Vint Hill Farms

25 years ago when I was a junior officer, I would hear stories about a great post near Washington, DC, called Vint Hill Farms.  I was told that if I could ever swing an assignment there, I should do so as it was a great location.   As events unfolded, that opportunity never presented itself and the base closed in 1997 as part of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Base Realignment Commission.  The base is now under the control of a development authority working for Fauquier County.  I was looking for a longer ride today, so I set off to make the 25 mile journey to see what the fuss was about.    Temperatures were 25 degrees colder than my ride just two days ago and cold weather gear was once again in order.

Greenville Presbyterian

Before reaching the base, I came across the unincorporated village of Greenville and stopped to pereuse some historical markers by the Greenville First Presbyterian Church.  Greenville (so the signs tell me) was originally named Greenwich, after Charles Green, a Briton who built a home in 1855 and a few years later donated it for use as a church.  During the Civil War, Mr. Green asserted his neutrality by flying the Union Jack over the church and claiming the land to be part of the UK.  Despite his rather dubious legal claim, the scheme seemed to work as both sides of the conflict respected Green’s wishes.  In turn, the church provided aid and comfort to wounded from both armies. 

EDIT:  The British flag is properly called the Union Flag.  The Union Jack monicker is appropriate only when the flag is flown from a ship.  Many thanks to Clive Chapman for the correction!

There is a second British connection to this land.  In 1778, British soldiers and Hessian mercenaries marched by this place on their way from Saratoga, NY, to Charleston, SC, as prisoners of war.  Saratoga was a major turning point in the revolution and it was at the time the largest British army to ever surrender (it would remain so until the Battle of Gallipoli in 1918).  Saratoga is an exceptionally long way from Northern Virginia, as is Charleston.  I would not have wanted to be part of that march…

Welcome Sign

Having taken in the history of Greenville, I pressed on another three miles to Vint Hill, where I immediately noticed signs of an old military base.  The abandoned barracks are clearly visible from the road and the odd cement island at the community entrance belied the former presence of a security gate.  I pedaled around and quickly found the barracks.  They were just down the road from the Vint Hill Inn, which displayed a no vacancy sign despite obvious signs of abandonment.  It was a little sad to see these buildings in such a state of disrepair.  Servicemen and women once lived here, doing important work for the nation.

The Barn

Vint Hill Farms got its start during WWII, when an enterprising signals intelligence analyst dangled a wire from a dairy barn and began intercepting German military and diplomatic cables.  Eventually, wires would spread over several hundred acres.  As the years passed, these wires gave way to advanced radio intercept antennae, targeted against the Soviet Union.  When the base closed in 1997, over 2,600 employees worked at the facility.  It felt odd to be pedaling about on a quiet Sunday morning on what was clearly once a bustling base.  I passed the old library, base theater, and post exchange – all abandoned.

Building available for lease

The development authority is trying to lease out these old buildings (there are signs announcing their availability all over the place) but it doesn’t appear they are having a great deal of success.  They are doing a much better job of leasing land to companies and letting them build brand new facilities for their use.  The effect is jarring – brand new office buildings just a few hundred yards from the abandoned part of the base.

The Inn At Vint Hill

One old building that seems to be doing quite well is the Inn At Vint Hill.  This 19th Century home previously served as the base club and now serves as a “full service special events facility, featuring a perfect private location, scenic beauty and casually sophisticated cuisine,” as its website describes.  On this day, the inn appeared to be hosting a coat-and-tie affair for several dozen people.  They all were quite happy and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.  Very nice.

And with that, I concluded I had spent enough time touring and needed to get home.  It was cold and windy as I pedaled through Nokesville but I got back in pretty good shape.  The long-range forecast has the cooler temperatures remaining, so I guess it’s not quite time to put my cold weather gear into storage.

Historical Marker Segment!

Below is the story of the captured British and Hessians, still a very long way from their destination.

click for details

And here we learn of the boyhood home of Richard Ewell, a Confederate General of some repute.  The fact that he was raised in the area actually has some relevance as his knowledge of local terrain allowed him to move on secondary roads while another Confederate Corps moved on the main road (which I was cycling on today).  Sadly for the Confederate’s, Ewell’s knowledge of the area road network was not equalled by his ability to command men in battle.  His side was routed at the Battle of Bristoe Station, which readers may remember from a previous post.

click for details

And finally, I found this one near Vint Hill Farms – it was certainly a bumper crop of markers today!  It describes an engagement between Confederate Colonel John Mosby and the 5th NY Cavalry, aided by Vermonters and Michigan lads.  Despite losing more men and the prized howitzer he had stolen earlier, the marker somehow depicts Mosby as being something of a hero in this engagement.

click for details

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37 thoughts on “Vint Hill Farms

  1. Point of order from a Brit! Our flag is only called a “Union Jack” when flown from a ship. It’s properly called the “Union Flag” when flown on land.

    Sorry about that, I had an unusual attack of pedantry there. ;-)

    • Thanks for the clarification! I have made the correction above. I don’t like when people screw up my flag, so I certainly understand your concern when I bungle yours.

  2. Pingback: The Year In Review: Part 3 (The Blog) | There And Back Again

  3. One of my fondest memories from my time with Uncle Sam was being stationed there. I actually worked in the building that is show “for rent”. Funny how time slips away, and those we knew so well are just warm memories . . . good night, Sharon, wherever you are . . . until and if we ever meet again.

  4. V.H.F.S. was my first duty assignment after I graduated A.I.T.. Never in my wildest dreams would I ever use the word bustling to describe this base, which I was stationed at from July 1973-June 1974. This was a quiet, secluded base, which was miles away from D.C. A great place to be stationed at if you were a gym rat. The Mall at Manassas was the place we liked to go if we could find someone with a car. I visited right around 2000, and had tears in my eyes as I saw the empty buildings and what had become of a great post. I still remember the smell of freshly cut grass during the summer months, as there was a huge field between the barracks and the various post facilities. Thanks for sharing your trip.

  5. I was stationed at V.H.F.S. after I returned from my second tour of duty In Viet Nam. I was there from my return in February 1967 until my ETS in September 1967. I remember the drive from the highway to the security gate; a tree-shaded driveway bordered by open fields bordered by white fences. If my feeble memory serves me, I think the post commander’s residence was the old farmhouse which was made from field stone. I do remember entering the operations building through the old silo. Since I was a newlywed, I and my wife lived off post in Warrenton VA and I didn’t spend much off-duty time on post. However, I do remember hearing stories about an off-duty hangout near by that was referred to as “beer can creek”. If not for Viet Nam, I sometimes wish I could re-live those days.

  6. I spent the summer of 1967 at Vint Hill working in the old processing center and playing softball. We had a chance at the 1st Army prize that summer, but had too many of us reassigned. I’ve been searching around for names from those days. It’s good to hear from a road biker. Ron Benson rlbwabasha@gmail.com

    • That’s a great story, Ron, and thanks for stopping by. I’m sorry but I don’t know anyone who served there during your time. I hope you track a few of them down soon! Thanks for your service.

    • I played on the VHFS softball team also, back in the late forties.
      We played in the MDW conference and traveled to the various bases to play.
      I was the best rightfielder they ever had. I was there until the Korean War erupted and then moved on. During my stay there I did a number various assignments, including being founder and editor of the post newspaper, THE VINT HILL ANTENNA.

      It is sad to see the old buildings, especially the brick barracks, in such disrepair. I remember those days before war fondly.

  7. It’s hard to find pictures and information on Vint Hill Farms. My grandfather was stationed there in 1961. I’m sure he lived somewhere off base woth my grandmother at the time, as they had 2 small children and another on the way. 25 days before my mom was born, he was attaching an antennae to the roof so that my grandma could stay in touch with him while he was on base. Tragically, he hit a high wire and was electrocuted. I’ve started searching the internet for as much information as I can find as we try and piece his past together.
    Thanks for sharing your trip.

  8. I arrived for duty at VHFS in August of 1985 and left in November of 1986 for my new duty station at field station Kunia, Oahu Hi. During my stay at VHFS, I lived off base directly across the road from the Greenwich Presbyterian Church. We rented a small brick house owned by a gent named Larry that owned the gas station convenience store right next door to the house we rented. I went back 2 years ago (2011) and visited VHFS and was saddened to see the decayed state of the barracks and other facilities on the grounds. Larry still owned the gas station stepping back inside of it a quarter century later brought back a lot of old memories.
    Thanks for sharing your trip!

  9. I served at Vint Hill Farms Station from 1976-1978 as part of the ASA/Corps of Engineers. I remember the place with great joy. I especially enjoyed the country side and the Battlefields. Thank you for the trip down memory lane :)
    Spc-5 USArmy M.L. Larimer

  10. I was stationed there from Jan 85 to Nov 87,beautiful area,big Redskins fan during my tour. I believe that was the post commanders house that is now the Inn but i am not positive.

    • The INN was the Officers’ Club. I was an MP there in 84 and 85, and when we were working midnights, we would sled down the hill out back on cardboard after a good snow (and sometimes just on wet grass). As previously mentioned, the Post Commander’s house was the old farmhouse.

  11. I came from Davis Station to serve at Vint Hill from 09/1970 to 03/1972 as a crypto man. I lived in the barracks for about three months and worked at the theater part time. The theater is still in use today.
    I then moved into a Manassas townhouse with some ASA buddies and got a part time job in a Mananas pharmacy. We had many good times in Manassas, Washington, and the surrounding areas.
    I went to visit Vint Hill on June 14, 2013. I toured the field station and took photographs of the places I remembered or had forgotten! I visited the old townhouse and it looks better today than it did forty years ago.

  12. Wow, what an unexpected trip down memory lane. I was cruising around the internet and found your story about my first ‘home away from home’. I was stationed at VHFS for a short year and a half, from Jan 84 to Aug 85 as an MP. I was just 18, and had never been away from home before. I lived in the barracks that are pictured, the most forward wing in the picture. I met my first wife at the front guard shack, the one that you arrived at after driving up the beautiful tree lined drive that was mentioned by someone else earlier. The marriage didn’t work out,but the memories of my time at that place are still vivid. I guess you could say that I grew up there, learning how to live on my own and be a grown up-many lessons learned. I can’t even count the hours I spent at the front or back gate, checking cars on and off post, learning how to deal with people.

    As a piece of trivia, the post commander in 84′ was Col. Leland J. Holland. He was a senior military attache in the American embassy in Iran when the occupants were seized and held hostage for over a year. I didn’t know him well, being just a Spc 4, but did see him most days when we posted the colors and ‘popped’ the Howitzer at reveille. He seemed like a good man, and always looked after his troops. By the way, the food at the mess hall there was absolutely phenomenal.

    Thanks again for the memories. I’ll have to try and get up there an take a look around before things are completely gone.

    • You’re certainly welcome! It’s surprising to me that although I wrote this some time ago it remains one of the most commonly read posts in this entire blog. There are a lot of VHF vets out there. Thank you for your service!

  13. Francis J Mason army ser 13 242 461 I was stationed at vent hill aprox,MAY 1947 TO JUNE 1949. tHERE WERE NO WOMEN ON THE POST. NO ONE WAS PERMITTED ON THE POST IF THEY DID NOT HAVE A SECURITY CLEARANCE. THE BARRACKS WERE ONE STORY BLACK BUILDINGS THAT HAD BEDS DOWN BOTH SIDES AND WAS HEATED WITH A POT BELLY STOVE IN THE CENTER OF THE BUILDIND

    • The first brick barrick was built while i was stationed there, When i arrived the cooks cooked on stove heated with wood and coal,

      • There were indications that some golf layout had been at the base. Between the first brick barrack and the gym were some obvious sand traps. Do you recall anything like that? It was a pretty good run across that area, because we played football next to it.

      • I’m sorry I don’t recall the traps, but the ride was a few years ago. Now I have an excuse to get back out there!

      • I kind of doubt the sand traps are still evident. If you check my first post, I was there in the 1950s. They probably built something there in the last fifty years. I keep remembering more about the times there, and the things I was involved with. Oh, well, I should write a book for my children. Thanks for re-discovering the base.

    • Those are great stories, Francis! I imagine a few things have changed since your time there. Thank you for sharing your memories and thank you for your service.

  14. Thought I was the “old” vet who had been stationed there, but…… I was there 1955 to 1957.
    Fixed TTYs. Wonder what happened to the blockhouse where all the action was back then? Those brick barracks were something after all the WW1 stuff I’d been in up to then. When I got my assignment I thought I was going to milk cows. It was called Vint Hill Farm Station when I was there. They changed it to a more military sounding thing while I was there. Pretty good duty.

  15. Interesting thread here… I found it while looking for historical information about the actual farm, before it was acquired by the military during WWII. My grandfather was Farm Manager at Vint Hill Farm in the late 1920’s to 1930’s and bred Black Angus cattle. My father and his 4 brothers largely grew up on that farm. Thanks for the pictures too!

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