Fate Of Rare Northern Virginia Dairy Barn In Question (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Fate Of Rare Northern Virginia Dairy Barn In Question

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:08
I'm Rebecca Sheir. Welcome back to "Metro Connection." Today our theme is makeovers. And in this next segment we're going to be talking about neighborhood transformations. In just a bit we'll head to one of the more industrial sections of D.C. to look at the changes coming there, but first, Lauren Landau takes us to Northern Virginia for a story about a more than 75-year-old building and what it's fate may be.

MS. LAUREN LANDAU

00:00:31
Standing at the top of the Tower Club in Tyson's Corner, you've got a bird's-eye view of the Beltway, McLean and Northwest Washington.

MR. PAUL KOHLENBERGER

00:00:39
Below us is the largest urban center between New York and Atlanta. And 50 years ago, the only thing in sight would have been a farmhouse to the northwest and the Pimmit Barn to the northeast.

SHEIR

00:00:51
Paul Kohlenberger is president of the McLean Historical Society. And he's currently involved in efforts to save the Pimmit Barn, which stands on a hill about a mile from the Tower Club. From the balcony, you can spot the white barn peeking out from behind some trees.

KOHLENBERGER

00:01:06
There's absolutely nothing that hints at the agricultural past. We have a Metro, we have 12 lanes of the Beltway. We have innumerable skyscrapers, the National Counterterrorism Center and a 1937 vintage cinderblock dairy barn.

LANDAU

00:01:20
Through extensive research, Kohlenberger learned that the Pimmit Barn is the oldest structure in the Pimmit Hills neighborhood and the last agricultural building in the greater Tysons area. It's also the last Virginia dairy barn inside the Beltway and the only surviving example of a concrete dairy barn in the urbanized portion of Fairfax County.

KOHLENBERGER

00:01:39
As of the time of this barn's operation, agricultural pursuits were by far the largest employer and economic activity. Dairying was two-thirds of this for the county. So this was incredibly important in the areas livelihood.

LANDAU

00:01:53
Lesley Stone lives next door to the Pimmit Barn and says she would like to one day teach her 2-year-old son that milk comes from cows, not plastic jugs.

MS. LESLIE STONE

00:02:01
Because I want my son to know about the history of the region, which is predominantly dairy farming. And I think the Tysons area of shopping malls and high-rise office buildings doesn't really reflect that anymore and so this one little slice of history is, I think, important to keep.

LANDAU

00:02:16
In May, Leslie started a petition to save the last vestige of her community's agricultural past. At the time there was a proposal that threatened to demolish it and use the space for a group home for seniors and disabled adults.

STONE

00:02:29
Right now it belongs to the Fairfax County Park Authority. And they proposed giving it to another branch of the county government that would tear it down. So we wanted to make it clear to the Fairfax County Park Authority and to the Board of Supervisors that there's widespread community support for saving the barn.

LANDAU

00:02:43
Thus far the petition has gotten nearly 500 signatures. And a survey circulated around the neighborhood shows that only 1 to 2 percent of respondents favor tearing down the barn over saving it.

STONE

00:02:55
In general, a community is interested in saving the barn because we have less park space than other R4 zoned areas. So people like the green space. People think it's a historically important structure, build in 1937 and the last dairy barn of its kind in Fairfax County.

LANDAU

00:03:11
Paul Kohlenberger recently submitted an application to the Fairfax Historical Commission to get the Pimmit Barn listed as a historical site, which he says won't protect the barn, but it could convince the Park Authority that the site is worth saving.

KOHLENBERGER

00:03:24
The historic nomination, we hope, will convince the Park Authority that they have a cultural resource that is worth maintaining and protecting, while also convincing them that the half-acre site is large enough to provide passive recreational activities to the local residents while preserving natural open green space for future generations.

LANDAU

00:03:44
A few months ago Drainesville supervisor John Foust supported the plan to convert the barn into a group home, but that was before the Friends of Pimmit Barn assembled and began making a case for saving the building. He now says that as long as he's supervisor the barn won't be torn down.

MR. JOHN FOUST

00:03:59
Now that they've focused us, I definitely think it should be saved. We're living in a very rapidly urbanizing area. Tysons Corner is immediately next door to Pimmit Hills and the opportunity to preserve something that is part of our history is something I would like to pursue and work with them to see if we can do it.

LANDAU

00:04:19
But it won't be easy.

FOUST

00:04:19
We don't know what renovations are needed. So we don't know what just getting it to the point where it can stay as is will cost. Then secondly, we don't really know what uses could be made of it.

LANDAU

00:04:32
Even though the proposal for a group home has been tabled, the Pimmit Barn still isn't safe. The cost of renovating is a real concern and proponents for saving the structure need to rustle up some real cash to back their efforts.

LANDAU

00:04:45
They say in the short term they'd like to see benches, a historical marker and community garden plots at the site. There'll be fundraising to make that all happen and say they have even bigger plans for the future. I'm Lauren Landau.
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