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Arlington Undecided Over Reevesland's Future

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The farmhouse on the Reevesland property, which is the site of the last working dairy farm in Arlington County. The dairy farm closed in 1955.
Michael Pope
The farmhouse on the Reevesland property, which is the site of the last working dairy farm in Arlington County. The dairy farm closed in 1955.

The house and property that was home to Arlington County's last dairy farm may be up on the auction block.

Reevesland was a dairy farm in a neighborhood, now known as Boulevard Manor, until 1955, when Nelson Reeves retired and began growing vegetables for his neighbors. By the time he died in 2000, he had become an object of neighborhood fascination, celebrated in a song his neighbors wrote called "The Ballad of Nelson Reeves."

"Nelson Reeves. Nelson Reeves. Growing tomatoes, beets and peas. Mile-high corn. Take what you please. Hi I'm your neighbor, Nelson Reeves," sings Joan Horwitt, who lives nearby.

For years, she's been trying to persuade county leaders to transform the property into a learning center where school children could study healthy eating. Arlington purchased the property back in 2001, but never did anything with it. Now the county board is considering a proposal to sell it.

"Actually, I'm shocked that the county would think of selling off some of Arlington's history to the highest bidder," she says.

Part of the problem is money. In order for the old farmhouse to become a public building, it would require a sprinkler system to fight fires and access for people with disabilities. That would cost about half a million dollars, money that would be difficult to justify, county officials say. Historic properties coordinator Michael Leventhal says selling the property for residential use would preserve it for future generations.

"The caveats would be that it would be restored, and it would be used by a family again, which is what it was up until the time it was sold to the Reeves family," says Leventhal.

Neighbor Ronald Battocchi says selling the historic property would be a mistake. He says he and his neighbors will continue to push for using the house as a learning center owned by the county.

"When you have a large community of interest the way we do, what you do is you make every effort to accommodate them. You don't suddenly decide we're going to generate profits. I don't think that's ever been a major goal of the county nor should it be."

For now, the final verse of the ballad of Nelson Reeves has yet to be written. And neighbors here are hoping it will end with county board members approving the creation of a learning center, rather than seeing a new neighbor move into the historic house on the hill.

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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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