Woodlawn Stables Owner: 'Honored to Have Maintained Cultural Heritage'

Patch asked stable owner Cindy Mitchell to weigh in on National Trust for Historic Preservation's future plans for property her stable business has leased from them for 34 years.

After it was made known that Arcadia and the National Trust for Historic Preservation have kicked around expansive plans for the land and property at Woodlawn Plantation, some of which is currently leased to Woodlawn Stables, Patch asked stables owner Cindy Mitchell to weigh in with her thoughts on the future plans for the historic 126 acres and mansion, which dates back to 1805.

The stable business lease on the land from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which dates back 34 years, is set to expire in 2016. After requesting an extension of the lease, the National Trust turned her down.

“As a responsible organization, we are focused on Woodlawn’s future as a vibrant historic site, which includes consideration of all options for this land. Therefore, we will not renew Scanlin Farms’ current lease that expires in 2016. The lease is not sustainable and extending it would not be a prudent business decision," said David J. Brown, executive vice president and chief preservation officer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, in an August news release.

In a National Trust article about financial challenges faced by the Woodlawn property, the Trust writes: "That's where the Arcadia Center comes in. The brainchild of restaurateur Michael Babin, Arcadia not only allows chefs and farmers to bring Woodlawn-grown food to local tables, but also enables Woodlawn to extend the visitor's experience to the landscape."

Meanwhile, here's what Woodlawn Stables owner Cindy Mitchell had to say, in response to a question from Patch, about her take on the future of the property:

"I don't really have much to say about what the National Trust for Historic Preservation will do with the stables' property after I am gone. It does not belong to me though I have cared for it as if it were my own for the last number of decades. 

It is an incredibly special place, to me and many others, as you have seen over the last year and a half. The healthy growth fostered in the generations of students, both adults and children, who have come through our doors is something I look on with pride. 

As a native Virginian and a native Alexandrian, I am honored to have maintained this piece of our cultural heritage for those who have enjoyed its benefits.

So many people, it seems these days, are not from this area and can not or do not accept the responsibility of passing on those benefits to others." 

For more about the future of Woodlawn Plantation, read:

  • Arcadia Proposes Restaurant at Woodlawn Plantation?
  • National Trust Will Consider 'All Options' for Woodlawn Stables Land
  • National Trust Will Not Renew Woodlawn Stables Lease
  • Federal Highway Administration Offers Alternative Route 1 Widening Option
  • Residents Voice Opposition to Route 1 Widening Plans
  • Richmond Highway Development May Spare Woodlawn Stables
  • Letter to the Editor: Arcadia's Future Plans for Woodlawn


Tiff February 13, 2013 at 08:50 PM
I am speechless...but keep replaying the quote in my head from the Exec VP who says "it would not be a prudent business decision". Very sad for those who think everything is a business decision...I own a business so I DO understand it to a degree but we are talking about perserving an historical site. I may be biased, I grew up at Woodlawn Stables, literally, spend my entire childhood there and still have the same best friends I met there to this day. It sounds neato and oh so trendy to have a "fresh garden" and restaurant, but once that becomes a burden on the trust and the novelty wears off, what happens next? This working stable is tried and true. Nothing trendy, just real life back to basics. Don't ever ever give up Cindy!!
Mark February 13, 2013 at 10:02 PM
The restaurant idea doesn't bother me. What bothers me is the idea of a bypass running right through the land where the horses now graze. I have a friend who works in politics and he said this is all about Ft. Belvoir i.e. the U.S. Army, i.e. the Federal Government wanting to ease congestion on route 1 to make it easier for their commuters to get in and out of the Ft. Belvoir gates twice each day. He also said that George Washington specifically stipulated in his will that the land where the stables are now should always be a stable. So, the stables have existed for much longer than just the 34 years that Ms. Mitchell has run it. What can exemplify "preserving history" more than operating the land exactly as George Washington requested. It appears to me, and I am only speculating, that Woodlawn Plantation is not bringing much money into the National Trust for Historic Preservation and that they've brought this Arcadia group in to try and make some more money for them. At the same time, Ft. Belvoir wants the Bybass and I guess will pay them off for the right to build it. It is about the $$$
Mary Dove February 13, 2013 at 11:25 PM
Yes, your friend was correct about George Washington's Will. http://gwpapers.virginia.edu/documents/will/text.html "Wherefore, I give & bequeath to the said Lawrence Lewis & Eleanor Parke Lewis, his wife, and their heirs, the residue of my Mount Vernon Estate, comprehended within the following description--viz.--All the land North of the Road leading from the ford of Dogue run to the Gum spring as described in the devise of the other part of the tract, and including the entirety of the fine commercial horse back riding camp and stable facility which shall forever more be preserved for the exclusive use of overpriviledged offspring of local elites, thence with the rectangular line to the back line (between Mr Mason & me)--thence with that line westerly, along the new double ditch to Dogue run, by the tumbling Dam of my Mill; thence with the said run to the ford aforementioned; to which I add all the Land I possess West of the said Dogue run, & Dogue Crk--bounded Easterly & Southerly thereby; together with the Mill, Distillery, and all other houses & improvements on the premises, making together about two thousand Acres--be it more or less- the fate of which shall be henceforth documented by the Mount Vernon Patch, or its assignees and successors."
Mark February 15, 2013 at 08:38 PM
nice sarcasm. I looked, you're right, it's not in his will. I am sure he'd be happy with its use as a stable though.
Mark February 15, 2013 at 08:41 PM
Where are the environmenalists when we need them. They should be protesting against this. The area not only has a stable, but provides a natural habitat for a lot of animals. I see ducks on the grounds all the time, especially on the part of the land near dogue creek.


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