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Navy engineer proposes rehab for historic White Gardens house

White Gardens House in West Falls Church (via Fairfax County)

A proposal to restore the house at Margaret White Gardens in West Falls Church is being reviewed and will face a virtual public hearing on March 29.

Under the resident curator program, the Fairfax County Parks Authority is seeking someone to live rent-free in the home, which is near Sleepy Hollow Elementary School, and rehabilitate and maintain it out of pocket under a lease.

Applicants Margaret and Bryan Stout told the authority in their proposal that they would like to preserve the property at 6711 Princess Anne Lane in the John C. and Margaret K. White Gardens Horticultural Park through the resident curator program. Their daughter and her husband will live in the house.

The application identifies Margaret Stout as an engineer who has worked for the Navy since 1980 and Bryan Stout as a member of the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club.

They would add a prefabricated residence on the site that will also house a multimedia resource center and visitor restrooms.

The restoration work would include rebuilding the greenhouse to allow propagation of garden cuttings and gardening technique demonstrations. They also hope to use the barn as an unguided exhibit location, as well as for storage.

“The proposed treatments and improvements will make White Gardens a welcoming resource for surrounding neighborhoods and address community complaints,” the application reads.

After restoring the White Gardens House and Barn according to the treatment plan, returning the house’s functionality and historical integrity, the family has proposed holding regular events, such as a wool preparation and spinning demonstration or a fall festival and pumpkin carving.

The house was built in 1939, a year after the park’s namesakes purchased the 13 acres that make up the property today.

It wasn’t until the late 1940s and early 1950s that the Whites began to cultivate the property as a garden.

“One of the first additions was the large Willow Oak, between the circular driveway and the house, planted in either 1942 or 1943,” the Park Authority website says. “Most of the work was done by Mr. & Mrs. White after 1960, including digging up the pond with a tractor and scope.”

Margaret White sold the property to the FCPA for $600,000 in 1999 under the promise that after she died, the land would be preserved as a park, according to The Washington Post. She continued to live there until her death.

While the surrounding area over time has been developed, White wanted to retain the rural acreage. The house was designed by Joe Harry Lapish, a local architect who studied at George Washington University, then the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, according to the Parks Authority.

The virtual public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. and can be accessed through a link or a dial-in number and passcode that will be listed on the website. The evaluation team can ask questions, provide feedback, and receive public comment on the proposal at this meeting.

Comments can be submitted to the project manager at parkmail@fairfaxcounty.gov by April 13.

In addition to the public hearing, the evaluation team for the proposal will meet at 10 a.m. tomorrow (Wednesday), April 6, and April 20, but there won’t be opportunities for the public to comment at those times.

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