Seven Corners Built on Land Owned by Former Slave

Did you know that? We sure didn’t

Seven Corners

Seven Corners

This is a fascinating article that we dug up in The Washington Post from February 26th, 1953. We were doing a little research on the history of Seven Corners and came across this piece about the land selling and being prepared to house, what was back then, a giant shopping mall.

A 33-acre tract at Seven Corners, bought by a former slave for $500 after the Civil War and left to his children, has been sold conditionally for $750,000.

Sale of the property to the Lynne Investment Corp., of Washington, has been approved by Fairfax Circuit Court.

The land was bought by Frederick Foote, Sr., 88 years ago. The tract is located, generally, at the intersection of Leesburg Pike and Lee blvd. at busy Seven Corners, now called Fort Buffalo.

Foote left the land to his five children and stipulated in a will dated 1880 it could never be sold or leased. One child disappeared in 1912 and has been declared legally dead.

A son, Forrest D. Foote, conveyed his interest in the land to a sister, Mrs. Margarette Foote Jackson, 65, a Census Bureau employe who lives at 615 44th st. ne. The other two children, Frank C. Foote, 76, and Mrs. Virginia Foote Jackson, 83, live on the property.

Mounting taxes on the unproductive land forced the three heirs involved to seek court relief last December.

Prior to 1951 taxes amounted to $358, but a reassessment boosted the annual to over $3000. Judge Paul E. Brown broke the will and appointed commissioners to receive offers for the land.

The Lynne Investment Corp. headed by Garfield I. Kass and Irving D. Berger of Washington, contracted to buy the land on the condition all of it be zoned for commercial usage. About seven acres now is zoned commercial, the rest as suburban residential.

There you have it. Some really good Falls Church trivia for you. Now we have a Barnes & Noble (not for long) and a Starbucks! What more could you want?

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  • rich

    Fascinating! Wonder if the proceeds of the sale went to the family? I assume the two children that were still living there had to leave once Lynne Investment took it over.

    And I wonder what else the Lynne Investment Corp developed back in the day.

    Can’t wait to see what else you find out about Seven Corners!

    • Mark Stencel

      Rich: The family did indeed get the money. It even led to a remarkable reunion when a long-lost brother who’d been declared dead years before reappeared. He wrote to his family after reading about the deal in an Ohio newspaper. Once a Virginia judge declared him legally undead, the brother got his portion, too.

  • Mark Stencel

    To add a little perspective: $750,000 in 1953 is about $6.5 million in today’s dollars.

    And a little more on the remarkable Mr. Foote. Found this reference in “New Perspectives on the Civil War: Myths and Realities of the National Conflict” (via Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=RomkO-x6ajIC)

    “Legal, church-sanctioned weddings were sought by slave couples who escaped to Union lines. They formally renewed their marriage vows with the words ’till death do us part.’ One newspaper announces, ‘Married at Falls Church, Alexandria, Sunday evening, January 24th, 1864, by Rev. J.R. Johnson, missionary of the American Missionary Association, Mr. Frederick Foote and Miss Margaret Carter. Frederick has been six times sold as a slave. He has buried one wife, has six children in slavery, and now owns more than thirty aces of land. He thinks, and we think, too, that he can take care of himself and his family.’” (From Ervin L. Jordan Jr.’s essay, “Mirrors beyond Memories: Afro-Virginias and the Civil War” in a 2002 Roman & Littlefield edition, p. 161)

    Also this, from a Oct. 3, 1956, Washington Post story on Seven Corners:

    “Foote was born in 1800 on the historic Ravensworth Farm near Burke, Va. He earned the $500 to buy the land at Seven Corners by selling wood, working on the C&O Canal and serving as a guide for Union forces during the first Battle of Bull Run.”

    Quite a life!

    • http://ghostsofdc.org/ Ghosts of DC

      Great find! Thanks for sharing