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The Lake Barcroft Story

BARCROFT COMMUNITY was named in memory of a doctor who built his home here and also operated a mill. The man was Dr. John W. Barcroft, originally from New Jersey. In 1849 Dr. Barcroft came to our area and built both a home and a mill on Columbia Pike at Holmes Run near the present dam. He practiced medicine throughout the surrounding community and ran his mill up to the time of the Civil War.

During its retreat from the Battle of Bull Run, the Union Army overran Dr. Barcroft's home. His property was so damaged that he went back North until the end of the war. He then returned to Fairfax County and built a new home on what became known as Barcroft Hill.

Before the time of Dr. Barcroft, our neighborhood was not without some notable history. The original residents were the Doe and Necostin Indians of the Algonquin tribes. (Anacostia derives its name from the Necostins.) Artifacts of these early natives are still occasionally found. Howard Uphoff has uncovered arrowheads on his land at 6308 Lakeview Drive.

Munson Hill Farm was a large tract between what is now Bailey's Crossroads and Seven Corners. It was settled and developed during the early 1700's. Timothy Munson bought the land in 1851 and gave his name to the farm. In the time to come his name was also applied to a community and a street just north of our lake area. Columbia Pike was constructed as a toll road in 1808, and was then called the Washington Gravelled Road.

During the Civil War both Munson Hill Farm and Bailey's Crossroads were scenes of action. At the beginning of the war Bailey's Crossroads was a Union Army camp. At the same time the Confederate Army occupied locations at Annandale and Fairfax. Later, Federal troops built Fort Buffalo at the present site of Seven Corners, and it became one of the ring of forts protecting the District of Columbia in 1861. At about that time Bailey's Crossroads was the site of the largest military review ever held anywhere. General McClellan reviewed 75,000 troops, and President Lincoln was among the additional 75,000 spectators who came to watch the Army of the Potomac's vast parade.

It was during this grand review that Julia Ward Howe was inspired to write new words for the music of a song called John Brown's Body. The new song became one of the most stirring anthems of all time, the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Bailey's Crossroads is named for the Baileys, a circus owning family whose menagerie and shows were merged with those of P.T. Barnum about 1870. The Barnum and Bailey Circus was then billed as, "The Greatest Show on Earth." For many years Bailey's Crossroads was its winter quarters.

Lake Barcroft came into being in 1915. An increasing need for water by the City of Alexandria led the Alexandria Water Company to build the dam and establish a reservoir to store the waters from the branches of Holmes Run. The North Branch of Holmes Run is now called Tripps Run.

Dam construction was begun in 1913 under contract with the Piedmont Construction Company. Specifications for the Barcroft Dam were severe and the construction was massive. The structure is of cyclopean masonry and concrete. The foundation is laid upon bed rock. A railway was built to transport the masonry stones to the dam site. The contractor went broke completing the job.

The result was a dam 400 feet wide with the spillway at the top 205 feet above mean sea level and 63 feet above the stream bed. Behind this dam there formed a lake of 115 acres and over five miles of shoreline. When full it held nearly 620,000,000 gallons and had an average daily runoff of about 10,000,000 gallons. In 1942 gates were installed at the top of the dam to raise the spillway level five feet. This increased the size of the reservoir to 135 acres and the capacity to about 800,000,000 gallons.

In the late 1940's the reservoir became too small to serve Alexandria and other water sources replaced its use. In 1950 the reservoir and its surrounding land were put up for sale by the Water Company. There was a movement to turn it into a Fairfax County park,but the Board of Supervisors considered the economics and decided in favor of private development. A partnership of developers from Boston bought the lake and 680 acres of land in the spring of 1950 for about one million dollars.

The principals in this venture were Joseph V. Barger and Charles E. Dockser whose association had resulted in several preceding real estate developments. Homesite sales began in the summer of 1950, and by early fall the bulldozers moved in to begin the community construction. Early in 1951 a 60-acre Malbrook tract was added to the Lake Barcroft area. In the time that followed the 750 acres were divided into 1,020 lots on which now stand 1,000 homes.

The honor of being first residents at Lake Barcroft is shared by the families of Dana Messer, at 3703 Tollgate Terrace, and Robert Oshins, at 3620 Stanford Circle. They built at the same time and it seems that the Messers moved in, in a tent, while their house was being completed, the Oshins being the first to occupy their permanent structure. Thus the title of "First resident" depends on definition, but both share the claim to being Barcroft's pioneers.

The relationship between the Lake Barcroft property owners and the lake as a community recreational facility was provided by the Barger-Dockser owned management corporation, Barcroft Beach, Inc., which retained title to the lake, the dam and the beaches. In return for an annual fee paid to this corporation, as a condition specified in his deed, each property owner was granted permission to use the lake and the beaches. Although the community members had exclusive use of the lake, through payment of their fees, they did not own it. Joseph Barger was the original and only Managing Director of Barcroft Beach, Inc. to the time of his death, and the residents used the lake under his terms and rules. From time-to-time uncompleted proposals occurred for the Lake Barcroft residents to buy the lake for themselves, an idea that has persistent presence since the first moments of the community.

In November 1969 Joseph Barger and Charles Dockser died within two days of each other. The heirs to their estates immediately announced intent to sell Barcroft Beach, Inc., and with it, of course, the lake, dam and beaches. To prevent possible outside acquisition and commercial use of the lake, the community joined in the creation of the Barcroft Lake Management Association, a non-stock, non-profit organization which acquired Barcroft Beach, Inc., and thus control of the lake. Initially, 725 members joined at $300 per membership. Since that time, the membership figure has risen as non-member households have joined. There were 992 in July 1998.

The Management Association, under the acronym "BARLAMA", undertook revitalization of the management, maintenance, and operation of the lake and was well into its 2nd season when, on June 21, 1972, a low-grade tropical storm heavy with rain, dubbed "Agnes" by the Weather Bureau, dumped the heaviest rainstorm of the century -- a 125 year downpour -- on the mid-Atlantic seaboard and washed out the earth at the west side of the dam, nearly emptying the lake in a matter of hours. The threat of permanent loss of the lake inspired immediate coalescence of community leadership, joining in the task of solving the problem of restoration and with unprecedented community support. The success of this enterprise and the creation of the Watershed Improvement District.

BARLAMA and the Lake Barcroft Community Association (LABARCA) merged in 1992. The organization is now called Lake Barcroft Association, Inc. (LBA).

Adapted from "Lake Barcroft Origins" by Will Fazar, Lake Barcroft Directory 1967, and "Some Virginia History" by Rex Lauck, Lake Barcroft Directory 1970. Revised, 1974 & 1979, by Myron Birnbaum. Revised, 1992 by William Lowenthal.