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Group Volunteers to Restore Reeves Farmhouse

by ARLnow.com September 27, 2012 at 10:20 am 5,791 13 Comments

A group that wants to re-purpose the historic Reeves Farmhouse and its grounds as a “learning center” has pledged more than 3,000 volunteer hours to help with needed repairs to the farmhouse.

The Reevesland Learning Center is a group of Bluemont, Boulevard Manor and Dominion Hills residents who want to convert the Reevesland property (at 400 N. Manchester Street, near Bluemont Park) to a center for learning about “the science and practice of growing and eating healthy foods and building relationships.”

The group has been trying for more than a year to convince Arlington County to embrace its vision for the farmhouse, which has remained mostly dormant since it was purchased by the county following the death of owner Nelson Reeves — Arlington’s last dairy farmer — in 2000.

Arlington County, however, has been seeking other ideas for the farmhouse, which it estimates is in need of more than $1 million worth of repairs and rehabilitation. Last month the county issued a Request for Proposals from any entity that wanted to use the property in exchange for paying for the rehab work.

In a new letter to members of the Arlington County Board, however, leaders of the Reevesland Learning Center group said that it has gotten more than 230 people to pledge more than 3,000 volunteer hours for a “Habitat for Humanity-style” rehabilitation of the farmhouse.

“This is an unprecedented demonstration of grassroots community support and civic engagement for the highest and best adaptive reuse of the farmhouse as the Reevesland Learning Center,” the group wrote.

No word yet on what other proposals the county might be considering at this point. See the full Reevesland Learning Center letter, after the jump.

September 24, 2012

Dear Chair Mary Hynes, Jay Fisette, Libby Garvey, Walter Tejada and Chris Zimmerman:

As board members of the Reevesland Learning Center, we are writing to inform you that more than 230 Arlington residents, teachers and others have pledged to volunteer more than 3,000 hours of Habitat for Humanity-style sweat equity as part of our contribution to rehabilitate the historic Reevesland farmhouse. The volunteers represent a diverse, inter-generational collaboration of Arlingtonians. This is an unprecedented demonstration of grassroots community support and civic engagement for the highest and best adaptive reuse of the farmhouse as the Reevesland Learning Center. The Center is dedicated to building on Nelson Reeves’ legacy of growing food, knowledge and community–and toward this end, the Center also reflects the priorities of the County’s recently established Urban Agriculture Task Force

In submitting this letter of intent in lieu of responding directly to the County’s RFP, we want to stress the importance of developing a partnership between our grassroots citizen’s organization and our County government. The future of Reevesland and the farmhouse is too important to be determined merely by the highest bidder. As Arlington citizens concerned with preserving and enhancing the true legacy of the Reevesland farmhouse, we believe it is essential that our County government fulfill its ownership obligation by rehabilitating one of Arlington’s historic landmarks for contemporary use that reflects the County’s highest values: the wellness and education of our children and adults, strengthening our sense of community, and respect for citizen participation..

For the past 18 months, the Reevesland Learning Center has successfully managed a large cluster of raised growing beds on the Reevesland property where Nelson Reeves maintained his iconic vegetable garden for more than half a century. The Reevesland Learning Garden has been used by hundreds of Arlington students and teachers and families not only for planting health-enhancing crops but also for curriculum-based learning, especially in science and math. Starting with the Ashlawn Elementary School, the timely work and methodology of the Reevesland Learning Center is expanding to other Arlington schools. The next logical step for the high-priority reuse of the Reevesland property is the collaborative rehabilitation of the farmhouse where the Reevesland Learning Center can bring together more Arlington students, teachers and adults who want to learn about growing and preparing healthy foods and building information-sharing relationships and community.

Enclosed is the list of Reevesland Learning Center volunteers who are ready to help rehabilitate the farmhouse, and recent articles about the work of the Reevesland Learning Center that appeared in the Washington Post, Sun Gazette and Arlington Magazine. Also enclosed is our concept paper outlining our vision for the adaptive reuse of the Reevesland farmhouse. We look forward to working with County officials to implement this vision on behalf of all of Arlington’s children and adults.


Joan Horwitt
Ron Battocchi
Nancy Fitzgerald
Karen Levitan
Sandra Kalscheur
Sarah Munson

  • JimPB

    Great idea.
    Terrific citizen commitment.

    ARLCo board — unleash the citizens for a worthy endeavor.

  • G Clifford Prout (now moderated for extra purity)

    I think it would be a great place for a homeless shelter or halfway house. Maybe they could raise their own crops while they’re there.

  • Dr_Klahn

    Will they be able to teach me how to grow my own heirloom, hand-sown, organic, gluten-free, steel-cut oats?

  • Arlington

    Why not make it into a Gun Range?

  • Strato

    If you go back and read the two building evaluation reports, you can see that this type of ad-hoc amateur rehabilitation of the structure is what has led to its decrepit state. Lots of poor remedial solutions to problems have made things worse.

    The county was right to hire professional engineers and architects to evaluate the needs of the property, and the recommendations are pretty clearly spelled out. The building needs a licensed contractor and code-compliant drawings, approved by the county’s engineers, to fully restore the building, and frankly for liability purposes the county needs that too.

    • Zanne

      I agree, the project should be professionally designed and executed, but see my separate comment below as well..

  • Twognomes

    Nice idea, but the key words in their letter are, “in lieu of responding directly to the County’s RFP”.

    If this project is subject to the RFP process, then it’s likely that this letter will not even be considered, as governmental entities tend to be quite strict about this sort of thing.

    • TJLinBallston

      I was about to add the same comment. Good call.

  • Dr_Klahn

    On second thought, I would have made it a brewery that grows it’s own organic hops and barley. And pumpkins for an annual pumpkin ale… with enough left over to start Arlington’s own community punkin’ chunkin’ festival. We’d launch into Bluemont park, and at the end volunteers would gather up the punkin’ chunks and donate them to local chefs, who would create their own pumpkin bread creations to be sold at an annual community bake sale. Proceeds of which would go toward a public education campaign to prevent car roll-overs and scooter scams. In the spring we’ll have a 5K where people can run around in circles on the property and the winner gets to pick the name of our annual spring ale.

    • bum

      Please send this to the board in the form of a letter.

  • Ted

    Like the Planetarium it’s educational, not recreational. So the County Board is institutionally incapable of approving the renovation.

    • emanon

      The County Board has/had nothing to do with the Planetarium. That’s the School Board. And while we all may have our doubts, one would certainly hope they have a focus things of educational value.

  • Zanne

    Re:Stratos comment about professional project design and management vs. the grass roots model proposed in the letter…there is no reason that the two must be mutually exclusive. If a dedicated group off volunteers is willing to provide hours of sweat equity laboring on the project there are ways to harness their energy and passion within the context of a professionally designed and engineered project. The GC would need to have or be willing to develop strategies for safely (indemnification) utilizing an unorthodox work force in appropriate parts of the project. Just because it’s not ‘typical’ or easy does not necessarily mean it is innately impossible. These people have a real love for this property and a desire to contribute their passion to the community. It should be part of the board’s mandate as representatives of the county’s citizens to honor their past investmemt, include them and utilize them as a resource. It is our government after all, not a business, and as such is able to do things a business can not or would not. That is the purpose of government in my view.


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