Manassas Journal Messenger | Supervisors save historic school, approve plans for houses

Prince William County’s Supervisors’ decision to rezone 97 acres near the Va. 234 Bypass and Lucasville Road allows for more than just space to build 215 single family homes.

In one unanimous vote Tuesday, the supervisors helped save a 100-year-old former school for colored children, awarded some families somewhat of a victory over the Va. 234 Bypass and changed the land’s zoning from mostly agricultural to suburban residential.

Pulte Homes, the site’s builder, promised to move and make structural improvements to the Lucasville School, the county’s last 19th century African-American school house.

The unanimous vote also showed one family that even though the state bulldozed the Va. 234 Bypass through their property a few years ago, “a little guy still has a voice in Prince William County,” said David Fletcher.

The introduction of the Va. 234 Bypass lopped off about 100 acres from the wide expanses of zoned agricultural land west of Manassas.

Part of that land was also zoned a community employment center and environmental resource.

The Fletcher, Lueking and Andrews properties lined each side of the Bypass, which left parts of their land useless.

On one side of the Bypass grew homes and a business park.

On the other: crops.

David Fletcher, Tommie Fletcher’s son, said that the supervisors’ decision allowed his family to “do with their land what they have always believed is their right.”

Fletcher, accompanied by much of his clan Tuesday night, called the decision an acknowledgement of his late ncle’s ultimate sacrifice, giving his life in the Korean War.

With Marshall Edward Fletcher’s combat death at 17 came money from an insurance company. Fifty years ago that money bought a farm on Lucasville Road where the Fletchers spent many a day tilling the earth and watching their children play.

Progress ripped through their property with the paving of Va. 234 Bypass, bisecting the land into two awkward pieces.

Neighbor Francis Lueking said his property’s similar forced split was frustrating.

But the triumph at Tuesday’s Supervisor’s meeting seemed to lift his spirits.

“Obviously when we got an eight to nothing vote, we felt good about it,” Lueking said, smiling.

He did not celebrate alone.

At least 30 people signed up to publicly promote the rezoning application Tuesday, including Perry Andrews, another property owner who reveled the fruits of hard work.

But Lueking said the success Tuesday did not ease the frustration of losing uncompensated land to the Bypass.

“It’s kind of frustrating because you see what the property value really is,” he said.

In 2001, the Fletchers decided to sell the 33 acres alienated from the county’s Rural Crescent.

The Rural Crescent encompasses 80,000 acres stretching from Quantico Marine Corps base to Loudoun County where county zoning allows for 10-acre residential lots or farms.

The commission agreed that the Bypass changed the agricultural character of the land and in 2001 urged the Fletchers to come back with more property owners and a specific plan to rezone the land, a necessary step before selling to a builder.

The Fletchers, Andrews and Luekings spent two years choosing the right builder that would meet the land’s needs.

The Stevensons, Davises, Kovases, Lucckeses, Kneppers, Thompsons, Wikieras and Jindalls offered their parcels to the cause of creating a rezoning application that suited the area and provided a transition from agricultural to residential.

They chose Pulte and created an offer the county planning commission didn’t resist.

“Building houses there really is the right answer for the long term,” said Perry Andrews, who called Pulte the most “environmentally sound” builder they interviewed.

“I too would like to give credit to Pulte Homes,” said Sara Anderson, chairman of the Lucasville School Committee, a subgroup of the Prince William County Historical Commission.

She lauded the developer’s efforts in preserving a 1885 one-room school house on the Fletcher’s property.

She said it’s the last physical relic of black history in the county. The Lucasville School was built by freed slaves for their children after the Civil War and it operated under the jurisdiction of the Manassas School District.

Anderson attributed a local historian Lillian Gaskill with convincing Pulte to move the school to a safer location, an open space area east of Lucasville Road.

“She’s the heart and soul of saving this building,” said Anderson, a Historical Commission member for over 15 years. “Lillian’s impassioned plea and presentation moved (the Pulte representative) to make him decide maybe they could do something.”

Gaskill is a former County Historical Commission member.

Restoring the school with grants shouldn’t be hard, Anderson said.

“They were extremely simple buildings with extremely simple furnishings,” Anderson said of the turn-of-the-century schools. “This is kind of new and we don’t know how its going to work out, but it’s going to belong to the county.”

She said the Historical Commission will turn the Lucasville School into a sort of living museum where people can learn about black history and life after the Civil War.

She said she hopes to contact people who attended school there between 1886 and 1926.

“This project might have passed without that proffer (to preserve Lucasville School),” said Anderson. “But that proffer is very important to us to save a piece of Prince William County’s history.”

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