Donovan House & Grounds


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    Update as of 3/31/05: Demolition has begun on the Stockwell Manor site. The Donovan house, pictured in the lower row below, is gone. Most of the trees on the site, including the saucer magnolias just bursting into bloom in the picture below and a magnificent tulip poplar visible just above the orange crane in the right-hand picture, will soon be destroyed. Plans call for preserving a small number of trees, including the bald cyress in the tree protection enclosure on the right immediately below, and a rare Franklinia, not pictured, which will have to survive transplanting.

    The Donovan House and grounds, with the "Donovans of Traigli" sign out front, have been familiar landmarks on Great Falls St. for many years. The house, built, in 1925 on a lot subdivided from Ellen McConvey's portion of the Burke Farm, is an early example of suburban development in the watershed, clearly different in style and purpose from the farmhouses that preceded it. Perhaps the most notable features of the property, however, are the many trees and shrubs planted or preserved in an arboretum-style landscape created by the Donovan family. These include a number of ornamentals, such as the saucer magnolias and golden raintrees visible from the road, as well as large boxwoods and other shrubs. There are also a variety of native trees, including mature evergreeens such as American Holly and Magnolia grandiflora, and large specimens of Tulip Poplar and Black Walnut. Although a considerable portion of the property is given over to lawn -- not the best habitat for wild creatures -- the large trees, and the thickets created by shrubs surrounding them, provide a variety of sheltering, nesting, and feeding spots for birds and animals.

    This property, like several other in the watershed, is scheduled to become part of Winchester Homes' Stockwell Manor development (depicted on the watershed map ). Winchester Homes plans to demolish the Donovan house, and to construct the main entrance to the development through what is now the southern half of the house. They also plan to cut down the majority of the trees on the property. While this property is not the most environmentally or historically sensitive part of the proposed development (see discussions of Burke's Spring and the Dye/Burke house ), changes here will have a real impact on the views along Great Falls St., will add impervious surface, and will diminish the amount, variety, and size of habitat-providing native vegetation in the watershed.

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