Soldiers’ Huts to Luxury Homes – Bell-Air Today

From Eric Mink:

A previous post, found here, looked at Stafford County Unionist Abraham Primmer. With the compensation he received from the U.S. government after the war, Primmer successfully returned to farming and lived out his final years as a respected member of his Stafford County community.

“Bell-Air,” the house and property, remained a prominent landmark in the neighborhood that became known as Leeland after the war. The home and property remained in the hands of Primmer’s daughters until 1926. The house remained in good shape and was at its finest when a researcher from the Works Progress Administration visited the farm in 1937. By 1942, however, the county land assessment noted “building burned,” indicating that the house was gone.

Bell-Air – 1937

The farm, which became known locally as “Walnut Farm,” went through a number of owners in the last half of the 20th century. Most of them apparently purchased the property as an investment, as its location along the railroad made it an attractive piece of ground with much potential. The Virginia Railway Express stop at Leeland Station, just off the northern boundary of the property, made the land ripe for residential development.

Modern aerial view of the Bell-Air and Camp Pitcher sites

A residential development company purchased the old Primmer farm in 2002. To satisfy a proffer associated with a county re-zoning, the developer conducted a cultural resources assessment of the 447-acre property. In addition to the site of Bell-Air, the home, archaeologists identified at least five distinct Civil War campsites. Through an agreement worked out between the United States Army Corps of Engineers, who had jurisdiction over wetlands within the project area, and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, the developer agreed to preserve a small portion of one campsite and two family cemeteries, conduct additional archaeological work at the house site, and pay for the erection of three interpretive signs inside the new residential neighborhood.

In 2002, the only standing remnant of the Bell_Air house was this massive chimney.

After the archaeologists completed their work at the Bell-Air house site, work on the development began. A new road was built right through the house site. New homes covered the site where once soldiers’ huts comprised Camp Pitcher. During the construction, workers and permitted hunters uncovered numerous artifacts left by both the property owners, as well as the soldiers who camped at Bell-Air. Turned over to the developer, the artifacts are on display inside the Leeland Station Clubhouse.

Bell-Air looks much different today than it did during the winter of 1862-1863. Soldiers’ huts are now replaced by “Luxury Single Family Homes.” The railroad that once carried the wounded and sick to the hospitals in Washington now carries commuters each morning and evening. The Primmer name, however, can still be found, if you know where to look.

Eric J. Mink


4 thoughts on “Soldiers’ Huts to Luxury Homes – Bell-Air Today

  1. Is this the same Bell-Air that was owned by Claire D. Schlemmer (male) at the time of the fire – Feb 18, 1941? He was my great grandfather and I’m tracing our family roots.

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