Among the many stately and historic homes located in Arlington County, the Rixey Mansion deserves a special mention.
Set on one of four farms owned by Washington resident and Assistant Surgeon General of the U.S. Navy Dr. Presley M. Rixey, the Rixey Mansion was built to replace the property’s old farmhouse which burned down in 1907. The mansion was constructed in 1919-1920 under the supervision of Dr. Rixey and architects Frank Upman and Percy C. Adams and was thought to be one of the most sophisticated and elaborate residences of its time, boasting an exquisite stairway, a grand drawing room, banquet room, and a first floor covered with marble, designed in a black and white geometric pattern.
After Dr. Rixey’s death in 1928, the farm was purchased by Mrs. Ida K. Polen and was used as a tea house. In 1937, following a fire at the Washington Golf and Country Club, the house was temporarily used as a dining facility until a new building was completed.
In 1948, the estate was purchased by the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary and upon the establishment of Marymount College in 1950, the Rixey mansion became the central building or “Main House” of the university.
What About You?
Do you have any memories of Rixey Mansion? Let us know!
Bill Brandt says
I would be interested to know if there are any photographs of the old house that preceded the Rixey Mansion. This would have belonged to Mary Ann Hall, the Washington Madam. My great, great-grandmother was Columbia Birch Harrison (wife of Robert Harrison – both in the little Birch-Campbell burying ground). I believe that Mary Ann Hall purchased the 70-some acres from Columbia. Columbia’s daughter Frances was Bazil Hall’s (of Hall’s Hill) second wife. I am descended through Thomas Harrison, Frances brother. My mother’s family was from Cherrydale Hill.
I have done the usual research on Mary Ann, Elizabeth and Bazil Hall. I have been trying to find an image of Mary Ann’s house in the District on Maryland Avenue in the Island. The only images are some 19th century insurance maps of the area (that are pretty detailed) and an old newspaper photo (ca. 1900) of Louse Alley which shows, what must have been the area directly behind Mary Ann’s establishment. Eventually, Elizabeth sold the house to the Miner School/Institution – the forerunner of Howard University. The house in the District must have been standing, at least, until the early 20th century. I have looked through “Capitol Losses” and a few other resources with no luck. I would appreciate any leads you may have regarding Mary Ann or Elizabeth in Alexandria County. I know that Elizabeth had a house across from Mary Ann’s somewhere near what is now St. Mary’s Episcopal church. I have lived in NYC since 1970. I have no family living in the the Cherrydale area any more. Most of my more recent relations are in Columbia Gardens or well outside the DC area.
Web Editor says
The Center for Local History is working on your question, but in the meantime we have added a photo.
Nancy Ostertag says
Following this thread with interest. If you do find a picture either of the farmhouse that preceded the mansion, or of Mary Ann Hall’s place at 349 Maryland Ave. Please be sure to leave a comment here.
Thank you so much!
Bill Brandt says
Sorry that this is so long in coming. I still don’t have a picture of Mary Ann Hall’s house (Maple Grove in Arlington) that preceded the Rixey Mansion. There is a street plan of the DC Establishment in the late 19th Century and a photo of the street front.
[With the library’s help] I have attached a copy of an 1865 Army map of the District and vicinity. I have indicated where Mary Ann’s house (Maple Grove / Marymount) was and also shows Lizzie’s House and Basil Hall’s House (Halls Hill). Interesting that they would be featured in such a large map. FYI, I believe that the Rixie Mansion is the highest point in that part of Arlington. She was forced out of her house at the beginning of the Civil War and was occupied by the Union Army. Great spot for 360 degree surveillance of the region.
Jackie Ciccone says
Ida Polen was a relative on my mother’s side. I remember going for a visit in mid60s, but Aunt Ida had become a recluse and wouldn’t come to the door. I saw her peeking out of an upstairs window. I wish I had asked more of the history of my mother, now deceased.