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Hollin Hall's Bustling New Marketplace

Posted on Jul 24,2013
Filed Under News , Community,

Photo by Melinda Sigal
Michael Owenby explores the grounds of Hollin Hall with Nina Tisara.

ALEXANDRIA, VA. - Nina Tisara and Gale Curcio are both Scorpios.

They are similar in that they each wear several hats and are both very successful in taking on new ventures.

Photo by Melinda Sigal
Wallyworld’s Flowers are a big hit at the market.

The difference is that while Tisara is more detail oriented, Curcio tends to ‘wing it.’ However, the two different styles melded together to bring together an exciting new event in Mount Vernon – The Friday Affair at Hollin Hall which premiered in June.

The inaugural event far exceeded their expectations.

Within less than a month, they had put together a dozen vendors. They put the word out and were thrilled to have nearly 100 people attending, including an A-List of vendors.

The next market is scheduled for this Friday, July 26, noon to 4 p.m. at Historic Hollin Hall
1909 Windmill Lane, Alexandria, Va. 22307 (on the grounds of Mount Vernon Unitarian Church).

Alexandria Pastry Shop quickly sold out of their delectable tarts last month– in addition to the pastries, they are bringing sandwiches this week.
Chevy’s Fresh Mex will be serving burritos, chips 'n salsa, black beans and Mexican rice. Heart 2 Heart Catering will be showing off their mini-stuffed BLT.

Photo by Melinda Sigal
Alexandria Pastry Shop quickly sold out
of their delectable tarts – in addition to the
pastries, they are bringing sandwiches this week.

New vendors this month include Ace Appetite Control (weight loss), Aurora Bath & Jewels (soaps and accessories), Big Man Catering (infused oils and spices), Chevy's Fresh Mex (burritos and chips), Heart 2 Heart Catering, Marcia's Treasures (vintage items), and Re-Transition Team (transition services).  

Tisara and Curcio were thrilled with the inaugural event and know that it will continue to grow.

“I just feel like people were looking for something different," Curcio said. "We have been in touch with both the Mount Vernon Farmer’s Market coordinator as well as the person who runs the Alexandria Farmer’s Market. Alexandria has a waiting list of over 200 vendors and Mount Vernon does not currently accept arts and crafts vendors – this new market will fill a niche for vendors that haven’t been able to participate in those markets."

Among other things, Nina Tisara has long been the face of Historic Hollin Hall and the Meeting House  (and location of Mount Vernon Unitarian Church).
As rental events coordinator, she organized weddings and other special events. She was getting ready to retire and she wanted to do something to increase the visibility of the venue.

Photo by Melinda Sigal
Lynn Alsmeyer-Johnson has some rare and
unusual items for sale.

She connected with Gale Curcio, who has been doing marketing and communications for Curcio Communications, and they started brainstorming. Curcio wanted to do something different and said, “Why don’t we do a market?”

And thus the “Friday Affair at Hollin Hall” was born.

Both Tisara and Curcio knew that the new market would not be a traditional market – it’s not a farmer’s market, it’s not outside, and it’s not run by the county.

Instead they both envisioned it as “a go-to destination on Friday afternoons to get something to eat and drink, pick up flowers and chocolates for the weekend and buy some interesting items for their home or a special someone.”

“Given that Curcio and Tisara only had a few weeks to put this together, they know that it will continue to grow – and expect to double both the number of vendors as well as the number of attendees for the next event July 26.

“We know that we need to have sandwiches and salads next time – and have already talked to Alexandria Pastry Shop about providing those. They also know that they need to provide better directions – and they are working on that as well.

Photo by Melinda Sigal
Linda Benson shares information about her dog
exercise business – Fun Dog Fitness.

“We are expecting most of the vendors to return and still have over a dozen spaces for new vendors. We anticipate that they will complement the current vendors.”

Tisara added, “Hollin Hall is a beautiful and tranquil venue, one of Mount Vernon’s best kept secrets. Time after time, attendees said they never knew we were here.  That’s exactly the outcome we were hoping for.”  

Hollin Hall and the Meeting House are part of Mount Vernon Unitarian Church at 1909 Windmill Lane near Ft. Hunt Road and Sherwood Hall Lane.

The site of the grounds, the highest point in southern Fairfax County, was once part of a 2,000-acre plantation owned by Revolutionary War patriot George Mason.

Mr. & Mrs. Harley Wilson completed their elegant new Hollin Hall, a Colonial Revival mansion that was the centerpiece of their 600-acre estate near the Potomac River in 1919.

The Wilsons were not the first to fall under the spell of this spot. George Washington hunted here as the guest of George Mason, author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights who had owned the land since about 1750.

While George Mason built Gunston Hall for himself, he constructed a house named Hollin Hall after a family home in Yorkshire, England, for his son Thomson, in 1792.

That house, located near present-day Sherwood Hall Lane, was destroyed by fire in 1827 (there are discrepancies in the records as to the exact year). In 1852, Thomson Mason's property was purchased by Edward Curtis Gibbs, a Quaker sea captain and farmer, who hired both black and white farmers to demonstrate that plantations could be made profitable without slave labor.

The estate passed through several owners before its purchase in 1913 by Wilson, a director of the North American Company, suppliers of locks and docks for the Panama Canal and Potomac Electric Power Company, and president of the Capitol Traction Company which operated Washington's electric street cars.

The Wilsons entertained on a grand scale at Hollin Hall. Carl Sandburg, Herbert Hoover, Mrs. Woodrow Wilson and other prominent Americans swam in a shell-shaped pool, lounged under the wisteria-covered pergola and danced in in a ballroom in the rambling brick guest house.

Mrs. Wilson built her home with elegant appointments, including teak floors imported from Japan, and furnished it with museum-quality antiques. The extensive basement included rooms for cool storage of large quantities of meat, furs and wine.

Her special love was gardening and she designed her own winding brick paths, charming walled gardens, and a profusion of flower beds, shrubs and century-old English boxwood obtained from Stratford, the Lee family home.

After the Wilsons' death in 1934, Hollin Hall languished on the market for years. When the princess of Norway considered purchasing Hollin Hall as a refuge during World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt inspected the estate on her behalf in 1941. Eventually, a Roosevelt advisor, Merle Thorpe, bought the house and 89 acres.

In 1959, Mount Vernon Unitarian Church purchased Hollin Hall and 10 acres. While the pool no longer exists and the guest house is now a private home, the windmill, greenhouse and carriage house remain. Hollin Hall was placed on the Fairfax County Registry of Historic Sites in 1993.

Friday Affair Market
Friday, July 26
Noon to 4 p.m.   
Historic Hollin Hall
1909 Windmill Lane, Alexandria, Va. 22307
(on the grounds of Mount Vernon Unitarian Church)  

Alexandria Pastry - pastries
Barkley Square - dog biscuits and other items
Bucket List Boutique - vintage items
Cathy Harl -jewelry
Cute as a Button - girl's dresses
Fun Dog Fitness - dog exercise
Janet Naughton - custom-made purses                               
Lynn Alsmeyer-Johnson - antiques
Sara Gorman's Pillbags - pill bags
Seahorse Designs - stationery
Tisara Photography - mosaic art and photographs
WallyWorld Flowers - flowers

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