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Steward Sought for Century-Old Farmhouse and Seven Acres of History

Boxhill Farm in Annandale offers serenity within a half-mile of the Beltway.

It was curiosity that brought Nell Miller to Boxhill Farm and delight that made her stay as the sixth steward of the idyllic, seven-acre property with roots going back to 1685.

For 25 years, Nell, a retired teacher, and her husband, Ron, were happily ensconced in their Annandale home two miles from Boxhill Farm, with no thought of moving.  But, one day they received a brochure in the mail advertising luxury homes in the area, including one on 8316 Queen Elizabeth Boulevard, a place called Boxhill Farm.

“We are not the luxury home types,” Nell said. “But I was curious to see what a 100-year-old house on seven acres was in our neighborhood. I wondered where it was.”

Nell, a history buff who grew up in a Nebraska farmhouse with parents who are antique dealers, went to look at the property.  She was immediately taken with the old house, originally a simple, four-room farm home built around 1897, then carefully expanded to 2,600 square feet through several additions.

Nell told Ron about her find. Ron recalled, “When she came home that night, Nell told me, ‘This is a house I could retire in.’”

Ron visited the home and was impressed with the park-like property, which includes a pond and a stream, all a half-mile from the Beltway. “We are both outdoors people,” said Ron. “This was 7 acres of boxwoods, walnut trees…it was just gorgeous.”  Within days, the couple, who “always liked old homes and properties with big trees,” had arranged to buy the house.

The Millers said they learned that the property, which is bordered on three sides by Wakefield Park, has a rich history. It was part of a large tract of wilderness land bought from the original Jamestown grantee by William Fitzhugh around 1685, farmed for tobacco, and then sold off in parcels. In the 1700s, the nearby estates of Ravensworth, Oak Hill, and Ossian Hill were built on some of those parcels, places that Patriot luminaries such as George Washington, George Mason and Thomas Jefferson likely visited.

The Millers learned Boxhill Farm was later used for farming and a dairy until a botanist bought it and built the original structure in the late 1800s.  The botanist, who was also a landscaper, planted hundreds of boxwoods on the farm property. However, the Millers believe the Boxhill Farm name was actually given by a subsequent owner who ran an antique business there. They said that it probably refers to the hundreds of American and English boxwoods on the property, which sits on a hill.

Ron, former owner of a commercial construction company, said that when neighbors first heard Boxhill Farm was being bought by someone in construction, there was a fear that he would try to develop the property. “We would never do that,” Ron noted. “This is such a special property. It’s one of the last examples of what a blue-collar farm would have looked like in the early 1900s.”

Ron was fascinated with the evidence of the home’s origins, including a stone foundation root cellar, thick plaster walls and original pine flooring. The room that he now uses as a dining room was once the only common room of the original house, and evidence of an old fireplace is still visible. “I’ve been told the original kitchen would have been outside, a lean-to in the back of the house,” Ron said.

The four-bedroom, 2.5-bath home has had four additions. “All were nicely done and period-specific,” said Ron. “The house looks like one unit.”

In the 13 years they have been there, the Millers have not expanded the home any further, but they have updated some features, including the kitchen. The kitchen, which is a step up from the family room, has brick walls, wood beams and a wood-burning fireplace with Delft tiles over the hearth. A slanted ceiling offers three skylights to flood the room with natural light.

“When we re-did it, we wanted it to look like a farmhouse kitchen but not country cute,” Nell noted. Black granite countertops give an old, soapstone look, and the solid cherry cabinets are slightly distressed with cut nails to give the illusion of age. A bay window area serves as a breakfast nook with views of the pond.

“When we moved in, it was like the furniture we had was meant for this 100-year-old home,” Nell pointed out. “It gave me the shivers.” Among those pieces are a walnut dresser once owned by Nell’s’ great-great-great grandfather that fits perfectly in a bedroom.

The seven-foot deep, spring-fed pond in the front yard is a magnet for the abundant area wildlife, including  fox, deer, ground hogs, turtle and crayfish. A state-stocked trout stream that forms one of the farm’s borders flows into Lake Accotink.

The home’s exterior is striking, with a red, standing-seam tin roof and stone walls and patios. A white stained cedar fence runs along three sides of the property. “The fence is probably a bit upscale, but it’s meant to be period-specific,” Ron noted. “I like the way it delineates the house.”

Former owners who were antique dealers placed antique farm equipment around the property as sculptural artwork. “There’s a hand-crank well pump, a small garden plow, and a sit-down, stone grinding wheel that actually still works,” Ron noted.

Inside, former owners left an 1890 Seth Thomas clock on the fireplace mantel. It was passed on with the house through two owners before reaching the Millers. “It’s not restored but it functions,” Ron noted. “I’d love to take it in to Antiques Road Show.”

“The first few years we were here, we tried to figure out if the property would qualify for historic registries,” Ron added, noting he believes that, with the help of an expert in such matters, a reasonable case could be made that it qualifies. Boxhill Farm is listed as a Braddock area historic site on the web site called “A Look Back at Braddock,” which is a companion site to the book, “Braddock's True Gold: 20th-Century Life in the Heart of Fairfax County.”   

The couple has enjoyed and shared the home over the years. Ron has held many company picnics at the farm, with as many as 200 guests, along with live bands, pony rides, even golf Frisbee tournaments. They have also hosted a garden tour for Master Gardeners from Green Spring Gardens. “It has been so amazing to be able to do this, to have all these people here to enjoy it with us,” said Nell.

The couple will be relocating to the Shenandoah Valley to be closer to family and to spend more time on a vineyard they own there. They have listed Boxhill Farm with Chip Battle, an agent with Weichert Realtors.

The asking price is $1,375,000.

“We will not intentionally sell this property to a developer,” Ron said. “That’s the biggest legacy we can pass on.”

So, the goal for real estate agent Chip Battle in finding new owners for Boxhill Farm is clear. “We are looking for people to cherish this property,” he said. “If you own a bulldozer, don’t apply.”

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