OK, so what is so hot and desirable about the Bull Run Mountains? I asked the old-timers as well as newcomers what they thought made living in that rather remote section of western Prince William County so special.
Some just stared as if I’d asked what’s so great about living on a planet containing oxygen, but I did get some interesting replies to the question: What is it about mountain life?
“The beauty! The pure air! The peace and quiet! The wildlife! The sunsets!” were some of the most common responses.
It seems as if anyone who lives there, has nothing but good to say about the area nestled between Fauquier and Loudoun counties, north of Haymarket.
Take Dick Galloway. He and his wife, Marian, have been residents of Ruddy Court for 32 years.
“I’m a native of Falls Church but then 36 years ago I moved to Manassas to get away from the hustle and bustle of Falls Church.
“After four years in Manassas, I could see that it was rapidly becoming just like Falls Church. We had friends that lived on the Bull Run Mountains and after visiting with them several times, we decided we wanted to live there too. So we purchased a home that was being built by John Berger who had constructed many of the homes in the area.”
The 67-year old Galloway has no regrets about the move.
“I found the area to be very rustic and the people to be very community-minded. We really love living here,” he said.
In spite of the belief by many people that the area is out of the way, “it really isn’t,” Galloway said.
Galloway runs “Help! Janitorial.” Getting to his Northern Virginia clients via U.S. 701, U.S. 15 and Interstate 66 is convenient.
Galloway said scarcely a day goes by when he doesn’t see some kind of wildlife on his property — deer, fox, raccoon, squirrels and even a bobcat.
“The only bad things about the deer, is that they eat my tomatoes,” he said with a chuckle.
Galloway estimates when he first moved to the Bull Run Mountains, there were about 150 homes in the area, a number that’s grown to about 700.
“I am seeing a lot of development coming into the area. Some of the homes are starting at a half-million dollars. It’s really a hot spot for new growth,” Galloway said.
“I literally shut the door behind me in Falls Church; I shut the door behind me in Manassas; I hope I don’t have to shut the door behind me again here. I love it too much to ever leave.”
Emmett and Wanda Crouch once moved away from Bull Run Mountains. They missed it so much they returned to the rolling land they loved.
“We used to live in Manassas but in 1979 moved to the Bull Run Mountains. We sold our home and moved to Centreville but came back 15 years ago. At first our three children didn’t want to move, but they also got to love the area as much as we did,” said Wanda Crouch.
The Crouch family lives on a five-acre plot off Mountain Road realizing the area is a great place to raise their children who attended Gainesville Elementary, Marsteller Middle School and Stonewall Jackson High School.
“It’s just a clean, neat place in which to live,” Wanda Crouch said.
Sharon and Dick Williams of Collins Court have been homeowners in Bull Run for 30 years, in two different homes.
“When we moved from Manassas to the Bull Run Mountains, people thought we were moving to the ‘boon-docks.’ For that reason not too many people wanted to move there and consequently you could buy a home there much cheaper than anywhere else,” said Sharon Williams.
Leaning on good neighbors becomes the custom for those living in the rural areas of Bull Run.
“Since we were so isolated, we had to depend on each other for many things,” Sharon Williams said, noting that resources like baby-sitting or even just going to the grocery store can be community efforts.
“If a neighbor was going to the Giant Store in West Gate, he or she would ask around to see if anyone needed anything picked up.”
Sharon Williams said living on the mountain was an ideal place to raise children.
“For years there was little traffic; in fact our street then was just gravel, and our children could sled ride almost all the way down the mountain on Smithey Drive,” Sharon Williams said.
In the summers, children would spend their time in the Bull Run Mountain Estates community pool, but the cool-off spot has since been closed and covered over.
And the holidays, said Williams, were always special.
“Especially Halloween when the kids could go trick-or-treating without fear … and hayrides were provided,” she said.
Thirteen years ago, the Williams wanted more land than their quarter acre lot on Collins Court.
“We looked for six months … even going to Warrenton but finally decided we really didn’t want to leave Bull Run so we moved three miles down the mountain to Red Fox Court,” Williams said.
Sharon and Dick Williams’ son, Richard and his wife Sarah, also didn’t want to leave the mountain and they have purchased a home on Young’s Drive, just two miles away from his parents.
But most residents admit, the Bull Run community is no longer the bargain place to buy a home.
“The prices of lots and homes have skyrocketed in the past couple of years,” Williams said. “With grocery stores opening in Gainesville and Haymarket, it’s no longer necessary to make the run into Manassas.”
Judy McNabb, a resident on Kilgore Street for the past 25 years, said the sereneness of the mountain is what drew her to the area.
“I love the beauty of the changing seasons,” McNabb said.
But to McNabb, the most significant change is all the new faces now living in the area. And with the larger population, the neighborliness isn’t what it used to be. The biggest change she has seen through the years “is that the newcomers into the area are not nearly as friendly as the old-timers.”
Connie and John Myers moved to Bull Run seven years ago, purchasing 11 acres so they continue riding their horses.
“We had lived in Mt. Vernon and it just became too expensive,” said Connie Myers, who works for the Prince William School System while John Myers does consulting work.
In addition to being able to take care of her three horses, Connie Myers said she loves the area because of the “beautiful sunrises and sunsets.” She said the couple plans to spend the rest of their life there.
With its peaceful tranquility, the mountain area can be a haven for artists and writers such as author Victoria Schmidt who had a house built on a 20-acre plot of land on Thunder Road in 1998 by contractors Jim and Norma Brown.
“While living in New Jersey, my late husband Ralph and I looked for a site in Virginia for six years before finding this spot at the foot of the mountain.”
Schmidt, the author of the book “Triumph in Exile,” a novel based on the life of Madame Stael who challenged Napoleon, said what sold her on the site was “the fabulous view where you can see for miles” and the beautiful sky.
“It’s a private, quiet and safe place to live. I like the people who live here. If you want to see and talk to them you can, or if you don’t, you don’t.” She is traveling around the country promoting her book.
Jacob Frank and his wife Yola had their home built on Thousand Oaks Drive three years ago after looking at other properties for a retirement home.
“Just about everywhere we looked the developers in subdivisions had cut down all the trees or were building on wide open field lots. We wanted a site with a lot of trees and found it here in Bull Run. It’s pretty isolated which is ideal for me,” Jacob Frank said.
Previously from Massachusetts, Frank jokes of his age of “middle 60 something.” The couple previously lived in Arlington and Alexandria. Now working from his home on the mountain, he’s thrilled to not face the traffic of inside the Capital Beltway.
Builder Mike Berger, 47, said when his family moved to Bull Run Mountain Estates 44 years ago they were the third family living there.
Initially, most of the families moving into the area built summer cottages to get away from the heat of the Washington, D.C., area. But over the years, more families began to live there year around and Berger estimates that there are now about 380 homes in the original development of Bull Run Mountain Estates.
His dad, John Berger, still lives on Smithey Drive while Mike lives a block away on Collins Court.
“The thing I like best about living there is the fact it’s so secluded. For most of the year I can’t even see another house.”