Little did George Washington Hunter, a prominent attorney in Fairfax, know how his name would be perpetuated when he built his grist mill along Difficult Run in the early part of the nineteenth century. It began when land deeds dated as early as 1842 cited his mill in establishing boundaries in our area. From those early days through the Second World War, the area remained essentially rural.
Hunters Valley began with the purchase by the Wickens family in 1935 of a farm of 168 acres on Hunter Mill Road, locally known then as “Sheep Farm.”
Unknown. 1921. “U.S. Sheep Farm in Vienna, Virginia.” Special Collections, USDA National Agricultural Library. Accessed February 17, 2022, https://www.nal.usda.gov/exhibits/speccoll/items/show/8263.
Later, two large adjoining tracts were added; the old Brooke tract to the north where the Wickens’ last residence was located on Hunter Mill Road until developers tore it down in 1995, and the Leeds tract to the west where the Thornton Burnet home was located. Together they make up a contiguous tract of more than 600 acres.
In 1935, when the Wickens purchased their first farm, this was a truly rural area. Hunter Mill Road was partly graveled, there were only five occupied houses along this mile-long stretch of road, and the nearest electricity was more than a mile away. In the spring of 1936, the Wickens moved into a refurbished farm house and began to farm, raising Guernsey cattle for sale. For the Wickens, this was an after-hours addition to their professional careers as economists in the Federal Government. The farm was operated in this way until the United States entered World War II, when it became impractical to continue because of the scarcity of help, and so the land lay idle for several years.
After the war ended and peace-time activities expanded, the demand for land for home building in the Washington area grew very rapidly, especially in Fairfax County. In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, the Wickens sold a few pieces of land along Hunter Mill Road and the farm road leading to the barns. The Wickens plan of land development, when these first sales were made, set the pattern for Hunters Valley as we know it today. It reflected Col. Wickens’ very strong views on what constituted good, quiet, country living — the kind of setting in which he wanted his family to live. First of all, it meant SPACE — fairly large lots, uncrowded to assure privacy; and a land layout designed to preserve the natural beauty of streams, recreational areas, parks and trails. “This land must be developed so I can ride a horse through it,” he said.
To ensure that this pattern would be a permanent feature of future development, all the deeds to land which the Wickens sold contained covenants which provided for a minimum of only one dwelling per two acres, prohibited commercial uses of the land, set lower limits on the size of the dwellings, etc. In effect, this established a 2 acre subdivision, although some tracts include more. It was one of the first, if not the very first of its kind in Fairfax County. With the adoption of the County’s Master Plan, this area was designated a two-acre zone. It has remained so ever since, thanks largely to the efforts of the HVA. The association continues to actively support the present zoning to ensure our country-style living.
After the initial sale of lots, the Wickens found that under new County regulations, they had a subdivision which required the building of roads to State specifications. While this work began, the few residents of Hunters Valley met on the front lawn of the Wickens home and selected names for the new roads. The old barn lane became Hunters Valley Road. Leeds Road took its name from the family that owned the land along Difficult Run from 1850 to 1916. Little Fox Lane came from the sighting of a vixen and her two cubs along Little Fox Run. Sunny Meadow Lane perfectly described that high spot on the hill.
The development of Hunters Valley has proceeded gradually over the years since those first sales, with small new sections being opened occasionally for sale of a few lots at a time, usually holding to the Wickens policy of sales to individual families planning to build their own homes and thus assure a variety of architectural designs.
In carrying out the plan to provide recreational facilities, trails for walking and horseback riding were set aside in each new section to provide an interconnected network of dedicated trails throughout Hunters Valley. They are shown on official plats and in deeds, so that in the future, the trails will be available to residents and to other members of the HVA who are members of the HVRC. The Wickens family still owns some of the paths in the older sections of Hunters Valley. In the new sections of Wickens Road and in Hunters Valley North, the trails are easements on the land of the owners.
Recreational activities have always been encouraged. Horses and riding have had a prominent role from the beginning. Many years ago, Walter Thompson volunteered to teach the youngsters of the Valley to ride, provided the parents would buy a pony for all to share. Proudly exhibiting their new skills on this single horse, the first horse show was held in the barnyard in a ring made of pine poles. Similarly, the former swimming pool and the park on Hunters Valley Road began with the interest of a handful of Valley residents and neighbors who spearheaded the design, building, and landscaping. Unfortunately, more homes with private pools dwindled the numbers supporting the pool until, facing major repairs, the pool had to be filled in during the late ’80s.
The spirit of working together has continued through the years. The Association’s work for Hunters Valley North is an excellent example. During the entire planning period, the developers worked closely with representatives of the Association. They accepted the suggestions that were made, and the final plan was endorsed by the HVA, which was given the opportunity to name the roads. Walter Thompson Drive and William Terry Driver were named for two extremely active workers and past presidents of the HVRC, while Sawdust Road came from the old wagon trail that led out of the woods from a temporary saw mill. The most recent development led to the addition of Aryness Dr., named in honor of Ms. Aryness Wickens.
These are only some of the features of Hunters Valley as it has been developed. It is as important now as it was in the formative years of Hunters Valley to maintain a strong community organization, for the times are changing fast. Fairfax County is no longer the rural area it once was. Industry, shopping centers, high rise commercial and apartment building are all around us. New subdivisions surround us. We are fortunate to have an enclave within 600 acres which makes it possible to enjoy many features of rural living that have been obliterated from other parts of the County. Without vigilance and hard work, this unique area could also pass away and be absorbed by the over pressing development around us.
The Hunter Valley Association is changing too. It is no longer the small group of families which founded the community and worked so hard to develop the neighborhood association and its programs. HVA membership is now over 180 families, a number of which have young children, maintaining our balanced age distribution. This area has been rich in a history of interaction and friendship among neighbors, providing it with a unique identify and unity which can and should be preserved. HVA is the one organization which can provide continuity in dealing with the affairs and problems of Hunters Valley which affect all of its residents. It is essential that all who live here give it their full support.