On these pages, the directors of Friends of Lake of the Woods (FLOW) are hoping that residents and visitors to this site will enjoy some reminiscing about the origins of Lake of the Woods (LOW), a planned community in Orange County, Virginia. This may include information about LOW itself, Orange County, the surrounding battlefields, and its earliest residents. Much of my information comes from Germanna Road Three Hundred Year History of Lower Orange County, Virginia, by Dr. Peter G. Rainey. Dr. Rainey is a former resident of Lake of the Woods and has been of help with this project. I encourage you to purchase his book on Amazon.
The story of Lake of the Woods begins in September 1966 with “lakebuilder” Thomas J. Perine, age 36, chairman of Indianapolis’ U.S. Land, Inc. who liked to say that “people have the same motivation to go to water as birds have to fly south in the winter.” Perine had only been to Virginia once; and had already finished lake projects near Chicago (Lake Arrowhead) and Cleveland when he set sights on building a 500-acre lake here.
Perine liked to find a rural valley near a metro area that had a freshwater stream that could be dammed. He would try to finish the project within a year to keep speculators from driving up prices. He also included roads, country clubs, tennis courts, pools, and golf courses…within a few hundred feet of everyone’s lot. He had the foresight to protect everyone’s property value and made sure that all deed restrictions were very tight.
In an interview with The Washington Post, he also explained the beauty of his operation, “We must have a site that is right, where natural valleys can be filled from natural streams after a dam is built… We are determined to save every tree that we can. A man can lose a job by cutting down the wrong tree.”
Boise Cascade bought U.S. Land, Inc. in July 1967 and Thomas Perine founded a new company in the Bahamas to work on resort complexes. He died shortly thereafter.
Next Up: Jim C. Foote and Virginia Wildlife Clubs, Inc.
The First Foote
Nancy King, FLOW Director, March, 2021
After the death of Thomas Perine, Virginia Wildlife Clubs (VWC) continued to operate through the 1960s, with Boise Cascade Recreation Communities Corporation recording their deed in Orange County 1971. U.S, Land Inc. which was in the business of building lake communities across the country was also acquired by Boise Cascade through a stock swap. “With the purchase, Boise Cascade became the nation’s most thoroughly integrated company in the housing field.” (Rainey, Germanna Road)
Although U.S. Land folks liked to get down into the mud, Boise Cascade brought lots of changes to Lake of the Woods. With it, Jim C. Foote, age 29, once Thomas Perine’s VP at VWC, became lead developer here. He reassigned work at two other developments in Atlanta and Boston and relocated his operations to Locust Grove. Where U.S. Land was muddy, Boise Cascade liked suits and ties.
Jim explained that he would get topographic maps of an area, lay them out on a dining room table locating streams and designing future lakes. Jim’s interest centered on Wilderness Run near the Spotsylvania and Orange County lines. He had already designed the Wilderness Run dam, twice as big as the one that he would later build at LOW. Then, he would call on local farmers, take them up in his helicopter and convince them to sell. First, he worked on the Wilderness Run area and when that did not work out, he concentrated on an area totally within the limits of Orange County.
In 1960, Orange County had 3,588 occupied homes. Boise Cascade and LOW brought drastic changes to Orange County. In a county which had seen nothing but decline for 100 years, LOW became 39% of the property valuation and by the end of the 20th Century LOW exceeded the populations of Gordonsville and Orange combined. Next, Thirteen Farms…..
Adapted from Germanna Road Three Hundred Year History of Lower Orange County, Virginia, by Dr. Peter G. Rainey with permission.
Fifty-five years ago, Germanna Ford Bridge was 35 years old and two lanes wide. Most of the land was forested and owned by timber companies, some by the Goodwin brothers of Orange County. Of the few houses still standing, most pre-dated the Civil War. Only Routes 3 and 20 were paved, all the other roads were gravel at best. The turkeys ran wild and the area was a principal hunting region. The Apperson cousins had pastureland with cattle on both sides of Flat Run, itself no more than a small creek except where it got truly flat, and there it was a swamp. Ms. Anne Roach still cooked and heated from the same wood fireplace in a home with no utilities at all. She subsisted in her home on a 125 acre farm. The Masons had the only convenience store within several miles, located next to the National Battlefield Park. The park itself was little more than a few cleared acres alongside Route 20 where battle trenches had been restored in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and where a marker had been placed alongside the road. Only a few houses existed in the battlefield area, including the Middlebrook and Apperson homes built in the 1950s. Along Germanna Road stood the Old Flat Run Baptist Church and the Ferris House.
All that would change by July 1966. One thing that did not change was Ms. Roach. She had previously sold her farm to the Goodwins and retained a life estate that later became a part of Lake of the Woods and is now the location of the Happy Trails Dog Park.
Again, for more information about Lake of the Woods and Orange County in its earliest years, please consider purchasing Germanna Road by Dr. Peter G. Rainey who has graciously allowed me to use his meticulous research for this enterprise.
Fifty-Five Years Ago – Things Were Changing!
“All I know is things are changing. No, it’s not what it used to be anymore.”
The quote is from Anne Roach (born 1895, died 1973). She was the only farmer who stayed on after her farm was sold to become part of Lake of the Woods and was later named Life Estates. We call it the dog park today, operated by the Happy Tails Dog Club. Two historical events happened in Orange County during Miss Roach’s lifetime: the creation of the Wilderness National Park and the creation of Lake of the Woods.
Ninety-three years ago, on Oct. 19, 1928, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, which includes the Wilderness National Military Park along Route 20, was officially dedicated. A Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp was established Oct. 14, 1933 at Wilderness. For the next few years, the then-20 acres of National Park land was restored to resemble the 1864 battlefield. The vast majority of the battlefield in Orange County remained farmland and gold mines, much of which had been abandoned by 1942, when the CCC Camp was closed. That same year, the Wilderness Post Office, established in 1812, closed; it had been located near our present-day Spotswood Park.
Fifty-five years ago, options were placed on 13 parcels of farmland and two parcels of Goodwin brothers’ timberland to create Lake of the Woods. On Oct. 31, 1966, the land survey plats were drawn of the future Lake of the Woods. They showed it to be 2,475 acres. Over the years LOW has grown, land for Section 5 was acquired in 1968, Section 16 in 1969, and the undeveloped area known as 9.9 in 1999.
The Goodwin brothers sold a total of 482 acres to Virginia Wildlife Clubs, Inc., most of which they had purchased a decade earlier for less than $50 an acre. William T. Goodwin, the surviving Goodwin brother, recalled that he and three other families were approached by James C. Foote to sell collectively at a price of $400 an acre.
By 1967, the developer’s workforce had grown to some 300 men; the lake was filling at a rate of eight inches a week and a second, smaller, lake was being bulldozed out of the land. About 32 miles of roads had been cut through the timberland and another 8 miles was to be cut. Forty miles of water piping for a central water system was being installed. Among items turned up by bulldozers and workmen of Lake of the Woods were portions of muskets, bayonets, and federal belt buckles and bullets.
While the construction of LOW was underway, at least three homes were allowed to remain standing, those of Anne Roach, and the Apperson cousins. Today both Apperson homes are on LOWA property as numbered lots and are owned by members of the association. The Clarence Apperson farm is shown as it looked in 1967 and restored. The small creek that passed by it was dammed to create the main lake. The William Ray Apperson home is known as the White House and was once the only “white” house allowed in LOWA. It is located on Lakeview Parkway.
For more information about Lake of the Woods and Orange County in its earliest years, please consider purchasing Germanna Road by Dr. Peter G. Rainey who has graciously allowed me to use his meticulous research and quote from his book for this enterprise.
Early Golf at LOW
The Original Golf Pro Shop
On Nov. 18, 1966, the plat showing the property of Virginia Wildlife Clubs
Inc., (VWCI) was recorded by the Orange County clerk. This land was to become
Lake of the Woods the following year. On Nov. 30, 1966, VWCI obtained
a 36-month note for $5,000,000 on that property from Guaranty Bank and
Trust Company of Fairfax, Virginia. As the lots were sold, VWCI would
partially repay the note and lots would be released. The developed land was
mortgaged at over $2,500 an acre. The funds were used to create the dams,
roads and parks of the Lake of the Woods Association and the golf course,
clubhouse and pools of the Lake of the Woods Golf and Country Club.
The farmers of Orange County knew that the land in the Flat Run area
was not fit for much more than oaks and pines, however, VWCI had promised an
eighteen-hole professional golf course at Lake of the Woods.
After Boise Cascade bought VWCI, only nine holes of the golf course were finished.
Someone organized a “Rock-Pickers” club to clear the fairways. Boise
sponsored several “Rock Picking Parties,” which meant that free beer and
soft drinks were provided to the several dozen families that participated. It
was reported that dump trucks moved more than 50 tons of rock per day
during the several weekend parties.
Until recently, a PGA Golf-Professional has always been on the staff of the Association; Smith (Smitty) Beasley was the first. In December 1971, the Lake of the Woods
Golf and Country Club golf team traveled to Castle Harbor, Bermuda. Paced
by pro Smith Beasley and John O’Toole, the golf team tied for second place
in the Bermuda Pro Golf Tournament.
VWCI planned to remain permanently at the helm of the golf and
clubhouse amenities. There was no intention to ever pass ownership of
Lake of the Woods Golf and Country Club to the members. That policy was
maintained until Boise got into financial difficulty. After extensive negotiation
with the LOWA board, the transfer of ownership became effective Nov. 30, 1972. It was then integrated into the Lake of the Woods Association.
While the course expanded from nine to eighteen holes and during the
first few years thereafter, an unofficial bottle club existed at the weekend golf
games. Various members would sponsor a hole, not for beautifying the tee
box as today, but to host a bar at the tee. A different kind of Tee Party!
The Lake of the Woods golf course has achieved a distinction very few
have, the honor to host a standing President of the United States. In May
1975, John R. Henry was in charge of arrangements for the Lee Elder golf
professional tournament. It was his letter sent to “The President, 1600 PA Ave Washington, D.C.” that resulted in President Gerald R. Ford attending.
Bill Howard, as a course marshal, wore a “red shirt” and watched President
Gerald R. Ford, Bob Murphy, Joe Louis, and Flip Wilson play. The Secret
Service required all the members working the course to wear the red shirt.
The clubhouse staff had been planning a party for that evening, but was
not prepared for President Ford’s request that afternoon for a martini! The
manager quickly produced a bottle of Beefeater’s gin, had the President sign
the “corkage charge” book, and prepared his martini. However, before he
could drink it, the Secret Service agent required a second martini, which he
sampled before the President could raise his elbow.
Campgrounds in the Early Years of LOW
Summer 1968, Friday at 5 PM, the car is loaded at our home in Landover, Maryland and we are leaving for the weekend to stay at the campground at Lake of the Woods! Taking New York Avenue through DC and crossing the 14th Street bridge takes us down US Route 1 to Fredericksburg where we stop at the ice-house to get a twenty-five pound block of ice which will be our refrigeration for the weekend. We had an old “icebox” at the campsite that we used for several years.
We had a campsite in Section C, which is now where the 9.9 leaf and brush dump is located. Sections A and B were more visible being on the left side and right side of Seven Pines Road, which runs through the area. These sections had electricity available to the camping trailer sites — we had a tent and a “dining fly” in Section C. I think the expression, “roughing it” applies to our early camping experience.
Shopping was nonexistent. Ginny had a cinder block country store at the corner of Brock Road and Route 3. Mason’s store was on Route 20 where the laundromat is now, but there was no back gate in hose years, so few people went that way. Lewis Fuel Service was on Route 3 close to where Walmart is now. They were a heating fuel wholesaler that did have limited offerings (milk and bread) at limited hours –Monday through Friday, nine to five. On the weekends, we could get milk and bread at the main marina building in the early 70s. The first traffic light on Route 3 going east was on the east side of the interstate just before you got to the Route 1 bypass. You learned quickly that if you wanted anything you had better bring it with you!
Early on, our camping neighbors alerted us to the fact that the golf pro shop had men and women locker rooms and SHOWERS. Initially, the campground had no showers; eventually we had two cinder block buildings that housed bath facilities. The new pro shop at the Woods Center did not include locker rooms or showers.
The campers utilized the various amenities, with the Clubhouse being the social center offering food, meeting space, and entertainment programs. We did not have a fitness center or community center in those early days.
Many of us referred to our accommodations as “a poor man’s summer home.” Camping, especially with young children, was an experience in itself – the kids could keep themselves busy with the woods, the water (pools and lakes), the sports fields/parks, and the freedom to roam. We stretched our weekend into late Sunday evening – clean up the boys, put them in their pajamas, drive home to Maryland in the dark, and toss the boys in bed at 10 or 11 at night.
There was a large camping population. We had all bought property here to have access to the recreational facilities (golf, tennis, lake, equestrian, and camping). The initial developer never visualized (or promoted) Lake of the Woods as a “residential” community, but as a “recreational” community; the small lot sizes were meant for cottages or summer/weekend houses. The developer had bulldozers running on the weekend to impress potential buyers that there was indeed going to be a golf course and a lake and roads.
The campgrounds were an important factor in the early growth of our community. A sense of community was established, and a lot of campers eventually did build and move to the Lake as part-time or full-time residents. Several years ago, when the association created an abbreviated campground, I was initially upset until I realized that the amenity had run it course and served it purpose, earning a place in our history.
Timing is everything. This all came about in the late sixties and early seventies. I do not think the same experiences could be duplicated today. For starters, no developer could now get the blessing to impound a stream like Flat Run to build the lake because of environmental concerns and our location adjacent to National Park property. Additionally, accessibility is different today; the Friday evening trip I mentioned earlier too one and a half hour with a stop in Fredericksburg via US Route 1 and a two lane Route 3. Today that drive would be two and a half hours on an interstate highway and a four lane Route 3. Respectfully submitted by Jeff Flynn.
James Foote maintained that every good community was centered around a “clubhouse”. He stated: “We don’t punch a stake in the ground and announce, this will be the clubhouse. We build the clubhouse” That meant creating a master plan, hiring an architectural firm and a landscape architectural firm. The prominent architect Edward Durrell Stone, Jr. of Ft. Lauderdale designed a 145-ft. clubhouse, the community entrance, and surrounding landscape. The project was budgeted at about $500,000. The complex was completed by October 1967, with tennis courts, pool with attached bath building, clubhouse patios, and a white shady beach which had little water at the time. A grand opening party was hosted by Jim and Shirley Foote in February 1968. Mrs. Foote did the planning and supervision of the decor which she called “intimate and homelike.” Display cases of Civil War artifacts located just inside the front doors. (These will be moved during the current face lift.) …more to come…