Wednesday, June 18, 2014

An Afternoon at the Langley Ordinary

This past Saturday I had the pleasure of visiting the Langley Ordinary and participating in a living history event on the lawn outside of the historic home. Since starting All Not So Quiet Along the Potomac, I've featured the Langley Ordinary in several posts. The dwelling sits not more than a mile and a half from my home in McLean.

George F.M. Walters built the Ordinary in 1850, or at some point between 1856-61, depending on the source. Gen. George A. McCall, head of the Pennsylvania Reserves, established his divisional headquarters there in October 1861. After McCall left Langley with the Reserves in March 1862, the Union Army took over the building for use as a hospital.

Owner Doug DeLuca of Federal Home Co., and his business partner, Matt Bronczek, helped to save the Langley Ordinary from almost certain destruction. At the time that Doug bought the property, the structure was riddled with mold and water damage. Three days before closing in 2011, two large trees fell on the house and crashed through the attic and second floor ceiling. (See here.) Doug and Matt worked tirelessly to restore and renovate the house. Thanks to their efforts, the Langley Ordinary survives.

The restored Langley Ordinary sits along Georgetown Pike (VA-193) near the intersection with Chain Bridge Rd. The property, along with a few others, forms part of the Langley Fork Historic District in McLean, Virginia.
This past Saturday Doug hosted a book signing for Mary Randolph Carter's Never Stop to Think...Do I Have a Place for This? The lavishly illustrated book, which focuses on home decorating with antiques and heirlooms, features the Langley Ordinary. Doug invited my friend Keith Foote and other reenactors from Cooper's Battery B, 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery to provide a living history demonstration on the grounds of the Ordinary. The choice of the unit made a lot of sense. Attached to McCall's division as part of the 14th Pennsylvania Reserves, the battery was quartered at Camp Pierpont in Langley during the first winter of the war along with the rest of the Reserves. Their camp site sat along the Leesburg-Georgetown Turnpike, not far from the Ordinary.

Keith asked if I would like to attend the event at the Ordinary with his reenactment group. I gladly accepted his invitation, and on Saturday afternoon Keith dropped off a uniform for me. Dressed as an artillery corporal (a promotion already?), I headed off to the Langley Ordinary to help with the living history side of the event. This was my first time doing any type of reenacting, unless you count those summer days as a kid when I ran around with plastic guns playing war.

A view from the front porch of the Ordinary. As I stood here, I imagined the Union officers and enlisted men who once walked across this very spot over 150 years ago.

I had a chance to walk through the Langley Ordinary during my time there on Saturday. The above picture is a view of the library. Doug has decorated his home with numerous pieces of Americana, including the portraits of Lincoln and Washington seen here.

The stairwell at the Langley Ordinary. Doug preserved much of the original flooring throughout the house.
A view of the attic, which likely served as sick ward for Union soldiers from nearby posts. 
The walls and ceilings of the Langley Ordinary are dotted with graffiti from occupants, Union soldiers, and other visitors. Most of the inscriptions in the attic (seen here) date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Other graffiti was lost when trees fell on the roof of the Ordinary. 
Acting as the No. 5 man on the gun crew, I advance the round to the No. 2 man in preparation for firing.
The crew fires the replica 10-pounder Parrott. Langley had not heard such sounds for well over 150 years. All told, the crew fired four blank rounds for the benefit of the guests at Doug's event.
The gun crew poses in front of Langley Ordinary. I am standing to the far left in the first row. Keith Foote is just to my left.
All told, I had a great time at the Langley Ordinary on Saturday. Thanks to the owner's hospitality, I was finally able to walk around a historic residence that I have written so much about. Participating in a living history demonstration with Keith and the other members of Cooper's Battery was an added bonus. I also enjoyed chatting with the reenactors and local residents about the Civil War history of McLean. It just goes to show that you don't always need to go more than a few miles from home to have a rewarding historical experience.

Sources & Notes

Harry English, "The Langley Ordinary," Echoes of History, Vol. 1-5, 1970 (on file with author); Scott Sowers, "Restoring ‘Langley Ordinary’ a project of passion for builder Doug DeLuca," Washington Post, June 27, 2013; Scott Trompeter, "Local Builders Restore, Modernize Antebellum Langley Ordinary," Inside NOVA, May 1, 2013.

Doug has put the Langley Ordinary up for sale. Information about purchasing the property can be found here.

Keith has written a history of Cooper's Battery entitled "Mark the Lines of Your Weary Marches." A signed copy can be purchased for $30 plus shipping. Contact Keith at or at 570-975-5034.

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