As Manassas officials aim to add density in and around the Mathis Avenue corridor, the city is working to maintain green space around one of its historic assets.
The city’s Community Planning and Development Department is beginning the process of rezoning the Liberia House property and an adjacent lot in hopes of preserving a buffer zone between the 1825 house between Portner and Mathis Avenues and the development potential future next door.
Recommended by the Planning Commission, the rezonings would alter part of the Liberia House property at 880 Mathis Ave. in R-2 single-family residential zoning. The 12.62-acre property on the historic land is currently undeveloped, and while no new development or alterations to the historic site are being considered, the proposal “would provide additional zoning protection to the historic site if adjacent commercial property was beginning to be developed,” according to the city staff report. In particular, it would ensure a 25-foot buffer between the historic site and possible future development.
On Mathis, the city is seeking funding to narrow and beautify the current commercial corridor in hopes of designing a redevelopment that would add both commercial and residential uses. The city is also considering proposals that would allow residential projects to be built at higher densities than currently permitted. Liberia House’s plan is to ensure that Mathis’ goals do not detract from the historic nature of the property, which is owned by the city and remains a park space in the overall plan.
The plantation house was built in 1825 by Harriett Bladen Mitchell Weir and her husband, William James Weir. Known as the “Brick House,” it was valued at $2,876 when it was built, according to city tax records. With over 90 slaves on the land, the plantation became one of the most commercially successful in the region, growing vegetables and grains while raising horses, cattle, sheep and pigs. One of those enslaved people was Nellie Naylor, who the city says was given 12 acres of land after the Civil War. Some of Naylor’s descendants still live in the area.
During the war, the property served as the headquarters of Confederate General PGT Beauregard in 1861 before being taken by the Union Army and General Irvin McDowell the following year. President Abraham Lincoln even came to visit his commanders at home during the war.
Subsequently, the famous local brewer Robert Portner bought the house.
Jared Foretek covers the Manassas area and regional news across Northern Virginia. Contact him at [email protected]