History of Riverside Gardens Area
In 1608, Captain John Smith sailed up the Potomac as far as the rapids just above Washington. During this exploratory mission, he visited the Dogue Indians. This particular branch of the tribe lived in the area near Collingwood Inn, where the springs still rise which Smith referred to as the "sweet waters." Many sailing vessels stopped to fill their water casks from these springs before starting the long return trip to England.
The Dogue Indians traveled inland to "Potomac path," which was their main north and south trail. This later became the original Route 1 to Richmond. The King of England granted the first land patent of the area to Captain Giles Brent, and he raised his family in this area. It was from their heirs that William Clifton purchased the land north of Little Hunting Creek. He built his home at Wellington, where he lived until 1767. At this time the land passed to the Washington family and became known as River Farm of the Mount Vernon Estate. The road which ran through the property was known as Clifton's Neck Road, later called Fort Hunt Road when the Army moved to Sheridan's Point (Fort Hunt Park).
When the Washingtons held the property and George was at Mount Vernon, his neighbors to the south at Belvoir were the Fairfaxes. George Mason of Gunston Hall owned the property north of River Farm beginning about 100 yards south of the present stone bridge over the George Washington Parkway. To the west, his nearest neighbor was Humphrey Peake. Peake had the Gum Springs area, named from a spring in the roots of a huge gum tree just north of the Washington property line (Old Mount Vernon Road). Upon distribution of property after Martha Washington's death, River Farms was passed to Tobias Leavy, an overseer and tutor who married into the Washington family. He shared this area with the other Washington heirs; however, his portion reverted to the Washington family upon his death.
After this period, the Quakers bought and moved into much of the farms' area including Woodland Plantation. There are many names appearing on the River Farms' area land deeds as Snowden, Hunter, Ballinger, Thompson, and the like. In our area about Civil War times appeared the names of William Hunter of Cedar Hill, and Jessie and Catherine Murray who held the land until 1892. In 1890 a railway from Alexandria to Mount Vernon was built through the Riverside Gardens area thence to Cedar Lane, Wittington and the bridge across Little Hunting Creek. Along the river at that time, other attractions were an amusement park, a bathing beach (said to be a favorite dueling place), and several summer homes. Also in 1892 the Federal Government received its first parcel of land from the State of Virginia at Sheridan's Point, known as the "Pelton Tract," later to become Fort Hunt.
About this same time the first public school in the area (operated by Fairfax County) was located at the corner of Fort Hunt Road and Chadwick Avenue. Summer homes continued to develop along the river and in the area until the building of the parkway, which was completed in 1936. The AB&W Bus Company purchased the Interurban Line in 1929 and stopped its operation upon completion of the parkway.
More recent names on land records since the turn of the century are Potomac Gardens, Inc.; Bureau of National Literature; Mount Vernon Parks, Inc., until 1941. In this year the name of Alice Buckey Torrey appears as holder of the property until 1955. Two other holders of the deed appear until Clarence W. Gosnell, Inc. took over the property in 1962. The community was judged First Prize Community by the Northern Virginia Builders' Association in 1964, and again in 1965. The first home was purchased by Stephen and Wanda David in March 1963 and the last home built was purchased by Harry and Mary Bradshaw in August 1966.
- Author Unknown
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