The local law firm of McCandlish Lillard recently presented photographs to the proprietors of Capital Ale House which chronicle the unique history and adaptive reuse of a Fairfax landmark. Today, Capital Ale House in Fairfax is located in the historic Barbour House on Chain Bridge Road, across from the Fairfax County Courthouse. Not everyone is familiar with the background of the beautiful structure, but that is about to change.
The early 20th Century mansion was built by prominent editor, lawyer, mayor and statesman John S. Barbour. In the early 20th century, the home was the center of social life in the town of Fairfax. By 1965 the estate of John S. Barbour’s widow was in administration, and the old home, occupied by the Barbour family since the early 1900s was unoccupied and had become the target of vandals. The building was scheduled to be demolished so that the property could be developed. Fairfax attorney Jack Lillard had the idea of buying just the old house and moving it to a parcel of the estate fronting on Payne Street (which had been renamed Chain Bridge Road). The six partners of the Fairfax law firm of McCandlish Lillard bought the parcel and the building.
In 1967, amid great local fanfare and curiosity William Patram, a well-known building mover, transported the building a hundred yards to its new site. On the day of the Barbour House move, attorney Robert J. McCandlish, Jr. who was recovering from a recent heart attack, was determined to stay and observe every inch of the movement of the building to its new location on Chain Bridge Road. In a February, 2000 interview, Mrs. McCandlish would recall that the day was particularly hot, and that she went home to prepare a tailgate, complete with ice and “whiskey.” She returned in their station wagon so that Mr. McCandlish could sit and enjoy himself while completing his vigil. He did not leave his observation point until the grand old house was placed on the new foundation, virtually damage free.
By Proclamation in 1967, Fairfax City praised the firm and its lawyers for moving and preserving the historic property known as The Barbour House. Courtesy of McCandlish Lillard, the original Proclamation, signed by Mayor Ed Prichard, is now displayed in the Barbour House along with photographs taken at the time of the move. The firm’s partners at the time coordinated the rehabilitation of the former residence. The creative and adaptive reuse preserved the valuable historical integrity of the exterior while creating an ideal new home for the law firm for the next 20 years. The law firm also oversaw an expansion of the building in 1978, with 2 additions to make room for more lawyers. Growing pains resulted in McCandlish Lillard’s move in 1987 to the newly constructed Fair Oaks Plaza Building on Random Hills Road, just outside of Fairfax City limits. Since that time, The Barbour House has been home to several local businesses and restaurants, and is currently home to Capital Ale House.
“In order to preserve the story and history of the Barbour House for the viewing and enjoyment of all who visit the building, McCandlish Lillard has presented Capital Ale House with a photographic exhibit which chronicles the original residence, the move to Chain Bridge Road, and the expansion which resulted in the building you see today”, said R. Peyton Mahaffey, Chairman of the Board of the law firm. Since 1987, The Barbour House has been home to several local businesses and restaurants. “We are honored to display and care for these historic photographs, as well as the Commendation for the preservation of the Barbour House, and will display them for our customers and the public generally to see and enjoy”, said Matt Simmons, President of the company that owns Capital Ale House.