Military construction programs were accelerated with the outbreak of World War II. The temporary buildings constructed at Grays Hill Village reflected the nation's preparation for the possibility of joining the conflict. The village provided housing for the increased number of people working on base while helping with the war efforts.
No longer extant, Grays Hill Village was located on South Post. The development was sited just south of the intersection of U.S. Route 1 and west of Belvoir Road, in the proximity of the present Belvoir Road, Fort Belvoir entrance. Fort Belvoir's South Post Golf Course was located on the western side of the village.
Grays Hill Village was constructed in at least two separate phases. The first phase of construction occurred along U.S. Route 1. Casey Road, entered from Belvoir Road, initially served as the main access road for Grays Hill Village. The road ran parallel to U.S. Route 1 with streets branching off to the south and homes densely clustered together in pods.
A second phase of construction ran parallel to Belvoir Road. These homes were constructed in much more of a gridlike pattern than the previous ones. Once again the primary entrance, Taylor Road, was accessed from Belvoir Road. Pope, Woodbury, and Tower Roads all ran perpendicular to Taylor Road and parallel to Belvoir Road, terminating at Marshall Loop. Village amenities, including a playground, nursery, and community center, were located along the south side of Taylor Road. (Taylor Road, which initially extended down to Dogue Creek, was later in part renamed Washington Road. With the construction of George Washington Village in the early 1960s, Washington Road served as a connection between the two villages.)
Construction of the first 41 Grays Hill Village buildings began during the summer of 1940 and was completed by mid-December of the following year. Over 120 additional buildings were constructed between 1941 and 1945.
Grays Hill Village was built during the time period when Fort Belvoir's Temporary Emergency Construction Program was in effect. Although there is no specific information relating to the architectural style of Grays Hill Village, typically the buildings constructed at this time featured very ordinary or straightforward architecture and were based on simple designs which took cost, efficiency, and speed of completion into consideration. Newspaper articles from the 1940s describe the buildings as either ranch or bungalow forms. The buildings in Grays Hill Village were probably constructed from wood and not intended to last for more than 20 years.
Statement of Significance
Initially called Lee Village, the name was changed to Grays Hill Village in the spring of 1942. The new name was meant to reflect the history of the village's location, as the area was historically identified as Grays Hill through the early 1900s.
Constructed in the early 1940s, Grays Hill Village was part of the Federal Defense Housing Project. Built to support Fort Belvoir during World War II, the first phase of construction was specifically intended to house non-commissioned officers.
A second phase of construction had a much broader intent. Fort Belvoir was considered an isolated installation, and very limited housing was available for civilians near the post. Since large numbers of civilians were needed at Fort Belvoir in order to maintain the necessary functions of the installation, a second phase included housing for a mix of both non-commissioned officers and civilians.
Grays Hill Village featured a variety of amenities. For example, in October 1944, Grays Hill Nursery was established. Grays Hill playground was a very popular place, especially for children celebrating their birthdays. Another amenity was the Grays Hill Civilian Dispensary, opened in August 1947 and located within the Grays Hill Village Community Center.
By the early 1960s, Grays Hill Village had become obsolete, with most buildings dilapidated. The majority of the village had been demolished by 1963 with only a few scattered buildings left. The remaining buildings were soon considered unusable and no longer safe for occupation. Most of the village was demolished during the 1960s. 1
Despite this complete demolition, there is still evidence of the former streets. To date, very limited construction has occurred in this area.
The name "Grays Hill" has actually been linked to the land since George Washington's time. Located in close proximity to Mount Vernon and Woodlawn Mansion, the land was once part of one of George Washington's five area farms. Washington referred to it as Grays Hill.
The land may have obtained its name from John Gray, a local tenant farmer. Born on the land, Gray lived in a small cabin at the base of the hill. 2 He served in the Revolutionary Army under Washington and worked at Washington's sawmill. Although he stated that he would have stayed in Virginia if he had owned land, he moved west in 1795. There have also been conflicting, unsubstantiated claims, however, that the "Gray" name was associated with George Washington's shoemaker. 3
Additional association with the Gray name occurred during the late 1880s with the establishment of Grays Hill Inn, which was located on the property through the early 1900s.
1 In March 1966, the 100th Engineer Company of the Fourth Battalion started demolition of an additional 42 buildings. Assisting them were the men and equipment of the 585th Engineer Company (Dump Truck) and the 73rd Engineer Company (Construction Support) also of the Fourth Battalion. March 1966 demolition of an additional 42 buildings began.
2 Written and pictorial documentation. National Trust for Historic Preservation, Collection of Woodlawn/Pope-Leighey. (Mount Vernon, Va.: Woodlawn Archives and Library, n.d)
3 Historic Structures and Landscape Report [HSLR]. Report completed by Watson and Henry Associates, Bridgeton, N.J., 2002.