Abandoned Plantation House in Leesburg, VA
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September 8, 2015 we went to the abandoned Selma Plantation in Leesburg, VA. It was about an
hour's drive from home. At first we couldn't get into the property because the road was blocked.
But Jennie was smart and knew there was more than one access point, so we tried another route
and were able to get to the property (but were trespassing, so we didn't stay long). When we first
saw the house, it was ominous-looking - there was an air of foreboding. Although we could have
gone into the house (but getting in would have been a bit difficult), we decided to just shoot the
exterior because the way getting in was unsafe.
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 by Mason’s great-grandmother, Ann Stevens Thomson Mason, in
1741, making the Masons some of the earliest settlers to the Leesburg area.
Mason was a prominent citizen of the area at the time, 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
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, following 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 take a portrait.
And yet, sadly, nothing seems to come of efforts to bring life back to Selma 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 its remaining vestiges of times gone by.