The ruins of Abingdon Plantation sit on a hill by a roadway in busy Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
Abingdon Plantation was purchased in 1778 by John Parke Custis, stepson of George Washington, who wished to locate his young family close to Mount Vernon. The Custis family’s plans were cut short when John Custis died from camp fever at Yorktown in 1781. His widow, Eleanor Calvert Custis, married Dr. David Stuart, an Alexandria physician in 1783 and had 13 more children. The two oldest Custis girls, Elizabeth and Martha, resided with the Stuarts, while Nellie and George Washington Parke Custis grew up at Mount Vernon. The Stuarts returned the Abingdon Plantation to the Alexander family in 1792.
In the years following Abingdon Plantation was occupied by Union troops during the Civil War. The plantation’s productivity was hampered by the nearby development of several brick manufacturing companies and the region’s growing transportation needs, with the Washington Alexandria and Mount Vernon electric railway, the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad and the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway (later GW Parkway) cutting into the land.
A fire destroyed the abandoned and deteriorating Abingdon home on March 5, 1930. In 1938 President Roosevelt selected the site for National Airport which opened in 1940. Today, the airport’s parking area surrounds the ruins of the main house, which can be seen by the nearby metro line. Visitors can see artifacts from the Abingdon house site in a special exhibit hall inside the airport, and the site is open to the public.
What About You?
Have you visited the Abingdon Plantation site? Let us hear from you!
Bernie Berne says
The librarians stated in 2008 in this webpage “Today, the airport’s parking area surrounds the ruins of the main house, which can be seen by the nearby metro line.”
This was not correct in 2008 and is still not correct in 2016. In 1998, a contractor working for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority covered the foundations of the main house at Abingdon and removed the visible remnants of the remains of the house’s chimneys. The contractor then reconstructed the foundations of the house on top of a new concrete base.
Nobody can now see the ruins of the main house from the nearby Metro line or from anywhere else. They can only see the 1998 reconstruction.
An article by Rich Daly on the front page of the Arlington Journal, July 29, 1998, entitled “Touching down on the 18th century: Airport lifts Abingdon from ruins” reported the reconstruction, together with comments by the contractor supervising the project. A sign that the Airports Authority placed near the foundation also describes the reconstruction project.