The layout of Belvoir Village exemplifies the Army's adaptation of civilian planning philosophies and practices. Constructed during the 1930s, the village signifies the Army's transition from the traditional, regimented system of laying everything out in straight lines toward the incorporation of vistas and irregular lines in site planning. Belvoir Village also illustrates the use of standardized plans for the construction of single-family homes.
Belvoir Village is located at the southeastern tip of the Belvoir peninsula, which stretches into the Potomac River. The village's curvilinear street plan was influenced in part by the natural, topographical irregularity of its riverside bluffs, which helped produce a site plan similar to those seen in Garden City-inspired suburbs popular in civilian settings at the time. Belvoir Village's streets followed the natural contours of the site, helping to reduce construction costs and providing grand views toward the river.
Belvoir Drive is the primary roadway through the village. Belvoir Drive terminates at Quarters No. 1, considered the dominant residence on the installation. Originally designed for the post commander, today it is the residence of the Commanding General of the Army Materiel Command. The two secondary roads, Woodland and Mason Drives, circle a wooded common area and join at the Officers' Club.
Quarters No. 1 and the Officers' Club are sited on the two highest points in the village. The generous amounts of open space throughout the village, the woodland areas, and the retention of trees around the residences, continue to provide Belvoir Village with a sense of seclusion from the rest of the installation.
The plan differs greatly from the more rectilinear, gridlike layout of Fort Belvoir's core. Belvoir Village's houses, however, share the architecture and details of the Colonial Revival style with Gerber Village and other housing developments from the period.
The 59 single-family homes of Belvoir Village were developed by the Quartermaster General in the 1930s. Although similar buildings were constructed at other military installations, the plans are not completely identical to those used at Fort Belvoir.
Constructed from common bond brick, the Colonial Revival buildings are rectangular, two-and-one-half story homes with slate gable roofs, dormer windows, and interior end chimneys. The main rectangular section is flanked by two side wings, a sun porch (one or two-story) and a garage (consisting of a one, one-and-one-half, or two-story wing). Apart from the Commanding Officer's Quarters, the houses measure approximately 40 feet by 28 feet. The primary entrance features either a paneled entry with a triangular pediment and Tuscan style columns or an arched pediment with wooden pilasters.
There are four plan types in Belvoir Village, all using the same basic form and materials. These plan variations include the Commanding Officer's Quarters, the standard two-story house plan, a two-story house plan with sun porch, and a two-story version with maid's quarters.
The Commanding Officer's Quarters was completed in August 1935. As the most prominent residence on Fort Belvoir, the building features elements reminiscent of high-style Georgian prototypes. For example, its front-centered gable extends slightly forward from the façade and is further accentuated with quoins and an elliptical window, uncommon features on Colonial Revival houses. The first-floor windows are topped by flat arches and limestone keys. A two-story porch extends across the main portion of the rear elevation.
The standard two-story house consists of three bedrooms, including a powder room, breakfast room (identified as the maid's room on the original plans), a large living room, a dining room, and a small kitchen. A sun porch and a garage are located in the two first-floor wings. The second floor is organized around a central hall, with three bedrooms and two full baths. The two wings feature flat roofs, and only two dormers are located on the front and rear elevations of the main, central portion of the house.
As the names imply, the only difference between the standard two-story house and the two-story with sun porch is the addition of a second-floor sun porch. Accessed from the master bedroom, the second sun porch is located directly above the sun porch on the first floor.
The two-story house with maid's quarters, also referred to as the five-bedroom plan, features steeply pitched gables on the side wings, a portico entrance, and three dormers on the front elevation, two on the rear. There are also departures from the interior floor plan. The first floor includes a large kitchen, a dining room with built-in china closets, a small study, a large living room, and a sunroom. The second floor is also organized around a central hall, with four bedrooms and two full baths. The master bath and dressing room is over the sun porch. A fifth bedroom (originally identified as the maid's room) and full bath are located above the garage.
Statement of Significance
The design for Belvoir Village incorporates characteristics of prior construction projects while including new ideas. While its Colonial Revival style ties the village to the traditions of the region and fits a pattern for housing on other military installations, Belvoir Village also embodies new site planning principles that brought the installation's housing into closer alignment with civilian cultural landscapes of the period.
Belvoir Village was the first application of the 1932 revised post plan, revised to reflect a shift inspired by the Garden City Movement and the park and boulevard concepts developed a generation earlier by Frederick Law Olmsted and carried on by his sons. The new Fort Belvoir layout showed the evolution of post plans influenced by George B. Ford, a noted architect, engineer, and urban planner who was a central figure in rebuilding post-World War I Europe and who served as a consultant to the Quartermaster General from 1926 to 1930. Like the Olmsteds, Ford embraced aesthetically pleasing designs with open spaces, curving avenues, and appealing architecture.
The ridge overlooking the Potomac River favored the relaxed, naturalistic feeling associated with Ford's planning principles. Ford believed the "maximum healthfulness and cheerfulness in places where one works or lives should be sought by leaving everything open to the access of sunlight."1
Despite the changes it reflects in the installation's planning, Belvoir Village had precursors at Fort Belvoir. The site plan for the 400 Area officers' housing (Park Village, Snow Loop, and Jadwin Loop Village), built in 1919, used the clustered housing, cul-de-sacs, and informally shaped open spaces associated with the romantic designs first championed by the elder Olmsted.
The architectural design and material selection for Belvoir Village, however, more closely resembles the non-commissioned officers (NCO) housing of Gerber Village than the wood-constructed Arts and Crafts architectural vocabulary of the 400 Area. Belvoir Village embodies the quintessential 1930s building style at Fort Belvoir. 2
The homes in Belvoir Village were constructed from the same materials and designed in the same Colonial Revival style of many buildings located within the Fort Belvoir Historic District. The similarity of materials and design provides the entire district with a sense of unity.
Belvoir Mansion was the home of Col. William Fairfax, cousin and land agent to Lord Fairfax. The land which eventually became the base had descended to the sixth Lord Fairfax, who in 1734 offered the land to his cousin, Col. William Fairfax.
Constructed in 1741, the mansion house was named Belvoir, French for "beautiful to see." Belvoir was destroyed by fire in 1783, and the ruins were further undermined by British bombardment during the War of 1812. The land remained vacant for over a century.
The United States government first acquired a portion of the former Fairfax land in 1912, when the U.S. War Department obtained 1,500 acres on the Belvoir peninsula The land was used to establish a rifle range and summer camp for engineer troops stationed at Washington Barracks. Subsequent growth over the years has increased the property to the present acreage.
In 1931, Col. Edward H. Schulz, Commanding Officer of Fort Humphreys [Fort Belvoir], sparked a renewed interest in the Belvoir Mansion when he initiated an archaeological project at the plantation ruins. Fort Humphreys' name changed to Fort Belvoir in 1935, coinciding with the construction of Belvoir Village.
1 George B. Ford, "The Technical Phases of City Planning," in Benjamin Clarke Marsh, An Introduction to City Planning: Democracy's Challenge to the American City (New York: Privately Printed, 1909), 123-136.
2 Douglas J. Harnsberger and Sandra Hubbard, "National Register of Historic Places Nomination: Fort Belvoir Historic District (Boundary Increase)," (Richmond, Va.: Harnsberger & Associates, 1996), Sect. 7, 1.