Nature Is Reclaiming This One Abandoned Virginia Spot And It’s Actually Amazing
Editor’s note: As of spring 2016, the Selma Plantation is undergoing renovations and currently stands on private property. Visiting without express permission from the owners is not permitted.
Nestled at the foot of Catocin Mountain in Loudoun County near Leesburg, the Selma Plantation mansion has sat vacant for well over a decade. Once a bustling center of social and agricultural activity, the plantation now lies empty, slowly accepting encroaching vines and decay into its landscape.
Yet, Selma somehow retains an elegance that belies its diminished appearance. One can only assume that the pride still evident in this historic home must lie in the history it holds…a history that emanates from the crumbling walls and whispering ghosts said to haunt its empty halls.
The original manor home at Selma Plantation was built in 1815 by Armistead Thomson Mason, a grand-nephew of the famous Virginia statesman, George Mason. Originally, the land was part of a 10,000-acre plot purchased in 1741 by Mason’s great-grandmother, Ann Stevens Thomson Mason, making the Masons some of the earliest settlers to the Leesburg area.
Mason was a prominent citizen in Leesburg, having served as a U.S. senator from 1816 until 1817 before settling permanently at Selma. On May 1, 1817, he married Charlotte Eliza Taylor and in 1819, the couple had their only son. Unfortunately, he would also prove to be the first of a string of men connected to Selma who met a tragic end.
On February 6, 1819, Mason was killed after a political argument with his cousin, Colonel John Mason McCarty, ended in a duel. Mason died at the first shot while McCarty escaped with only a wound.
The newly widowed Charlotte Mason remained at Selma with the couple’s infant son, Stevens Thomson Mason, Jr., who inherited the whole of his father’s property. In the meantime, soon after the fatal duel, McCarty moved to a property near Selma called Strawberry Plain. Despite their close proximity, the families never resumed their relationship and McCarty eventually died in a hunting accident while chasing game along a fence line that separated the Mason and McCarty properties.
Young Stevens Mason was known as a handsome man-about-town and was often seen driving a pair of horses tandem-style through the town of Leesburg. It was his carefree manner, however, that resulted in a financial downturn, forcing him to sell his family home and enlist in the U.S. Army. In 1847, Mason was mortally wounded in the Mexican-American War and he followed his mother in death by only a year.
Further tragedy awaited the new residents of Selma and in the 1890s, the original house was destroyed by fire. In 1896, Elijah B. White purchased the property, determined to restore it to grandeur. He enlisted the Richmond architectural firm of Noland and Baskervill to design a Colonial Revival mansion, and in 1902, the current Selma mansion was completed, including a kitchen wing built from a small portion of the original home that had been spared by the fire.
In the 114 years that followed White’s vision of a new era for Selma, the property has passed through the hands of multiple owners and developers. From the late 1980s until the early 2000s, Selma was an event and wedding site, noted for its stunning photographic opportunities, including a rope swing on which every bride was said to have taken a portrait.
And yet, sadly, nothing seems to come of efforts to bring Selma back to life and since 2009, it has been listed as one of Virginia’s endangered historic sites by the organization Preservation Virginia.
Today, Selma’s crumbling Roman Ionic columns and grand staircases provide an odd juxtaposition to the modern developments that have sprung up on adjoining plots. For now, it seems that Selma is destined to stand proudly on the hillside, silently watching the warring forces of nature and development impose on the last vestiges of an era long past.
Are you familiar with the Selma Plantation mansion? Did you visit it while it was still occupied? We would love to hear your thoughts on this or any other abandoned home that you would like to see restored to its former glory. Please share your thought in the comments below!