The Clarke House
Family Homestead & 400 Acre Dairy Farm, Now an Events Venue
Contributor: Fairfax County Park Authority
The Clark House was built in 1902 by William Lee Clark and served as
the family homestead, of this 400 acre dairy farm, for over 50 years. The builder, Henry Manchester, was a long time local resident. His remuneration came in the form of dinner plus two dollars a day. One of the first telephones in the area was installed here in 1918 and electricity was added around 1935. The family consisted of William, his wife Minnie Howdershell Clark and their children, Wilbur, Lillian and Madeline.
In 1953, Wilbur Burnley Clark (son of William) retired from farming and sold all his land except the house and 6.1 acres. Here he established W.B. Clark and Sons Inc. which sold top soil, sawdust, gravel, wood mulch, fertilizer, firewood, and railroad ties. His sons Larry and Wayne ran the business, in an office next to the kitchen and employed over 20 people.
Progress was not to favor the Clark family. In 1972 Fairfax County went in search of a building site for the Mason District Government Center and the Clark property became a prime contender. Unfortunately, Wilbur Clark had no desire to sell. By this time four Clark generations had lived on the homestead, built decades of memories and a thriving business. The issue was resolved when another site was deemed more appropriate, but that was not the end of Wilbur’s problems. The Fairfax County Park Authority was in need of 8.1 acres in Mason District to meet the 8.5 acres of community parkland for every 1,000 people goal. A long fight ensued, and the Clarks were ultimately forced to sell the house and remaining land to the Park Authority in 1986. The house was moved down the road in 1990 (originally located at 6337 Columbia Pike); townhouses built around it; and, a saddened Mr. Clark died two years later at age 92.
The house features a spacious six bay wrap around veranda, center hall entrance, prominent dormer windows and even a crow's nest with views of the Washington Monument. The four square architecture, common in farmhouses of that era, featured four public rooms on the first floor with bed chambers upstairs. The Park Authority has added air conditioning, carpeting, and a spacious modern kitchen in order to rent the home for private and corporate events.
In the Museum Collection of the Fairfax County Park Authority, the wedding invitation of William and Minnie Clarke can be viewed.
William and Minnie were married on July 2, 1902, at Minnie’s parents’ home in a ceremony officiated by Pastor A.W. Graves of the Columbia Baptist Church in Falls Church. This marriage certificate marks the beginning of their life together. The body of the text reads:
“THIS CERTIFIES THAT W.L. Clark of Fairfax Co., Virginia and M.M. Howdershell of Fairfax Co., Virginia WERE BY ME UNITED IN MARRIAGE According to the Ordinance of God and the Laws of the State of Virginia at Residence of the Bride on the 2nd day of July, 1902.”
Marriage certificates, unlike applications and licenses, offer documentary evidence that a couple actually married. While civil records are held by county clerks, this type of decorative copy was often saved to commemorate the event and passed down to future generations as a family keepsake.
This certificate is adorned with many scriptures relating to marriage, and at the bottom of the certificate there is an image of a couple being pulled in a boat by a cluster of swans. Swan imagery in relation to love and marriage was highly popular at the turn of the century. Because of the lore that swans mate for life, their image became synonymous with ideas of fidelity and purity in marriage.
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