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Virginia Museum For Sale After $2 Million Construction

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Collingwood Library and Museum in Alexandria, Va. houses historic books and artifacts.
Michael Pope
Collingwood Library and Museum in Alexandria, Va. houses historic books and artifacts.

A few miles up the Potomac River from Mount Vernon, Collingwood was once the home of George Washington's personal secretary, Tobias Lear. These days, visitors can find something else.

"We're here at Collingwood Library and Museum, located on the Potomac River on property that was once owned by George Washington," says Paul Frank, who launches into a tour of the collection.

There's a gold-plated copy of the Constitution, a Sioux chieftain's headdress and a replica of Paul Revere's lantern. The library and museum was the brainchild of a group of retired military officers who collect Americana.

The operation also has debt — a lot of it — after building the American Legacy Center, a $2 million event building next to the grand riverside estate. The original plan was to use the building to host weddings, lectures and community forums. But Frank says the revenue hasn't been enough to stay afloat, and the organization can't meet its obligations to the bank. So now the entire 9-acre estate is on the market for $6 million — American Legacy Center and all.

"A person could use this to house sports cars or valuable automobiles," says Frank. They could put in a small tennis court, volleyball court, and basketball court. Or they could simply use it as their party room."

Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland says he's concerned about what might happen at the site.

"If I have to guess, I think that you would have a developer coming in and trying to buy that property and put more than one home on it and subdivide it," he says.

The Fairfax County Park Authority looked at buying the property but turned it down. Hyland says he's also talking to leaders at the Mount Vernon Estate and other potential buyers in an effort to prevent this picturesque museum and library from becoming a new subdivision along the Potomac.

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