In Colonial times, Abingdon Plantation was a rolling 2,700-acre expanse draped along the banks of the Potomac and called home by such prominent denizens as the Alexanders -- for whom Alexandria is named -- George Washington's stepson John Parke Custis and cherished granddaughter Nelly.
Today, the filled-in riverbanks cradle Reagan National Airport, and what remains of the plantation is on a single acre: a pair of brick foundations atop a grassy hillock, nestled between Parking Garage A and Parking Garage B/C.
Frank Sanchis, a vice president with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said the hilltop offered an unusual vista of American history, from the ruins of the two Colonial-era buildings, past National's new glass-and-steel terminal and busy airfield onto the far, wooded shores of Washington across the misty river. "That is an astounding breadth of time you see in a moment," Sanchis said. Engineers for the authority, currently nearing the end of a $1 billion renovation of National Airport, initially had said that removing the ruins was the only practical way to provide adequate parking for the new terminal, which opened last year. That report sparked protests from area civic groups and elected officials. Even the Virginia General Assembly intervened, temporarily barring demolition of the ruins.
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