In 1938, Susan Morton, a worker with the Virginia Historical Inventory, a preservation-minded program under F.D. R.’s Works Progress Administration, visited Pilgrim’s Rest, because her agency was tasked with inventorying old properties throughout Virginia. Being one of the oldest estates in the county, dating to the early 18th century, Pilgrim’s Rest fit the criteria perfectly. She’d visited and reported on other Colvin estates in the area such as Truro, Hazelwood, and Tenerife — all of which belonged to members of the particular family I have been studying for some time, but none of those homes, while old and certainly historically valuable, would make it onto the National Register of Historic Places.
Very recently, as luck would have it, Elizabeth Colvin, grand-daughter of Bruce Steel Colvin, and great-granddaughter of Dr. Henry Lynn Colvin, stumbled upon this blog and contacted me with compliments for my efforts and kindly offered to assist if she could. Offers like hers are always a welcomed highlight of this sort of work, and I am always gratified when this blog get that kind of attention. That’s because her g-grandfather was the first Colvin to come into possession of that venerable old home which had been in place for well-nigh three centuries. The lands today are highly prized by archeologists for its abundance of pre-historic Native American artifacts.
Pilgrims Rest is significant not only because its architecture represents old Tidewater style, (the double-chimney is a dead giveaway,) but because it sits on land which was once part of the original Foote tract. Those who know Piedmont Virginia history know that Richard Foote and his compatriots (fellow developers, as it were) Robert Bristow, Nicholas Hayward, and George Brent, had received their patents totaling some 3,000 acres directly from the crown (that’s King James II.) The quartet thought things would work out if they invited scores of Huguenots (outcast French Catholics) to settle in their new idea for a neighborhood to be called Brent Town. It was named after George Brent who was — you guessed it — a Catholic from neighboring Stafford County. But things didn’t work out the way they planned. The Huguenots never came, mostly due to terrible marketing ideas in Europe by the four, and competition by others wanting immigrant settlers just as badly, and so, slowly those huge tracts dwindled either via direct sale or lineal passage to smaller and smaller ones. But the home, Pilgrims Rest, remained, eventually passing – along with some 640-acres — to Rev. Levi Hazen (a Methodist minister) who by 1849 re-christen his plantation Mt. Wesley. (After Methodism founder, Rev. John Wesley, no doubt) It was the good minister’s grandson, Melvin Colvin Hazen, who acquired the property in the early 20th century and re-renamed it Pilgrim’s Rest. It was this “Melvin Hazen” who is named in her 1930s WPA report by Susan Morton when she was out trekking around old homes in the area during that goliath New Deal historical project. And it was that same Melvin, again, who was visited by folks from the Historic American Building Survey during the same period, and whom, after taking their notes and measurements, took some of the only 1930s-era photos of the place known to exist and which are now safely housed with the Library of Congress.
It was during those New Deal years, however, that three nephews of Melvin Colvin Hazen first acquired Pilgrims Rest – bringing it officially into the Colvin family for the first time. And in the 1940s, Elizabeth’s great-granddaddy, Dr. Henry Lynn Colvin, a Washington, D.C.-based pediatrician, bought out his cousin’s shares and acquired the estate and who performed some restoration and renovations in 1956 but by 1982 it passed out of the family, sold by Dr. Colvin’s widow, Virginia Colvin [nee Steel] to Dr. and Mrs. Thom Thomassen. In 1993, the Thomassens, in turn, sold the estate to Dr. and Mrs. Rodney J. Klima, the current owners. According to his website, Dr. Klima is a Fairfax-based orthodontist. Nevertheless, by 1989, it had acquired enough historic features to become an applicant for listing with the National Registry of Historic Places. In addition to helping restore the main house, between 1996-1998 The Klimas salvaged the 18th–century Kinsley Granary which had languished, dilapidated and abandoned, near its original site along what had been Broad Run. That water course was flooded in 1968 to create Lake Manassas to expand the County’s water supply. Threatened with submersion, the Klimas bought the structure from the county and had its two-stories worth of stone and beams hauled in pieces to its new site at Pilgrim’s Rest where they restored enough of it to not only re-purpose it as a guest house, (which is not as much of a re-incarnation as you might imagine,) but to included it along with Pilgrim’s Rest in their application to the National Registry of Historic Places.
By 2004, Pilgrim’s Rest took its honorary place on that valuable directory, by whom it is today protected. The fate of the Granary-turned-guest house is as yet undetermined.
Now you know.
Department of Finance, Prince William County , Virginia
Pilgrim’s Rest registration forms 1989, 2004, National Register of Historic Places
Morton, Susan, WPA Virginia Historical Inventory report # 191, Pilgrim’s Rest, 1938