Early 1900s Photo of Rear Admiral Presley M. Rixey, owner of Birchwood property
This photo of Birchwood was taken in 2018.
Backstory and Context
A log cabin rebuilt by its new owners in 1936 with the original logs, Birchwood was the home of Richard Wallace, the valet of Rear Admiral Presley Marion Rixey. Rixey served as the White House physician during the presidential eras of William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. Rixey became a fried of President Roosevelt and the pair went horseback riding on the Birchwood property. Wallace, an African American who worked as a White House chauffeur, was hired by Rixey to clear land that Rixey had donated for a country club. Wallace was foreman of a crew of four African American men who prepared the land and may have discovered the long-abandoned, overgrown cabin. Wallace recalled Mr. Roosevelt visiting the cabin a number of times until his death in 1919; Roosevelt especially enjoyed eating ice cream during the visits.
Rixey (born in 1852) served as Surgeon General of the U.S. Navy from 1902 to 1910. Rixey either moved the planned location of the tenth green of the country club's golf course to protect the cabin or moved the cabin during construction of the golf course. Rixey deeded the cabin to Wallace who planted apple trees nearby. Rixey built a grand mansion on the property which is now on Marymount University property. He and his wife resided in the Roslyn neighborhood of Arlington; he died in 1928.
The original cabin was constructed by a farmer and constable named Caleb Birch around 1800; Lord Fairfax had granted the land to Caleb's grandfather, James Robertson, in 1724. After the original cabin burned in the 1830s it was rebuilt with chestnut logs; a second cabin was added in the 1840s. The two cabins are separate structures with a common roof in the "dog trot" style. Schoolteachers bought the house in 1936 and did the restoration. A private kindergarten, the Birchwood School, operated from the cabin from the 1950s to 1970s. The house is privately owned by a real estate agent who rents out the cabin and claims it is haunted by a playful ghost.
Arlington Historical Society. Map, Historic Sites. Accessed November 9th 2019. https://arlingtonhistoricalsociety.org/historical-sites/.
Clark, Charlie. Arlington County Chronicles. Arcadia Publishing, 2014.
Orton, Kathy. "Arlington Log Cabin was Teddy Roosevelt's Ice Cream Parlor." Washington Post (Washington) September 21st 2018. , Where We Live sec.
Rixey, Presley Marion. Braisted, William Clarence. The Life Story of Presley Marion Rixey: Surgeon General, U.S. Navy, 1902-1910. VA. Shenandoah Publishing House, 1930.
Birchwood historic log house in Arlington County, Virginia, with signs visible photo by Linguistical on Wikipedia