This has been a very pleasant summer in the Washington region and mid-July brought one of the most beautiful weekends yet! Susan and I decided to take a drive over to Clifton
, to look around the village, have lunch, and take photos. Clifton, Virignia, is a quaint town in Fairfax County. It still retains much of its traditional small-town charm and little large-scale development has taken place nearby. Instead, it's become a community surrounded by very large and expensive homes built on multi-acre lots. Since the 1980s, the town has worked diligently on restoring and preseving the original homes and structures and building new ones carefully to fit in. (Clifton has such a typical small town look that it has been used in many films to represent any American hometown.
Buckley Store (1900)
Arriving via Clifton Road, one crosses the railway tracks and is immediately in the center of town on Main Street. (Clifton Road is very busy with through traffic.) We hadn't been here in a while, so first took a brief drive around some of the neighborhod streets for orientation. Then, it was back to Main Street, where we parked at the Heart In Hand restaurant. The large red wooden building here, adjacent to the tracks, was once the Buckley General Store
. Today, it houses a restaurant, antiques store, and florist. Susan and I had lunch at Heart In Hand
, enjoying the rustic atmosphere and spare decor. It was not as crowded on a Sunday afternoon as we might have thought. Afterwards, we walked along the main street to admire the many original buildings.
Clifton historical marker
Clifton was founded after the Civil War when a resort hotel was opened as a country getaway for Washingtonians. A historical marker and caboose occupy the location of the Southern Railway depot, demolished in 1958. The hotel is still here, adaptively restored as an upscale restaurant and venue for wedding receptions and so forth. Most of the buildings have small markers in front, identifying their age and original use. I think it's interesting to note that most often a business, such as a barber shop, was located in the front room of a family house. Residential and commercial lines blurred. Except for the large general store, there was no distinct business district lined with shops and storefronts. Most people worked out of their homes and Clifton was for the most part residential as it is today.
(There is no longer a barber shop in someone's house, though.) I'm reminded of the houses with shops and trades out front in Colonial Williasmburg, even if that was a century or more earlier than Clifton.
There is a photo everywhere in Clifton, from the clapboard Gothic design of the Baptist Church to antique cars that appear out of nowhere. We finished our walk at the Clifton General Store
, a fxture since the 1930s. It still sells groceries, cold drinks, and sundries. The gas pumps have been removed but a vintage Texaco sign remains.
Before leaving Clifton, I must tell you the tale of the Bunnyman, a figure of local folklore. The urban legend of the Bunnyman tells of a bogeyman who appears dressed as a large rabbit and wielding a hatchet, bent on murdering unsuspecting passerby.
Buggy on display
He is said to be the ghost of a turn-of- the-20th century murderer and appears on Halloween near the railway overpass on Colchester Road. (The site where he was supposedly run over by a train while fleeing the law.) For this reason, the still extant Colchester Road single-lane underpass is popularly known as "Bunyman Bridge". People gather here on Halloween and the site has been featured on TV shows. (One can buy a Bunnyman T-shirt at the Clifton General Store.) The legend has been debunked
by a local historian. Nevertheless, Susan and I had to drive through it. You can see the inside has been painted many times to cover graffitti placed by enthusiasts of the legend. Be that as it may, I always think there is some grain of truth behind such folklore. Perhaps a crazed "rabid man" or a feared ráibéad
man (there were many Irish immigrants working on the railway) morphed into "rabbit man" and then into "bunnyman". Who can say?
Clifton Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
Enjoying lunch at Heart in Hand
Heart in Hand is a very comfortable and relaxing restaurant in Clifton, VA. It's a popular destination in this village tucked away in suburban Fairfax… read entire review