The History of a Field of Hay
It is thought that George Washington acquired the land on which Hayfield was built around 1761, in order to increase the holdings of his Mount Vernon Estate. Colonel Washington came to use the land he purchased as his hayfield - hence the name of the school. When General George Washington returned from the Revolutionary War, he decided to ease his debt by selling 360 acres of the western section of his land to his cousin and plantation manager, Lund Washington, who was married to the former Elizabeth Foote, also one of the General's kinsman.
Lund and his wife built the lovely Hayfield Manor House which remained standing until a fire destroyed it in 1917. Also on the site was a formal boxwood garden that was said to be one of the finest in the state of Virginia. Lund died in 1796, and his wife later bequeathed the land to her nephew William Foote. His widow conveyed the land to Richard Windsor in 1860, who then sold the land to William Clarke in 1874.
Clarke added more acreage, and is credited with building the famed double octagon, or sixteen-sided barn, apparently based on the plans of a barn built by General Washington. It was located across from the school in the vicinity of what is now Hayfield Park. The shape, it is reported, was such to ensure that the devil would have no corner in which to hide in his ever-ending quest to drag souls into the fires of hell. Reportedly, the barn remained standing until 1967, when it also fell victim to a fire.
In 1906, Clarke's widow conveyed Hayfield to Joseph R. Atkinson, who in turn sold it to J.M. Duncan. In 1918, after fire had destroyed the farm dwellings, it was conveyed to Hayfield Farm Co., Inc. It was during this time that some of the historic Hayfield boxwood was sold, and it is said that some of it thrived at the National Cathedral (placed there by Mrs. Woodrow Wilson). Some of it may also have been planted at the National Masonic Memorial.
In 1954, the property was sold to W.S. Banks and W.M. Orr, who developed a herd of Charolais cattle there. They sold to Wills and Van Metre in 1963, and their construction company began to develop housing plans. That, of course, brought about the need for a school, and on January 13th, 1969, Hayfield Secondary opened its doors. During excavation, workmen unearthed a pre-Civil War cemetery, with a total of thirty-one gravesites. The identity of the deceased remains a mystery even today. The coffins were all aligned with heads to the west and feet to the east - this to conform to the tradition that men are born like the sunrise, and die just as the sun fades to the west. The remains of the thirty-one were reburied in Fairfax Cemetery.
Classes were to begin at Hayfield Secondary on January 13, 1969. However the school was not finished on time; thus, the first high school classes had to held at Edison High and Mark Twain Intermediate. Both of those buildings had to double shift. Edison students, for example, went from 7:30 until 11:30 am; Hayfield students arrived at 11:30 and left at 3:30 pm. That four-hour school day was great noted many who can remember back that far. But by September 1969, Hayfield Secondary was off and running. Some construction still had to be completed, but classes were in place – all 7 ½ hours of them!
The surrounding area was still “in the middle of nowhere”. There was no Giant Shopping Center, no Kingstowne. The houses in Hayfield Farms sold at the amazingly large sum of $30,000. There was a working farm with a cow next to the football field on Hayfield Road. The new school was shiny and modern. The principal, Floyd Worley, insisted that the faculty be young and beautiful as well. The student body was overwhelming Anglo-Saxon. The years have changed the physical structure of the building and the composition of the student body, but the dedication of the faculty; the support of the surrounding community, and the determination of the students to succeed in life have not. This is Hayfield’s lasting legacy.
Thanks to Dr. Dennis Pfennig, who taught at Hayfield for thirty years, for writing this history.
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