Herndon’s historic Coomber Hall to be “deconstructed” within 30 days, developer says

Coomber Hall at 1521 Dranesville Road (via Newmark Grubb Knight Frank)

Historic Coomber Hall, a family home, and several other structures at McMillen Farm in Herndon are set to be “deconstructed” within 30 days after Fairfax County granted a demolition permit late last month.

The 171-year-old dairy-barn-turned-music-school at 1521 Dranesville Road will be disassembled this month along with several other structures, the developer that now owns the property confirmed.

Tradition Homes owner Steve DeFalco told Reston Now that a majority of materials from the barn are being relocated elsewhere in Fairfax County and will be used to construct a new barn by a private homeowner.

A new residential subdivision will be built on the site which is known as McMillan Farm, thanks to a rezoning request that was approved in 2018. The development is currently on track to be completed next summer, DeFalco noted.

A demolition permit was granted only after the developer fulfilled all obligations laid out in the rezoning proffer agreement, a Fairfax County official confirmed to Reston Now.

Under that agreement, one of the requirements was for the developer to market the sale for at least 180 days. If the main farmhouse and barn were purchased, they would have had to be deconstructed or safely moved in one piece to another property within county limits.

However, no one stepped up to purchase the structures within that time frame, giving the developer the right to remove the structures.

“It is the County’s goal to save historic buildings if feasible,” Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust wrote in an email to Reston Now. “During the rezoning process, the county requested that the owner agree to market the barn and home for at least 180 days to find one or more purchasers who might save the buildings by buying and relocating them. The owner agreed to do so. Unfortunately, the owner’s efforts were unsuccessful and no purchasers were found.”

McMillan Farm is on the county’s inventory of historic sites but not on the Virginia Landmarks Register or the National Register of Historic Places, though it is eligible for both.

The barn was partially built in 1850, and the family home was completed about 50 years later in the early 1900s. Owned by John Richard McMillen, it was the center of a 550-acre dairy farm, one of a number of similar farms that dotted Herndon in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

“Herndon was predominantly a dairy farming community,” Herndon Historical Society Director Barbara Glakas told Reston Now. “The whole McMillan farm property — from the house to the outbuildings to the chicken coop to the barn — are…one of the last vestiges of the Herndon-area farming community.”

In the 1960s, the barn was converted into a music and dance school and recital hall by George and Mary Coomber, who had inherited the property.

The school operated within the barn for a number of years, but in 2017, the Fairfax County Office of Code Compliance inspected the site and found that many of the structures were in “various states of disrepair,” according to a county official.

The damage was potentially related to a lighting strike, according to a permit obtained for repairs related to the incident in 2012.

The county requested the buildings be further stabilized and secured, but as the rezoning application notes, the property owner had already made the decision to demolish buildings.

DeFalco bought the house and barn for $2.3 million in 2019, according to county records.

While the structures will no longer be standing on the site past the end of the month, the farm’s story will not be lost. As part of the proffer, the developer is required to erect an accessible, public memorial on the site telling the history of the farm.

“At a minimum, an information panel or panels with appropriate references to the farm’s history and appropriate landscaping and/or hardscaping,” the proffer agreement says.

DeFalco confirmed that this is the developer’s intention.

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