On 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
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
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.