Hybla Valley Farms History
Hybla Valley Farms, so named by its developer, V. Ward Boswell, is a
portion of a much larger tract known in the early days as Hybla Valley
Farm. The deed of dedication is dated July 17, 1935.
The lots were numbered 1 to 200, with the total acreage being 125, more
or less. The land was purchased by Ward Boswell from Landon C.
and Ellen G. Painter in March of 1935. Painter family members and
heirs continued to own property here until 1986, when a lot on Boswell
Avenue in tax arrears was sold by the county at auction for $16,500.
The Painters originally purchased the land from Robert W. Wheat.
Lawrence J. Zimmerman, a long-time neighbor, recalled that his
grandfather leased Wheat's Field from Wheat and pastured cattle there.
Dairy fields in the vicinity were actively operating in the early days
of the subdivision. Early Boswell Avenue residents would recall that
when the cows "got out" at Popkins Farm they would sometimes wander
down to Boswell yards. Today the occasional deer may be spotted
but the dairy farms have yielded to the march of Baby-Boom-era suburban
The Jonathan Mathershead tract of 301 acres, and the Thomas Stafford
tract, containing 235 acres, adjoined in about the center of the
present Hybla Valley Farms. The Mathershead tract was patented on
Oct. 5, 1694, being a part of the Lord Fairfax Land Grant. The
Stafford tract, patented June 26, 1697, likewise came from Lord
Fairfax. Stafford's tract was east of Mathershead's.
On Sept. 16, 1698, Thomas Stafford sold his tract to Giles Vandecasteel, who owned adjoining property, and Giles Vandecasteel's daughter Priscilla and son-in-law James Hay sold the tract to James Mason in March 1724 (Fairfax deeds Q:249). On June 16, 1786, George Mason of Gunston Hall deeded this tract to his son Thomson Mason.
Birth of a Neighborhood
Ward Boswell's Hybla Valley Farms subdivision was bordered on the north
by Woodlawn Trail, a short dead-end street off Route One, and on the
south by Sherwood Hall Lane. Eight lots abut Sherwood Hall
Lane. The street entering the subdivision from Route One is
Boswell Avenue, which parallels Woodlawn Trail and Sherwood Hall
Lane. Schelhorn Road and Frances Drive are at right angles to
Boswell and Sherwood Hall lane. Two other streets off Frances
Drive are a small portion of Brentwood Place and Delafield Place.
The first residents of the community by the mid 1930s were the
Higginbothams (2905 Boswell), the Platts (2912 Boswell ), and the
Jemisons (2804 Boswell). At this time, Boswell Avenue was a dead
end at the intersection of what would later become Schelhorn
Road. In later years, to make way for a Cities Service gas
station (subsequently a doughnut shop), the Platts' home was literally
moved down Boswell and around the corner to where it stands now at 7712
Originally, Boswell Avenue was called Abington Avenue but was later
renamed for Ward Boswell. Frances Drive was formerly Gunston
Drive and was renamed Frances for Boswell's wife Frances.
Schelhorn Road was formerly Rippon Road and was renamed for a real
estate agent named Schelhorn in Ward Boswell's office.
Sherwood Hall and the King's Daughters
Accotink Road, the portion between Route One and Fort Hunt Road, became
Sherwood Hall Lane. This is a very old road connecting Alexandria
and Richmond. In 1903, the Ballingers, the then-owners of the
Wilkinson Farm, donated a half-acre of land for use of the Kings
Daughters. They erected a meeting place named Sherwood
Hall. It was also used as a Grange Hall and as a Sunday school
for Gum Springs children. The building was razed in 1946 and
ownership of the land reverted to the owners of the farm, Mr. and Mrs.
Postwar Growth SpurtThe character of the area changed dramatically from rural dairy farms to closely packed subdivisions which began to use Schelhorn Road as a cut-off to get to Route One form the south. As of March 1981, the traffic count on Schelhorn Road was 4,701 cars daily, and on Boswell from Route One to Schelhorn, 6,136 vehicles daily.
Only a half-dozen or so houses were built in Hybla Valley Farms from 1935 to 1949. To encourage sales, Ward Boswell developed what he called the "Wonder Home," an attractive two-bedroom basic frame house with fireplace, which sold for $7,900, including the land. The basic model with the addition of an attached breezeway and garage sold for $9,000.
The houses were heated with electric panels in the walls. Since
the houses were not insulated and there were no storm windows or storm
doors, the buyers found themselves paying more for the electric heat
than on their mortgage. Some installed wood-burning stoves or
burned wood or coal in their fireplaces. There were 50 Wonder
Homes in all. The remaining lots were developed individually,
resulting in architecturally diverse designs.
Early Public Infrastructure, Drainage and Sidewalks
At the time of the neighborhood's creation, large ditches that
reportedly were the legacy of a previous century diagonally traversed
lots in Hybla Valley Farms. These were about eight feet wide and
three feet deep, but as homes were developed, builders filled them in.
As these new homes sprung up, wells were dug and septic fields
installed. With the high water table in the area, problems
developed. Furthermore, the county did not require the developer
to provide hard-surfaced roads. The development was left with
dirt roads and worsening drainage.
The Hybla Valley Farms Civic Association was responsible for getting
street lights in 1958 and for fire hydrants a few years later.
Residents gathered petition signatures seeking paved roads and in 1952
the State Highway Department had been persuaded to take over and
maintain the roads, but before doing so, it required certain residents
to sign over easements to allow new ditches to be dug through their
properties to drain the water from Schelhorn Road over to and under
Frances Drive and on out to and under Sherwood Hall Lane, eventually on
to Little Hunting Creek. The water on Boswell Avenue was to go
through ditches cut on certain properties and out to and under Route
One. This inadequate drainage system left open ditches beside the
roads that would fill up with standing water, weeds, and trash – a
network that fostered erosion on some properties.
Transformation of the 1980s
In the 1980s, the civic association renewed efforts to resolve
lingering drainage problems and neighbors petitioned under the Fairfax
County Department of Housing and Community Development's procedures to
enter the Community Improvement Program, a curb-and-gutter and sidewalk
public works program. Under county supervision, residents cast
ballots on options for street widths and various types of improvements,
most of which involved either easements or cost-sharing through a
special tax assessment, or both. Under a county plan adopted in
April 1984, this eventually resulted in the replacement of open ditches
with curbs for most of the community and an upgrading of portions of
Because curbs engendered street width specifications driven by traffic
count, upper Boswell Avenue – with the highest traffic count of the
neighborhood – was faced with a requirement of doubling the width of
pavement and adding a dedicated eastbound right-turn lane to Schelhorn
as a condition of participation. With those concerns and some
residents having other objections from tree loss to financial
assessments, upper Boswell voted to drop out of the Community
Improvement Program and the county decided it would not "split the
street" allowing piecemeal curb-and-gutter improvements. Boswell
was given an option for underground pipes, open concrete ditches and
limited asphalt sidewalk improvements under a stormwater management
program (Project DIP X00066). Where neighbors had declined
easements (for example, some had concerns about loss of mature trees),
sections of Boswell Avenue were completely omitted from any
The far western end of Boswell Avenue had been left out of any sidewalk
both in the 1950s and again in the 1980s. By 2000, in mid block,
sections of the Boswell Avenue asphalt trail were heaved upwards by
tree roots in a couple of locations. In 2005, the association
requested a comprehensive upgrade and completion of the Boswell Avenue
sidewalk to its eastern end at Delafield Place.
The association fought a gallant battle to block the construction of a
gasoline station and a 7-Eleven store on a 1-1/2 acre plot facing
Sherwood Hall Lane. The site had been spot-zoned in 1950 and
remained heavily wooded and undeveloped until 1960, when neighbors
first became aware that the plot had been rezoned to neighborhood
commercial. Despite widespread opposition from the residents of
the subdivision and neighboring communities, the gas station developers
acquired the special use permit and the filling station and 7-Eleven