Four family housing developments were built at Fort Belvoir in the late 1950s thanks to the Capehart program: Colyer Loop, Fairfax, George Washington and River Villages. The Wherry and Capehart housing initiatives addressed the demand for military housing during the Cold War. Using private developers, the designs tend to reflect what was being constructed in the civilian sector during the same period.
Capehart Architectural Description
The construction of additional housing units at Fort Belvoir was approved under the Capehart Act, passed by Congress in Aug. 1955. Fort Belvoir's 618 Capehart units were designed by E. Tucker Carlton of Richmond, Virginia. Mr. Carlton was a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and a Navy veteran of both World Wars. His architectural specialty was institutional buildings, but he also designed a wide variety of other architecture types including residential, commercial, religious, educational, and recreational facilities.
The total of 618 units were divided into four neighborhoods: 1. ) Colyer Village, which included 62 units in 31 buildings, housed both NCOs and enlisted men; 2. ) George Washington Village, the largest development, included 244 units in 122 buildings, housed NCOs and enlisted men; 3. ) River Village consisting of 188 units in 94 buildings, housed Company Grade Officers; and 4. ) Fairfax Village, which included 124 units in 62 buildings for Company Grade Officers.
Colyer, George Washington, and Fairfax Villages all followed the typical site plan of the time for suburban subdivisions. As with housing developments in the civilian sector, the villages featured wide, curvilinear streets, sidewalks, and paved driveways. The exception was River Village, which incorporated a gridlike layout, with a single tree planted in the front yard of each building.
The Capehart buildings were designed as two-story, two and three-bedroom duplexes. These wood-frame, rectangular buildings were constructed on reinforced concrete and brick-pier foundations. Exterior walls were clad in brick veneer and vinyl siding, and the garden roofs were covered with asphalt shingles. Building entrances were accentuated by flat-roofed canopies supported on steel 'pipe columns' shielded by masonry screens roughly three feet tall. Each unit included a prefabricated chimney which projected from the rear slope of the roof.
Minor variations to the exterior were used to identify the four different building types. Distinguishing exterior features included different brick veneer and siding patterns, the width of the entrance, and the materials used for the porch screen. Porch materials varied from brick, to stone, or one of two types of concrete block. A fifth building type was designed, but never executed. It was more reminiscent of the Wherry projects, with a hipped roof, brick veneer and small entrance porticoes.
Originally all of the buildings included exterior wood lap or board-and-batten wall siding, and lap siding and wood shingles for gable ends. The original exterior doors were solid wood with a multi-light transom, and the original windows were two-light with movable double-sash.
In 1996, Fort Belvoir underwent a Maj. renovation of the Capehart housing. All of the exterior wood elements were replaced with either vinyl (siding) or metal (doors). The windows and sidelights were also replaced with vinyl, including the addition of a ‘garden' window in the kitchen and a 'bay' window in the living room.
All Capehart units were designed with the same Gen. floor plan. The units within River and Fairfax Villages were slightly wider than those within Colyer and George Washington Villages. Typically, the first floor consisted of the living room and dining room located on the party wall side of the plan. The kitchen, utility areas, half bath, entry vestibule, and stairs to the second floor were located on the exterior wall. The second floor included either two or three bedrooms and a bathroom. Interior finishes included hardwood floors in the living and dining rooms, while wood parquet was used on the second floor and sheet vinyl was used in the kitchen, utility areas, and bathrooms.
Both the site and floor plans for Fort Belvoir's Capehart units were similar to designs used in the civilian sector during the same time period, with one exception in the layout of the kitchens, which tended to be enclosed. Kitchens constructed in civilian homes at this time were typically open to the living space.
Capehart Statement of Significance
Both the Wherry and the Capehart programs represented the government's solution to the housing shortages after World War II. The programs attempted to involve the private sector in meeting the housing demand. Private developers were used to design and construct the housing. Together, these two efforts led to one of the Federal government's largest residential construction projects. Between 1949 and 1962, an estimated 21,000 Wherry housing units and 26,000 Capehart units were constructed on Army installations. 1
In addition to seeing unprecedented housing shortages, the market for housing in the Cold War era saw Maj. demographic shifts that were mirrored by military families. Nearly 60 percent of all American families entered the middle class during the 1950s, with increased proportional spending on homes and automobiles. Families Gen.ly had more leisure time, and there was a rise in the marriage rate. The number of couples and individuals establishing households independent of extended family members jumped dramatically. The birth rate also rose, impacting the size of the typical American family (consisting of a couple and three children). All of these factors contributed to the demand for housing, leading to the development of suburban neighborhoods throughout the country.
The construction industry also changed during this time. New building products changed how housing was built. The introduction of materials such as drywall and vinyl quickened construction and lowered costs. Additionally, the incorporation of air conditioning and other modern conveniences, which started to become standard in the 1950s, altered the way homes were designed and built.
Historically, changes within the civilian housing market have strongly influenced military family housing, and this time was no different. The rise of the middle class, changing family sizes, new building materials, and modern conveniences all affected military housing. The military soon followed the plans and layouts initially developed for the private sector.
With the inclusion of civilian developers, Fort Belvoir's Capehart housing illustrates how the construction of military housing during the 1950s followed national building trends.
Colyer Loop Location
Colyer Village is located on South Post, just north of DeWitt Army Hospital. 2 The site plan for the village features Peterson Road as a primary road looping through the development. Peterson Road had previously served as a direct access path to the area near Dogue Creek.
The village was constructed in three phases. The first phase, completed in 1950, consisted of three apartment buildings, located on either side of 9 th Street. The second phase, a single apartment building, was completed in 1956. 3 The final, and primary, phase of the village was completed in 1960. This phase included the townhouse-style buildings which were sited on either side of Peterson Loop.
Colyer Loop Memorialization
Colyer Village was named in honor of Sgt. Wilbur E. Colyer, of the Army Corps of Engineers. Sgt. Colyer received the Congressional Medal of Honor for Valor at Verdun, where he volunteered to locate enemy machine gun nests.
Fairfax Village Location
Fairfax Village is located on South Post, between the secure area of Engineer Research and Development Laboratories (ERDL) and the officer housing in Belvoir Village. The ERDL moved to its current site, at the south tip of the Belvoir peninsula, in 1942. Belvoir Village, which pre-dates Fairfax Village, was constructed in the mid-1930s. The Fairfax family cemetery and the ruins of Belvoir manor house are located just southeast of the village.
At the time of construction, the existing Forney Loop Road was extended to circle through the new neighborhood. Cross roads were added, with names memorializing distinguished military engineers, including Col. Zealous B. Tower, Brig. Gen. William Louis Marshall, and Maj. Gen. John Pope.
Fairfax Village Memorialization
Fairfax Village was named in honor of the Fairfax family. The Fairfax's were responsible for establishing Belvoir Plantation and the construction of the Belvoir manor house. The property, which was originally part of a 1688 land grant from James II of England to Lord Culpeper, descended to the sixth Lord Fairfax, who in 1734 offered the land to his cousin, Col. William Fairfax.
In 1741, Col. Fairfax constructed his home (Belvoir mansion house) on the southeastern portion of the South Post peninsula. Members of the Fairfax family resided on the property until 1773, when they returned to England. Situated on the top of the bluff, Belvoir mansion was considered a cultural center for the area, often entertaining members of colonial society. George Washington was a frequent guest, visiting from his neighboring estate, Mount Vernon.
George Washington Village Location
Demolished in 2006, George Washington Village was located on South Post west of Dogue Creek in a wooded valley. The village was surrounded by woodland with several streams running through the site. It was located north of Dogue Creek Village. The roads in this neighborhood were named in association with George Washington's various occupations and talents. Road names included Farmer, Miller, Soldier, Statesman, and Surveyor. 4
George Washington Village Memorialization
George Washington Village was named for the first President of the United States, who had a significant connection to the area.
River Village Location
Located on boundary of the South Post, River Village is most easily accessed from Fort Belvoir's eastern entrance, reached via Mount Vernon Memorial Highway. As the name implies, River Village is sited on the eastern bank of Dogue Creek. The Dogue Creek Marina, located adjacent to the village, is accessed through the village.
Reinforcing the river theme, all of the streets within this neighborhood are named after important rivers. Street names include Hudson, James, Shenandoah, Potomac, York, Rappahannock, and Delaware.
River Village Memorialization
River Village was officially named in recognition of the important role that rivers have played in the nation's history. Early plans for the village indicated that originally the village was going to be called Mount Vernon Village.
1 Goodwin, R. Christopher and Associates, Inc. Neighborhood Design Guidelines for Army Wherry and Capehart Era Family Housing (Frederick, Md.: U.S. Army Environmental Center, 1995), 9.
2 Completed in 1957, DeWitt Hospital provided for a total of 500 patients, including facilities for 250 patients in-house. Dewitt Hospital was one of seven hospitals that Congress authorized in 1953 to be built in the Army modernization program.
3 The construction of this single building, also located in the vicinity of 9th Street, coincided with the construction of Dogue Creek Village.
4 Castle. Aug. 28, 1959.