Friday, November 1, 2013

Go West Young Man!

... and so he did.

The cardinal rule in real estate development is to first secure the land, either by deed or via a purchase option. If you don't, someone may steal the project from right under your feet.

Land Acquisition
In the pursuit of Chesopeian Colony, McLeskey's first and largest land acquisition occurred in February 1955. The Lynnhaven peninsula, known as “West Point”, was purchased by Westwood Homes, Inc (Wayne & Faye McLeskey) from the estates of J.W.C. West and his wife, Adelaide. The Wests died in 1953 and 1952, respectively, and had owned most of the property going back to August 1909. As is frequently the case when there are multiple heirs to real estate, liquidation is the easiest, and sometimes, the only way to achieve a fair and equitable distribution.  Accordingly, the timing probably could not have been better for McLeskey. The land (shaded in orange) had been divided into two parcels: 97.5 acres, which included the present day Chesopeian Point, and 67 acres bordering Virginia Beach Blvd. The areas shaded in black, for the most part, were specifically excluded from the purchase agreement and were never owned by McLeskey.

West Point is bordered on the east by a section of the Lynnhaven River known as London Bridge Creek and on the west by Nicholson's Creek. In those days waterfront property ownership typically extended to the middle of the river, creek, or stream, measured at low tide. Unfortunately, the course of a stream can change over time due to natural causes, or otherwise, sometimes creating ownership issues. (You'll note the jagged property line in Nicholson's Creek which followed the course of the stream at the time of the 1937 survey.) McLeskey would later dedicate the balance of the submerged land to the City for a boat basin and drainage — first on the east side, and then much later on the west side.

The second largest acquisition, 37.7 acres (yellow), included the present day south side of North Kings Rd., the north side of Queen Anne Rd., and the (reportedly soon to close) Farm Fresh shopping center. The land was purchased from Louis S. Philhower and his wife, Maude, in April 1955. The Philhowers purchased the land in June 1937. When the first subdivision plat of Chesopeian Colony was recorded in August 1955, McLeskey owned only a five-foot shoulder along the south side of Queen Anne Rd.

The property south of Queen Anne Rd. (green) would not be purchased until June 1958 from Wade G. Harding and his wife, Arlene. This purchase created the only lot in Chesopeian Colony that is not accessible from Chesopeian Trail. The address is 2814 Virginia Beach Blvd, and the house and other buildings existed prior to July 1941. Although technically a part of Chesopeian Colony due to the mechanics of it's purchase, it is otherwise unrelated. The adjacent property at 2820 Virginia Beach Blvd. was specifically excluded from McLeskey's purchase, and is, therefore, not in Chesopeian Colony. Both 2814 and 2820 are today owned by Smith Electric Co.

Frequently, when contiguous land is purchased from multiple sources, the metes and bounds don't actually meet in the most desirable manner. Some of these issues were addressed in the first acquisition. For example, the new Chesopeian Trail was somewhat offset from the original private road and thereby created a sliver of land adjacent to one of the property owners who would remain. These odds and ends were simply reassigned ownership in the new deed — the trade offs being necessary to complete the deal.

Odds & Ends
Another example of odds and ends occurred at the north end of two adjacent rectangular lots owned by the Land family (bottom right in the picture). This is the area along the street presently known as Crawford Place. But in 1951 this was a planned development named Westland created by James R. Land and his wife, Genevieve. The street was named Lakeview Rd., and it ended (literally) in a man-made, fresh water lake that McLeskey would later dub Kings Lake. After the initial land purchase McLeskey owned a small area of land on the southern shore of the lake (light blue). James Land owned a small parcel on the north shore of the lake (darker blue). So, in February 1956 in a deed of exchange, McLeskey and Land traded parcels and agreed the new property line would essentially run through the middle of the lake. Of course much later the earthen dam would be removed and the lake returned to the Lynnhaven River. In more recent years McLeskey purchased some of the lots on Crawford Place, but again, this had little to do with Chesopeian Colony.

It's rather interesting to note that the Land's development was called Westland, McLeskey's initial purchase was made via Westwood Homes Inc., the peninsula was named West Point, and the predominant landowner's surname was West. This was quite obviously not a random coincidence. It further leads to speculation that McLeskey's initial name for the Colony may have been Westwood, and if so, that name would have been viewed favorably by the West heirs. Of course once the land ownership exchanged hands, all bets were off.

Finally, is the curious case of a triangular parcel on Virginia Beach Blvd (shaded in red). This was a residential site and home to Maysville E. Mills and her husband, Henry, that was purchased in April 1923. This 0.6 acre lot was the northern apex of a 17 acre triangular parcel that existed before Virginia Beach Blvd. was constructed in the 1920-22 time frame. Maysville and her son, Jack, were finally convinced to sell to McLeskey in April 1974, which eliminated the final barrier to the building of a commercial strip mall. Originally, McLeskey had planned to extend Apasus Trail to the Boulevard and perhaps add a few more residential lots, but a commercial venture was a more appropriate land use and would provide a long term income stream. You may also notice that the apex of this lot extends some 20 feet into the backyard of 2609 Tarkill Run. The online City map indicates that this interference was never resolved.

So, going back to those parcels shaded in black — the ones McLeskey did not own. Who were these pilgrams that staked their claims to the land before there was a Chesopeian Colony? How did they come to live there when Princess Anne County had so much other land available? What would ultimately cause them to leave their property? Answers and more useless information will be published in the next edition as the history of the land continues.

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