West's Grove


Just below Fort Hunt Road lies the ruins of West's Grove, an important early plantation in this area. Built by Hugh West around 1748, it capitalized on its close and favorable position to the newly forming town of Alexandria.

The West family was important in Virginia and Fairfax County politics in the 18th century. Hugh West himself was a Burgess from Fairfax County, a vestryman. and a trustee of the town of Alexandria. HIS son, John, followed in his father's footsteps with continued public work until he died in 1777.

The home passed from the West's family in 1814 to a Col. Augustine J. Smith who bought the plantation from the last West, James, who died in 1814. Smith is known to have enlarged the original 155 acres to over 1,800. This included the draining of the swamps along the Potomac River and building a dike. This increased his land holding considerably, but the embankments were cut after his death and never repaired. He is also known for his vast building spree where he had no less than thirteen new buildings built for the much enlarged plantation. These included larger slave quarters for the forty slaves he owned.

Smith died in 1830 and after several years the plantation was sold to Dennis Johnston, a man noted for his poor grammar. He did little enlarging to the plantation, still known as West's Grove. He was probably kept busy repairing all of Smith's additions. Mr. Johnston died several years before the Civil War and his wife ran the plantation in his place.

In 1862 the 39th New York Volunteers (Garibaldi Guard) occupied the plantation and later destroyed it completely. An effort is being made to preserve the site as an archaeological heritage.

The source material for this essay includes: The Alexandria Gazette. The George Washington Ball map, and various Edith Sprouse articles on local history.

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