 1740. Remodeling was done in the 1940s, including the removal of a partition and a large living room with two fireplaces was created. There is a cemetery in the backyard with 11 unmarked gravestones. Orchard Hill is currently being used as a community center for The Ponds community.
As you leave Union Mills Archeological Sites take Balmoral Greens Road back across Compton Road (will become Union Mill Road)
Take Union Mill Road back toward Rt. 29 (as you go, watch the strip of woods to your left between the road and the homes in Little Rocky Run. Trench lines run the length of the road parallel to Union Mill Road)
Cross over New Braddock Road at the light and go left on old Braddock Road at the next light.
Make a left on Orchard Hill Lane, then a left on Orchard Lane, The home is currently being used as a community center for the neighborhood.
12. Level Green
Level Green is a 29th century farmhouse that began as a hewn-log 18th century plantation house. A portion of the house existed before 1741, possibly as early as 1728. Richard Omonhundro was the original occupant. Tenants for all but a few of its finest two hundred years occupied the house. A few alterations have been made such as the addition of a kitchen-garage wing on the notable feature because it’s a ten-foot wide chimney.
As you leave Orchard Hill comes back out and make a right on Braddock Road
Make a right on Union Mill Road at the light
Right on New Braddock Road
(As you go, watch the strip of woods between the road and the homes on the left. Trench lines run the length of the road parallel to Union Mills Road)
Left on Singletons Way, Right on Winding Ridge Way. Midway through the street, you will see on your right a single family home almost hidden between the townhomes on the right. There is parking in the front. This is Level Green.
13. Cabells Mill
Built before 1800 this old mill was most likely built by William Carr Lane. Over the years it has been known by many names such as Rocky Run Mill, Tripletts Mill & Pittmans Mill. The name Cabell is thought to have come from Edward Cople, a miller who occupied the mill during the civil war. Eventually it was purchased by David & Eleanor Lawrence who used at a summer home until it was bequeathed to the park authority upon their death in 1969.
From level Green take New Braddock Road to Rt. 28. Right onto Rt. 28, Right onto Walney Road. Approx. .3 miles up Walney, Cabells Mill is on the right.
Thought to have been constructed in 1768 by Thomas Brown, a prominent Virginia farmer. Eventually it was sold in 1844 to Lewis Machen who named it Walney after a small island near Lanceshire, England where his family had lived. It was purchased in 1935 by Elleanor Lawrence as part of the 678 acres estate which included Cabells Mill. As a part of her estate it was willed to the Fairfax County Park Authority in 1969.
From Cabells Mill, Right onto Walney Road, House is on the left just past Cabells Mill.
15. The Cross Farmhouse
Perhaps the last remaining architectural example of a turn of the century farmhouse left standing in the Sully district. Several of the trees on the property may date to the land grant period or before. They are a rarity in their own right as most of the trees in the area where cut for firewood during the occupation of Centreville during the civil war. The home is currently being renovated so no picture was possible at the time of this writing.
From Walney make a left on Walney Road, then a right on Walney Park Drive, The home is on the right as you enter the new subdivision
Originally constructed in 1726, it was home to 5 generations of Turbervilles from 1727 until 1952. It is still owned and occupied by ancestors of that family. It is one of the oldest houses in Fairfax County and is thought to be the sister home to Sully Plantation.
From the Cross Farmhouse come back out Walney Park and take a right on Walney. Approx. 3/10ths of a mile beyond Poplar Tree Road lies the entrance to Leeton. It is marked by a stone entrance feature on each side of the driveway with the name Leeton on the left monument and 1727 on the right
17. Battery Ridge Trench (see #6 miscellaneous trenches)
From Leeton make a left on Walney Road and go back to Rt. 28. Go right onto Rt. 29, Rt. Onto Stone Road. Go approx .8 miles to Right onto Batter Ridge Road.
18. Lanes Mill
Lanes Mill appears to have been contructed in the 1760’s, prior to the Revolution. It was built a the confluence of the Big Bocky Run and cub Run. The ruins are a classic example of one of the oldest forms of light industry. This site contains ruins of one grist mill, a shell pit and trailrace, two mill racew and a saw mill. It was owned by the Lane family for approximately 108 years and is currently eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
From Battery Ridge go left back onto Stone Road
Go across Rt. 29 at the intersection or park at the Metro lot.
19. Hutchison House
Built in 1750 as the home of John & Rosemond Hutchison.
From Lanes Mill Left back onto Rt. 29, Right onto Pleasant Valley Road
Corss over Braddock Road and go approx 1.8 miles to the home on the right.
Of course, there is the Manassas Battlefield Park just 2.9 miles west of Centreville on Rt. 29. The Stone Bridge is on your right just past the quarry and just down the road from that is the Stone House. There is much more to this park than the visitor center so plan some time and enjoy this entire park has to offer.
Sully Plantation is just a little more than 5 miles north of Centreville on Rt. 28. This is a spectacular reconstruction of colonial life and features monthly events mirroring colonial life.
To the east of Centreville lies the Ox Hill Battlefield represented by a marker. This battle cost the lives of 2 Generals and a large number of soldiers. It is located on Monument Drive, so named because of the monument to this battle.
Just south of Centreville about 2.7 miles on Rt. 28 lies the Battlefield of Blackburns Ford. It is represented by interpretive signage. This battle was considered to be the first of the war and preceded the 1st battle of Bull Run. (There is a Civil War Site sign indicating the right turn to this site just before the bridge into Manassas.)
*As you drive down Rt. 28 you will see a McDonalds on your right. While this was being developed a relic hunter searching behind the bulldozers discovered a grave. He contracted the proper authorities and with the cooperation of the developer, the support of the local relic hunters and the Smithsonian, 6 graves were discovered. These soldiers are thought to have been casualties of the Battle at Blackburns Ford. They are awaiting re-internment.
Centreville is an area rich in history. There are links to our past under all of the soil in Centreville. We must do our best to protect these links and see that they are brought to light.