Lanham-Shockley House | Gum Spring, VA | c. 1888
The story of the Lanham house is the story of the village of Gum Spring itself. At the crossroads of some of the most important days in our Nation’s history, the area has now found itself at the center of a different kind of epoch: suburban sprawl from the D.C. area.
The genesis of Arcola was a small spring next to a gum tree that fed into the south fork of Broad Run, suitably called Gum Springs. During the colonial era, a distillery, kiln, and small church were established at the spring.
In 1801 the United States Post Office established a branch at the village, naming it Springfield. The branch closed in 1819. Thirteen years later the Post Office opened once again in the vicinity, but the success of the Little River Turnpike (present-day U.S. Route 50) required that it would be located on that road south of the village and known on local maps as simply “Arcola P.O.”
The branch was named Arcola in honor of the Arcola Farm (pictured here) on which it was built. That branch stayed open until 1868 when the office was located back within the confines of the village. The village itself, however, remained identified on local maps as “Gum Spring” during most of the 19th century.
In the 1850s Arcola had a brush with the big time when the construction of the Loudoun Branch of the Manassas Gap Railroad was completed on the northern border of the village. Unfortunately, the Panic of 1857 and Civil War stopped the railroad from ever being used. During the Gettysburg Campaign of June–July 1863, troops from the Union Army of Potomac’s 11th and 1st Corps marched and camped in and around the town of “Gum Spring” according to dispatches (present-day Arcola), as they meandered toward Leesburg, Va and further into Maryland.
When I first visited here back in 2016, I had a feeling it wasn’t long for this world because the suburban sprawl outside of D.C. was creeping up around her on all sides. When I went back in 2018, the home had been demolished for a cookie-cutter subdivision.
I spent some time trying to track down her story and the Thomas Balch Library was kind enough to share the following history with me:
“According to the Assessment information online at Loudoun.gov, the house was constructed circa 1888, which appears appropriate for the style of construction. In the 1860 Census, William H. Lanham and his wife were residing on the property, which was then approximately a 8.5 acres parcel. Mr. Lanham was a wheelwright at that time.
One of the structures located to the east was the former Arcola Post Office. The Shockley family resided in the house and also served as Postmistress. The original Gum Spring Tree that was the source for the naming of the original 18th Century Village of Gum Spring, now Arcola, is located to the north [rear in the picture] of the house.”
How sad I am that she is gone forever but glad that I happened to pass by to capture her before her time was up.