The History of Villamay
Nearly a half century before George Washington and Martha Custis called Mount Vernon their home, Thomas Sandiford (with the blessing of Queen Anne of England) received a grant of 598 acres along the Potomac. This property, a few miles north of Washington’s Collingwood farm, encompassed most of the land within Villamay’s boundaries. The land in the 1703 Sandiford grant included all of the real estate between Villamay Boulevard and Morningside Drive. In 1715, Tom Sandiford willed this land to William Dorrell and his wife – Anne Fouke Mason, the daughter of Colonel George Mason.
In 1789, Roger West, another Virginia gentleman of “purse and person,” was awarded a grant of 471 acres of Potomac property, north and adjacent to the Sandiford grant. The West land included most of the area between Villamay and Westgrove Boulevards. Roger West was the son of Colonel John West, Surveyor of Alexandria, member of the House of Burgesses and one of the major “Land Barons” of Northern Virginia. Legend has it that George Washington paused to water his horses from Roger West’s free-flowing springs at Tatum and Huntly Place while en route to a “Saturday night on the town” in the port city of Alexandria.
It was Gene May, an enlightened Texan, who recognized the land's potential as residential property.
The land changed hands many times among the descendants of the original settlers and speculators over a period of two hundred years. At the time the land was cleared for development, the only evidence of its use were the remains of a temporary structure on Gatewood Drive and a trench on the high ground along Admiral Drive. The trench at Admiral Drive is believed to have been a part of the extensive outer fortifications of the Union Fort Willard located at Belle Haven. Thus, the land, with its rolling hills grown wild with oak, pine, and poplar overlooking the Potomac, had changed little since the days of the original owners.
It was Gene May, an enlightened Texan, who recognized its potential as residential property. Trained as a Civil Engineer at Texas Tech, he began his venture into the construction field following his WWII service as a Captain in the Corp of Engineers. In 1956, May fortuitously acquired 155 acres of the original Sandiford-West land from the Bucknell Syndicate. This included some 15 lots along Huntly and Sussex Place. On July 18, 1958, he delivered the first home to Charles and Virginia Mullaly at 7107 Sussex Place. The project was completed January 10, 1967, with the sale of the last home at 1217 Belle Vista Drive to William and Sue Galvin. Villamay streets were named for the builder’s friends and relatives. The area along Tatum Drive was offered to the community association for use as a recreational area, but it was declined. The property was subsequently sold to Bill Snap who built four of the eight houses on the street.
At the outset, Villamay was a community of residents, not just a subdivision of people. In 1960, just two years after the first house was built, a Citizens’ Association was formed “to promote and advance the interests of Villamay and the area in which it is located; to maintain and improve Villamay as a residential center, giving attention to the promotion of public improvements and to the beautification of the community.” R. Lomax Wells, M. D., served as the first president and Clova Demaine as the first vice president. It is said that in those days, “block parties” were held in the streets to celebrate the opening of a new section, on special holidays, and to welcome new residents.
The “Home Demonstration Club,” the forerunner of the Villamay Women’s Club, evolved from the early Citizens’ Association. Other organizations, such as the Garden Club, were also formed to enhance the social environment of the community. In 1974, a security organization was created as an augmentation to the County security and safety agencies, and a security patrol or “Neighborhood Watch” program has operated from time to time through the cooperative efforts of residents.
Throughout its relatively short history, Villamay has been a place where its citizens have taken pride in their community and enjoyed the friendship of their neighbors. The Citizens’ Association which began with 30 neighbors, nearly 50 years ago, continues today as a focal point of community activities for 278 families.