My husband's family moved out here in 1848. This was Benjamin Barton's summer home at first. It consisted of 44 acres and was bordered by Fairview on the North. He married Elisa Kennedy. They moved out from Alexandria about 10 years after they bought the property, and they stayed on it permanently, and they owned this area.
Benjamin Barton was kind of an interesting gentlemen. His silver was on display at the Corcoran Gallery. He was a clockmaker and worked with silver. He must have been an engineer at heart with no actual training - all smarts. When he got older he decided that he didn't want to come to town every day so he invented a shutter system that worked with the sun. When the sun would come up in the morning those shutters would open up as if the shop was open. When it would go down in the evening, the shutters would close. He was a bank president and member of the Friendship Fire Company and he went to the old Presbyterian Meeting House. He lived way up into his 80's.
Cracker Hall belonged to Benjamin Barton's brother. It was across Route 1 closer to the high school. The Union troops came out of Alexandria and took over Cracker Hall because it was a large brick house and used it for a hospital. We've never been quite clear as to whether they burned it or it burned by accident. The bricks from Cracker Hall were used to build fortifications around here. There's one at Bellehaven and one down at Ft. Lyon.
A neighboring farm on the top of the hill belonged to a Mr. Reid and as the family generations went on, one of the Bartons married a Reid. Benjamin Barton's daughter Lily married Franklin Pierce Reid who owned Fairview, and so eventually all the property was joined together. The old house City View, was torn down when they built the shopping center.
At one time it was a dairy farm from Penn-Daw up to Collard Street. This was dairy farm area in the 20's. There were just 9 or 10 families in the immediate Groveton area. Then it became an airport in about 1926. You can stand at Memco and see the Capitol and the Washington Monument - a long, long way. It's sort of startling because we have so few clear days. This is supposed to be the highest point in Fairfax County.
The airport really started when the government installed the beacon out there. A gentleman arrived and said "I have a plane. Would you mind if I used your cornfield?" That's about how it started. The government gave them the commission about the early 20's when the army pilots flew the air mail and flew the old Pitcairn biplanes. They'd fly at night and these beacons spotted all over the county were their guides, the only things they had. Flashing great distances, each beacon sent out its own particular code of lights so that they'd know just where they were and they'd use that airway. That beacon stood until 1959. Hundreds of airline pilots were trained right out here at the beacon and a lot of the celebrities. Arthur Godfrey soloed here. he kept the plane here for years when he was the radio announcer at WJSV.
There have been several different people who have operated the airport through the years of 1926 -1959. My husband ran the airport for a long time after W.W.II. I understand it is the second oldest airport in the whole area and that College Park is the oldest. That seems pretty much the birth of aviation as we know it today. I would just like to inject a thought that the next time you go flying on an airline, who knows, you might be flying with someone that learned right here.