Afton Villa Gardens


WFP Historical Society

Contributed from the 1975 Audubon Pilgrimage Booklet
by the WFP Historical Society

The recessed wrought iron entrance with its Gothic gate house was only prelude to the marvelously eclectic 40-room mansion which burned in 1963, but it was just grandeur which saved the house in 1863, when marauding Union soldiers, bent on destruction, concluded that it could only lead to a cemetery, and passed on.

The gardens and terraced landscaping remain a monument to past glories and to the hardiness of plantings. Laid out by a French landscape artist whose work is still evident, the gardens and home site are approached by a lengthy winding oak alley, and reflect the will of an indulged plantation mistress to be surrounded by beauty. In 1847 David Barrow brought his second wife, widowed Susan Woolfolk Rowan, from Kentucky to live in his modest frame house, which she incorporated her extravagant, turreted villa. The grounds were laid out in terraced, park-like fashion, with formal gardens opening from the west terrace.

Subsequent owners, beginning in 1915 when Dr. And Mrs. Robert E. Lewis of Illinois lavished time and money on the neglected place, have devoted themselves to restoring its beauty. It was completely restored home of Mr. and Mrs. Wallace Percy from 1945 until its destruction. Mr. and Mrs. Morrell F. Trimble are the present owners and again, under their meticulous care, the gardens bloom in former splendor.

Description begins:

Interspersed among the live oaks of the avenue are giant Formosa and Indica Alba azaleas. The avenue is said to be the longest oak alley in existence.

Through the years a series of grass terraces have been reclaimed from encroaching woods to open up sweeping vistas.

The formal garden is comprised of a boxwood maze, delicate statuary, and beds of seasonal bloom.

The four classical statues adorning the house ruins were recently brought from Italy.

Not far from the house-site is a grouping of rare azaleas known as Afton Villa Red by virtue of long association.

Near the formal garden is the family cemetery where lie David Barrow and other family members, including U.S. Senator Alexander Barrow called the handsomest man in Washington. Senator Barrow died in Office in 1846 and his admiring colleagues erected the monument to his memory.

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