Now: This privately owned, thoughtfully restored home rests on 51 acres in McLean, off Dolley Madison Boulevard. Most of the property (41 acres) was protected by a conservation easement in 2005; Fairfax County is now developing a master plan for what will become Salona Park.
Then: While this parcel was originally owned by Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, Virginia’s ninth governor and father of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, it passed out of the family’s hands in the early 1800s because of financial difficulties. The buyer was William Maffitt, a Presbyterian minister and former teacher, who named it Salona.
Like Ash Grove, Salona became a working farm, using mostly slave labor to grow wheat, rye, corn, potatoes and hay. Maffitt owned 21 slaves in 1812, according to Virginia personal property tax records. Married twice, he had three children and three stepchildren.
The minister also had friends in high places. In 1814, President James Madison and first lady Dolley Madison fled to Salona and stayed the night (they were joined by John Mason of Analostan Island, who operated the ferry across the Potomac) to escape the British attack on Washington during the War of 1812. It’s said that Dolley brought with her the famous White House portrait of George Washington, to save it from fire.
But this event may have occurred at the peak of Maffitt’s fortune and influence. By the time of his death in 1828, he owned only 13 slaves, which suggests that he could no longer afford to feed and house the original 21 and their families.