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Richmond Highway Plan Will Affect Cemetery Or Stables

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A sign in the Mount Vernon district of Fairfax County sides with the Woodlawn Stables in the U.S. Route 1 widening debate; the road project will either bisect the stables or a cemetery. 
Michael Pope
  A sign in the Mount Vernon district of Fairfax County sides with the Woodlawn Stables in the U.S. Route 1 widening debate; the road project will either bisect the stables or a cemetery. 

In a graveyard atop the hill at Woodlawn Baptist Church, the sound of rushing traffic is an ever-present feature.

"We're obviously right on top on the road, I mean, people driving by can see these beautiful monuments, very historic looking," says Pastor Travis Hilton. "They don't make tombstones like this anymore."

More than 100 of these graves could be exhumed if the Federal Highway Administration approves a plan to widen U.S. Route 1 — known in this area as Richmond Highway — along its current route. Hilton wants the federal government should build the road to the south of the church cemetery.

"It's not just about dead people who no longer are here, but it's about the living because we believe that those who are here, who have worshipped here for generations, that we share something in common that is eternal in value," says Hilton.

A few hundred feet away, it's the Woodlawn Horse Stables that would be in jeopardy if federal officials went with the southern bypass. Tim Mitchell says the graves should be moved to save the popular horse stables.

"I would say graves can be moved a little easier," he says. "It's probably costly, but they can still stay in the church property."

State and federal elected officials have endorsed a plan to widen the road where it is, saving the horse stables but exhuming the graves. That's a problem for the National Trust for Historic Preservation because it would encroach on a Frank Lloyd Wright house and a historic plantation estate.

"We understand the need for the mitigation of traffic, but paramount for us as the National Trust for Historic Preservation is that we protect our history, which is our most important asset," says Germonique Ulmer, a senior director of public affairs for the trust.

Last week, the Department of Defense allocated $180 million to the Federal Highway Administration to widen the road. Federal officials are expected to make a decision this summer.

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Michael Pope is also a reporter with the Connection Newspapers who provides special coverage of Northern Virginia for WAMU 88.5. His story for the Connection can be found at ArlingtonConnection.com

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