The New Road to Occoquan
Occoquan Travel Blog› entry 21 of 108 › view all entries
Monday was the President's Day Holiday in the USA. (Lest you have come to think we have too many national holidays in the USA, this is the last one until Memorial Day at the end of May!) What shall we do today, Susan and I discussed. Our daughter had already left with friends on a day trip to Fredericksburg, VA. The day was so nice! By 11:00 a.m. it was already sunny and about 65 degrees F (around 18C). What a difference from the prevous day! People were jogging around the neighborhood in T-shirts and shorts.
Mount Vernon, the Home of George Washington is always open free of admission on President's Day. We knew that would be mobbed! The nearby Woodlawn Plantation historical site announced it would be open for only 99 cents admission.
It's much easier to drive to Occoquan from Springfield now than it used to be. Route 123 (Ox Road dating from colonial times) has been widened from two to six lanes to enable commuters from Prince William County to get to jobs in the western parts of Fairfax County. The road improvements are also intended to foster development in the southern part of Fairfax County. Occoquan lies just across the Occoquan River from Lorton in Fairfax County. A two-lane highway bridge across the small river has been replaced by a six-lane bridge.
After crossing the Route 123 bridge, a right turn on Commerce Street takes one directly into Occoquan. Things were busy here too, but manageable. Ample free public parkng is available underneath the bridge off of Mill Street. From there, it's easy to walk around the town. Occoquan was founded as a river port (Occoquan River is a tributary of the Potomac River) and shipped tobacco, flour, and cornmeal, among other products. One interesting historical note: during the Civil War, Occoquan was the transfer point for mail between North and South. Later, as river traffic declined and the railroad and new highways bypassed the village, Occoquan slipped into relative obscurity.
We decided to first have lunch at Madigan's Waterfront Restaurant, opting for inside seating. While we enjoyed our crabcakes, a cold front came in from the north. Around 2:00 p.m., the sky clouded and the tempaerature dropped. People began to come inside from the riverside terrace.
After lunch, we explored a bit along Mill Street. Occoquan is today a quaint collection of adaptively reused sructures (the Town Hall is a former church) and new construction done in period architecture. Original structures represent eras from the mid-18th century to the early 20th century. There are several restaurants in town along with boutiques, tea rooms, and speciality shops selling clothing, jewelry, home goods, themed goods, gourmet foods, and antiques. Susan's favorite shop here is The Irish Collection. Occoquan affords numerous photo opportunities and there were as many people wielding cameras around the town (including me) as there were shoppers and diners. At the far end of Mill Street are the Mill House Museum, above the ruins of Merchant's Mill, and the 1758 Rockledge Mansion (a stone Georgian house open by appointment). We spent some time looking around the town until a steady rain came up and it was time to head for home.