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Just Like Nothing (Else) on Earth: The Stone House

May 3, 2017 by Blue Ridge Leader filed under Columns, Just Like Nothing (Else) on Earth No Comments

At Harper Park
– By Tim Jon

No – they don’t serve fresh oysters here, there are no wi-fi hook-ups, and there is no Happy Hour; from what I hear, though – this little place used to jump and swing with the best of ‘em – at least by early 19th Century standards. You’d never know it by that quick glance you give the Stone House at Harper Park as you buzz past on Route Seven, just east of Leesburg – that this was once a popular destination for weary (or maybe just thirsty) travelers – who, perhaps, even, were not all that different from you or me. Jenkins’ Ordinary, as it was called back in the day, reportedly sold rum, ‘vittles’ and a place to bed down for the night; kinda hard to believe just from scoping out the relatively small size of the structure – I’m guessing that they (like many other establishments of their time) had an outdoor (or basement) kitchen – and the rafters must have been used for sleeping quarters- making for a pretty cramped arrangement, at best. But, history tells me that – quite long ago – this was a successful business, for its time.

The almost-forgotten little Stone House now conveys a completely deserted, ignored (except for a manicured lawn and set of security lights) – and even an out-of-place look; juxtaposed between the modern neighborhood around Harper Park Middle School, the hustle and bustle of a commuter highway just a few yards away, the looming sound barrier extending to within crowding distance from the east, and the 21st Century development across the road – Village at Leesburg, complete with the clearly-visible Wegman’s sign – beckoning as an alternative to my early-morning stroll around this forlorn, one-room structure. And, I’d like to think that I’m completely off base here, but I got the distinct sensation, walking the perimeter about the Stone House, that Our Time in general, with its alluring night spots and endless entertainment opportunities – all squeaky clean and marketable in proper fashion – feels no impending impulse to preserve, protect and utilize an historic (if a bit unsightly in its present garb) resource such as this.

Now – I’m not about to turn off my electricity and toss out my (fairly) modern communications devices and revert to hunting and gathering – but I’d like to include some of the simple (and for me – instructive) things from the past in my present-day world of endless choice for pretty much instant gratification. Looking back now, on my sunrise walk around the old Stone House, I can still feel some of the impressions: Such as, the importance of the stamp of individuality in our world of increasingly familiar facades; this structure bears the look of a weathered character out of Hemingway, or Thomas Wolfe – or Nathaniel Hawthorne. Its oddly-placed windows even reminded me of a young child’s first (failing) attempts at placing the comical features on a Mister Potato-Head doll – with the nose or an eye in the wrong spot. And I find this (the finished product of early-1800’s rural architecture) completely endearing – revealing the basic humanity in those who constructed the little building. It certainly doesn’t look perfect – not in the sense of many of its man-made surroundings. But the Stone House has been around for a while – it possesses the asset of experience; it stood through two World Wars, many American Presidencies, the construction of Dulles Airport, and for several generations of Loudoun County Citizens. And – in spite of what I had earlier described as general neglect – this monolithic creation still appears remarkably resilient: built from stone and mortar (with a very sound-looking metal roof) as it is, I’m guessing the little Stone House may yet stand far beyond the natural life span of many of its neighbors – both living and manufactured.

So – if a deep-pocketed visionary’s dream comes up with the will and carry-through to ‘save’ and showcase this gem from the past, I’m sure they’d be rewarded – if only in the intangible sense. That’s the kind of treasure you can take anywhere.

The structure we now call the Stone House at Harper Park reminds me of a time when warmth came from a welcome fireside, sustenance from home-style cooking, and comfort from a wooden chair. And that was sufficient. Perhaps it still is.

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