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Woodlawn Stables to Close This Summer

Owner Cindy Mitchell will relocate to Jeffersonton, Va., near Warrenton, about an hour and 15 minutes from current location.

Woodlawn Stables will close its doors this summer, according to owner Cindy Mitchell. Woodlawn Stables photo from change.org
Woodlawn Stables will close its doors this summer, according to owner Cindy Mitchell. Woodlawn Stables photo from change.org
As elected officials gathered Monday for a ceremony to mark the beginning of a project to widen 3.5 miles of Route 1 in Fairfax County, the owner of a longtime local business, Woodlawn Stables, was busy making preparations to move, partly due to the new road that will slice through the property.

"We'll be moving sometime in the next month or two," said Cindy Mitchell, who with her late mother Joan, ran the stables since 1991 during some of the business's 60-plus year history in the area.

Mitchell's new business will be located on a 35-acre property in Jeffersonton, Va., near Warrenton and about an hour and 15-minute drive from the Mount Vernon area.

"We intend to offer most of the same services [riding lessons, boarding] we offer here," Mitchell said. "It's going to take some time to get up and running."

There will be no horseback-riding summer camp this year; Mitchell will begin to offer lessons at the new location once she gets the new business up and running. She'll likely offer weekend lessons to those who came to Mount Vernon and will build a new clientele in the Jeffersonton area.

Mitchell plans to take all of her "school horses" with her. "We typically have 50 to 60 but with all of this happening with the road the past few years, we've had to decrease." She'll be moving 27 horses all on the same day one day this summer; she's shooting for a date in June.

Mitchell said she is not yet able to put behind her all that has transpired over the past few years, trying to save the family business at Woodlawn. "I'm not there yet, I'm hoping to get settled, get my house sold, things like that. Then I'll be able to focus more on the property and building a new business."

It's unclear if the death of the business is due to the road widening or new plans for the property by the National Trust for Historic Preservation (which leased the land to Mitchell and owns Woodlawn Plantation) or that funding finally came through for another local stables business (The Stables at Meadowwood Barn in Lorton) or a combination of events. It wasn't for a lack of trying by supporters of the stables, who started a Web site and saw more than 5,000 sign an online petition

Supporters say they are frustrated that their concerns seemed to fall on deaf ears all around. They even made use of the National Trusts' own "This Place Matters" campaign to no avail.

Mitchell will receive relocation expenses from the Federal Highway Administration.

With the talk of the road coming through the property and the lack of support from those who could have helped, business fell off. "We just had a big fundraiser the other night with all of this happening," she said. 

The stables typically had about 20 horses boarded and now has six. "We're struggling to get through until we can go," she said.

As for the property, it belongs to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "It's their property, I hope that the historic buildings are loved and cared for," she said. 

Mitchell says she's not certain whether the community realizes what's happened. "I get phone calls from some people who say 'Congratulations, I heard you won the fight.' There's a lack of information."

As for her mother Joan, who died in July 2012 at age 70, "she would be devastated" at the closing of Woodlawn Stables, Mitchell said. "The stress of all of this was overwhelming to her. I think it contributed largely to her passing. I think about it often."

"The thing that struck me, repeatedly, is that so often you hear about a lack of extracurricular activities for young girls and here," Mitchell said, "we had more than 300 students a week coming from the local area." 

For those who want to keep up with Mitchell's new business, "we will update our Facebook page and our Web site with new information," she said.

"The beauty of Woodlawn has always been that people randomly stop in and more so in the last few weeks, it's sort of a museum unto itself," she said. "I had a lady stop in the other day, she hadn't been here in more than 20 years, and she wanted to see it one last time."

Also read:
Residents Work to Save Woodlawn Stables

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