Photo: L. Carol Ritchie
The Reeves Farm, perched above Bluemont Park, was the last working dairy farm in Arlington until 1955. Owner Nelson Reeves was the neighborhood master gardener, sharing vegetables and horticultural advice with the community that developed on his former farmlands, until he died in 2000.
A group called the Reevesland Learning Center wants to preserve Nelson Reeves’ legacy with an educational garden, meeting space for teacher training and other activities to illustrate Arlington’s farm history.
However, a new assessment of the Reeves Farm has concluded that rehabilitating the farmhouse and property for a learning center would cost $1.1 million. Another possible adaptation, a demonstration kitchen, would cost $1.3 million, according to the report completed for the county by the historic preservation firm John Milner Associates.
The Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources will present the report on March 8 at the Walter Reed Community Center. The meeting will also include information on a formal request for a proposal for the site, though the actual RFP is to be issued in May, said Parks Associate Planner Diane Probus.
The RFP will require applicants to fund the renovations themselves, without county money, Probus said. Any use of the property would have to comply with historic preservation goals of the county and be compatible with the surrounding residential neighborhood.
“We are definitely [hoping] to have some group or groups with a reasonable plan to raise the money,” she said. The Arlington Historical Society has also expressed interest in submitting a proposal, she said.
The county bought the 2.48 acre farm from the Reeves family for $1.8 million in 2001, and the county board designated the property as a historic site the following year. The Reevesland Learning Center, a group formed with support of the Bluemont, Boulevard Manor and Dominion Hills neighborhood associations, collected 600 petition signatures asking the county to assess the property so repairs could be made for a learning center.
Last year students and teachers from nearby Ashlawn Elementary School planted vegetable gardens in eight raised growing beds built by neighborhood volunteers on the same spot where Nelson Reeves grew his produce. The Ashlawn PTA bought organic and heirloom seeds for students to plant this year.
Joan Horwitz, chair of the Reevesland Learning Center steering committee, says the group will submit a proposal for a learning center when the RFP is issued, but that the county and schools should absorb renovation costs.