Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Curse of the Contractor--May He Rot in Hell

It's hard to tell in this photo taken in the 90s, but the fate of Aspen Grove was not a pleasant one. Sitting on the fringes of Washington, D.C. in the bedroom community of Fairfax, VA, the acreage was bound to draw attention. And, it did.

A contractor bought the place, planning to knock it down and build up neat stacks of suburban condos. Luckily, the house's important history and some tenacious neighbors managed to save it from the wrecking ball, but in Fairfax's infinite wisdom (did I mention that's sarcasm?) they decided the contractor could knock down the outbuildings and gardens and keep just the house and front boxwood maze intact. Hence this picture that looks deceptively pleasant if you didn't know that the current owners actually own about 25' of land on each side of the mansion and the boxwood maze out front is community property. The front pasture (best sledding in the universe) was divided into two rows of facing condos. The road winds up a covered over Pohick Creek which does not appear to exist to the occupants of this land. It comes up by the huge front English boxwood maze and is greeted in back by more flanking condos that cover up what were two carriage houses and a barn and another English boxwood maze out back. The yard is filled with concrete and towering condos staring down at the antebellum mansion as if they were afraid to look away.

There's a strange interaction now between the old world and new in this yard. It's the greatest travesty I've ever seen. Should I win the lottery, I'd buy them all out, tear it all down and start again with the beautiful grape and wisteria arbors, the apple orchard, the gray barn, and two little cottages that housed lots of George Mason University students over the years. I'd put back the American Boxwoods and the pear tree, the boxwood maze, and the well.

I wonder sometimes if they even bothered to bring an archealogist on site as the grounds there were filled with relics. I wonder if all this modern traffic atop of ancient ground has created a disturbance. Will the memories of the families living there now invade the tragic and anguished history of blood and fighting that had once covered the grounds?

I have to wonder at the person who could be so caught up in profit that he could look at this historic building and beautifully charming southern landscape and say, "I see dollar signs, tear it down!"

As I said, may he rot in hell!


  1. I agree Autumn about him rotting in hell! i so enjoy your blog and Mike and Julie's-these stories make me want to take my camera to whereever the nearest 'haunted' place is to me and do some ghost hunting of my own! best to you as always!

  2. Let me know what region you're in and I can probably tell you of a few places. I like to collect haunted spots and especially pretty cemeteries in case I go to visit there.

  3. Hey Devin
    Silly me. I didn't realize you're in The Valley. I can probably help you to find cool places to go to photograph. I'd start with City of Mesa Cemetery--amazing! I'm getting interviewed by AZ Republic in a few minutes, I think it's coming out on Saturday in the Ahwatukee section. I'll let you know. The reporter was intrigued by ghost hunting--as if everyone.

  4. Autumn, when are you going to be in the paper and what is the subject? Will it be in the Phoenix paper too? I only get the weekend paper but I will pick up the one your story is in.

    I love your stories on Aspen Grove. I hate when historical places are ruined or destroyed by contractors that want to put up more condos!!!

    Devin, you should spend the night at the many haunted places that are in Arizona. There are lots to choice from. We like the old charm of Bisbee and Jerome which seem to have plenty of haunts around town as well as their hotels and B&B's. Mike and I plan to go to some of them this year, just don't know when....Julie

  5. Mike & Julie;
    The article comes out this Saturday the 7th in the AZ Republic in the Ahwatukee section.
    I'd add Globe to the spooky list. Spookiest cemetery in AZ: A toss up between Bisbee's and Congress Pioneer Cemetery (I'd probably pick the latter because it's out in the desert all alone). Scariest night's sleep, Jerome Grand or Hotel Vendome Prescott. Check out my pic's some time on MySpace "Autumnforest Ghosthunter" and check out an ongoing study I'm doing of Double Buttes Cemetery at I-10 and Broadway. You might want to check the place out and see what you get. I'm always excited to see what others are capturing there. Keep your eyes on MVD Ghostchasers site too. We have some events coming up like a tour of Pioneer Cemetery downtown on March 29th (we wear costumes and play the founding people of Phoenix speaking at our gravesites--we do it again in October (hopefully as a lantern tour as ladies in white ghosts...) We also have an event called the "Cemetery Crawl" that I co-organize with our group leader on April 18th which is based on "The Amazing Race" show--a road rally with clues and trips to cemeteries around the state. People go in groups of three, so you'd have to find a third wheel to go with you, someone to use a camcorder to record the craziness, one person to drive, and one to read directions and clues. It's a workshop and if you're interested, let me know and I can have our leader send you an invite in April.

  6. I often walk on the Aspen Grove Road, just off Roberts Road, and was just at the house yesterday. The house is still lovely, although now painted yellow, and is owned by a woman who also owns a gift and garden shop in an old store in Fairfax City. I always admire the house and remember it before the townhouses were erected. Didn't know about the ghost(s) before, though.