In the late 1800s, it housed a timber business that made pilings and railroad ties that were shipped up the Potomac River to build Washington, D.C., and New York City. It then housed a heating oil business that helped warm Prince William area homes. Later, it became a boat sales operation and marina.
The Lynn family has owned the acre-plus on the banks of the Occoquan River in the center of the 200-year-old town since 1897. With the recent sale to developers, the use of the land is going to change again, this time dramatically.
Instead of a business, Bob Hagel and Mark Granville-Smith hope to build 20 upscale town houses — 10 facing historic Mill Street and the other 10 facing the Occoquan River. The Occoquan Town Council approved their preliminary plans earlier this month. They now have to refine their plans for approval from the town’s architectural review board.
“I’m excited about it and I think that is the general consensus of the [town] council,” said Occoquan Vice Mayor James O’Connor.
The development will be called Gaslight Landing.
“The town went to all gaslights on its streets and we want to coordinate our [development] with that,” Hagel said. The town’s gaslights were installed as part of its Mill Street Improvement Project, which was completed earlier this year.
There has not been an active business on the Lynn property for about five years, since the Prince William Marina moved to its present location farther down the Occoquan on Gordon Boulevard.
Fred M. Lynn and his son Bill opened the original Prince William Marina in 1960. Fred M. Lynn, a former Prince William County School Board member and the namesake of a county middle school, bought the land from his father, W.S. Lynn, in 1920. It was W.S. Lynn who originally purchased the land in 1897 and opened the timber business.
“After dad bought the land, it stood vacant for a number of years [before he started the heating oil business,]” said Bill Lynn, who now lives in Florida.
The Lynns were among the first to see the potential for recreational boating on the Occoquan and Potomac rivers. Other marinas along the waterways were also built during that time and many of them still exist and continue to thrive.
While the Lynn family retained ownership of the Mill Street land, they leased the marina over the years to a couple of different people. The name Prince William Marina, however, remained.
When the owners of Prince William Marina moved, the Lynn’s property with the glass-fronted business in the middle of Occoquan’s retail section and beside the town’s Mamie Davis Park along with its marina remained empty and slowly deteriorated.
The vacant building stood in contrast to most of the town, which has continued to thrive as a bustling little town. Several new businesses and homes have joined its landscape.
“It had been empty for so long. It was an eyesore,” O’Connor said. The new development “will be a continuation of the revitalization of the Mill Street area.”
The town council has been working in recent years to continue enhancing the town’s image while embracing its past. Aside from the Mill Street improvements, which also included bricking town sidewalks, the street configurations have been changed to mostly one-way avenues to allow for more parking.
Earlier this year the town opens its new riverwalk and boat docking facility in an effort to return to its roots as a port.
Hagel and Granville-Smith told the Occoquan Town Council that they want the town’s riverwalk to be extended along their property as well.
They also plan to have the former marina re-permitted by the state so that the new town house owners will be able to moor boats nearby.
The town houses will be about 2,200 to 2,300 square feet in size with nine-foot ceilings. Each town house also will have three on-site parking spots. The town houses facing Mill Street will be on ground level. The ones facing the river will be on pilings.
Hagel said they had not yet set a price-range for the town houses and will not do so until they have their plan approved by the town architectural review board.
Even without a set price range, Hagel said they are still garnering interest. “We are still in the preliminary phases of the project,” Hagel said. “[But,] a lot of people want to be put on the list” as potential buyers.
“It looks like the town houses are going to be very, very nice,” O’Connor said. “It will be delightful to have people living there.”