Nestled on 25 acres of rolling, wooded Prince William County countryside, Bel Air 1740 rests at the crest of a rolling knoll. Huge black walnut trees and oaks frame the southeast side of the historic home built here in 1740 by the Ewell family. The perimeter of the house itself is ornamented with boxwood bushes, with English ivy covering the stone foundation.
The 18th century home and event space is located in a suburban residential neighborhood in Woodbridge off Minnieville Road. Notably historic for hosting George and Martha Washington as newlyweds on their honeymoon trip, Bel Air 1740 is one of the oldest residences in Prince William County.
Originally on land belonging to the Doeg tribe of the Algonquian Federation, the historical marker at the entrance to the property acknowledges that part of the tract controlled by Henry Walker in 1677 was sold in 1739 to Major Charles Ewell, who built Bel Air in 1740.
The house is believed to be built on the foundations of an early frontier fort, and Reverend Mason Locke Weems, George Washington’s biographer and originator of the cherry tree story, is buried on the property. At the time of Jesse Ewell’s death, 16 enslaved people labored on the farm. In 1848, the house was bought by Chapman Lee, a native of Connecticut, who farmed Bel Air without relying on enslaved people.
Current owners Maria and Corey Stewart purchased the property in 2012, and they have worked to restore historical elements while turning the property into an event venue.
"I absolutely fell in love with the historic Bel Air property the first time I saw it and could visualize it becoming a stunning wedding venue," says Maria. “I loved the scenic rolling fields, stately lawns, majestic old trees, and the romantic English gardens."
Maria and her husband, Corey, the former chair of Prince William Board of County Supervisors, live on the property, and once their two sons were off to college, Maria was ready for the challenge of creating an events venue.
Last year they celebrated the opening of the wedding barn, featuring a great hall with 25-foot ceilings and a state-of-the-art theatrical sound and lighting system, giving clients the ability to customize the feel for each event.
The 7,000 square foot space is complete with a caterer’s kitchen, bridal and groom suites, and bathrooms. Outside the barn doors, three circular fireplaces serve as the centerpiece of the restored gardens.
The Bel Air 1740 barn can host up to 280 people for weddings, quinceañeras, graduation parties, or other special events. The grounds are suited for weddings and corporate events on weekends, and a parking lot at a neighboring church provides parking and access to the grounds.
"This property has the unique advantage of feeling like you’re in the country, but in reality, you have all the amenities of modern living close by," says Maria. "As you attend a wedding here, you feel like you’ve stepped back in time, but wifi and Uber are available."
In addition to building the event barn, Stewart has devoted considerable energy to restoring the gardens. The roses, hibiscus, peonies, and wisteria complete the English countryside effect and make the garden an ideal setting for an outdoor ceremony.
After years of running a catering company, Maria’s dream of hosting events in her own space became a reality. But she is not done yet. Another interesting feature of the property is the presence of one of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) barracks from World War II. The barracks building was originally located in what is now Prince William Forest Park and was moved to the current Bel Air property in the 1950s to be used as a farmhand residence. Maria has plans to convert the former barracks into a cigar-smoking lounge for events.