Greenway Downs

A Community Since 1942

HISTORY of Greenway Downs

Greenway Downs has a rich and vibrant, documented history. Our history is documented and captured below, thanks primarily to former Greenway Downs resident Sara Kelly. Sara spent time going through GDCA records and numerous public library archives to pull together the history of Greenway Downs. Some of the material comes from the Fairfax County Library Archives, where two boxes of GDCA materials were donated in 1995. The boxes contained most of the GDCA Minutes of Meetings from 1952-1992, and the Downs Newsletter from 1963-1990. The entire collection (Accession #1995.002) can be found in the Virginia Room  in the Fairfax County Library.

Read below for more!

Earliest Greenway Downs Record:

The earliest record that our local volunteer historian could find of ownership of Greenway Downs is a reference to a property deed dated October 20, 1797 that was stolen by Union soldiers from the Dulany plantation house in 1861.

The history of how Greenway Downs was shaped can be divided into 3 distinct phases: 


3 Phases of Greenway Downs:

Phase 1, The Dulany Family:

During the pre-civil war days our 109 acres was just an insignificant part of a much, much larger tract of farmland owned by the Dulany family of  Welbourne, Loudoun County. The Civil War destroyed much of the farm land around Falls Church and the economic realities of  the civil war and reconstruction forced John Dulany to divide his vast tracts of land into smaller tracts and sell them off to various buyers. Click here to learn more!


Phase 2, The Tripp Family

In 1868,  Silas Tripp, of Dutchess County, New York bought 300 acres of the Dulany property, which included our present day 109 acres. For the next 40 years, Silas Tripp worked the acreage as a dairy  farm and built Tripp's quarry as a side business.

Percy Tripp, Silas's only living child, inherited the farm, the house and the quarry in 1911. However, Percy was a well-educated young man and was serving as missionary in China and rather than come home and farm,  turned the farm and quarry over to a property manager. By  1924 the farm and the quarry were insolvent and were a forced cash sale at auction. Click here to learn more!

In between Silas Tripp's purchase and Percy's inheritance of the farm, in 1887, the Town of Falls Church voted to retrocede about one-third of their territory back to Fairfax County. From Falls Church records: "The area retroceded was the southern half of the Greenway Downs neighborhood, adjacent to and south of Route 29, South Washington Street. At the time, the neighborhood was largely African American and voted predominately Republican. The Town leadership voted predominately Democrat. The action to retrocede half of the Greenway Downs community gerrymandered the Town boundaries such that Democratic control of the Town was strengthened and African Americans influence in the Town was reduced.  Click here to learn more. 

Phase 3, Ruby Lee Minar: 

In 1923 the Key  Bridge was completed over the Potomac River and this combined with the invention of cars launched  building of the 16-mile stretch of Lee Highway from Washington to the City of Fairfax.  Percy Tripp to bankrupt to capitalize on this boon as land speculators and developers gobbled up acres of farmland along this new Route 29 highway corridor for housing and business opportunities.  

Ruby Lee Minar, a very successful and nationally well-known business woman,  bought the 109 acres and immediately set the bulldozers into the old Tripp Farm to carve out affordable home sites to feed the Washington, D.C. demand for new housing in Virginia. She built her real estate office where the present day "Parrots Parrots Parrots" shop is, and what would become the Wishing Well Tourist Home. Click here to check out the related deed that was initiated in 1925 and was finalized in 1927 for Greenway Downs.

Mrs. Minar lots sold like hotcakes in Greenway Downs I and Greenway Downs II  and she ran a brilliant ad campaign that included a contest with a cash prize for the best name for her newly minted housing development (How Greenway Downs  got its name in 1927).

“I have selected Greenway Downs, “ said Mrs. Minar, “for the person who does not want to pay more than $1,000 or $1,500 for his home site, but who demands much the same surroundings that he would get in a high-priced subdivision."  Source: The Washington Post, June 19, 1927 pg. R4

Unfortunately, the covenant to purchase land from Mrs. Minar in the new Greenway Downs included language that prohibited African Americans from purchasing land. Some of this language can still be found in covenants today, though the state of Virginia allows homeowners to get this language removed.

Also unfortunately (for Mrs. Minar at least), her land development business came to a screeching halt with the crash of 1929.  The banks foreclosed on her and much of her investment property was bought out by another developer. Many of the lots remained vacant until the 1940's when World War II and the new demand for suburban housing spurred the house building boon. Click here to learn more.

Lastly, during the 1920s, there were many other changes happening nearby Greenway Downs, including a realignment of Route 29 to divide up the power of the residents of Tinner Hill. This article from the AARP outlines some of the changes during this time. To learn more about the history of Tinner Hill, the historic area just east of Greenway Downs, click here


Greenway Downs Today:

Today, Greenway Downs Citizen's Association is a compilation of Mrs. Minar's original purchase of the first 2 sections mentioned above, with a further extension of our boundaries into the Rixey Estates west of Woodlawn Ave., and Mason Terrace, east of Summerfield Rd. (note: originally Summerfield was named Westmoreland) 


Other Notable Events, Photos and Stories of Greenway Downs:

Greenway Downs in the History Books

Greenway Downs sits right at the crossroads of notable events and famous people because of its proximity to Falls Church and Washington, D.C.  Below are really interesting books about the history Falls Church and our surroundings.