Dr. Belinda Crompton Straight died peacefully on December 5, 2015, in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Dr. Straight was a psychiatrist in Washington, D.C. for 55 years until 2007. In 1970, she and her former husband, Michael Straight, donated their house and property to the Fairfax County Park Authority. That land is now Green Spring Gardens.
“We’re saddened that she has passed, but very grateful for her enduring legacy to the residents of the County of Fairfax and beyond,” said Debbie Waugh, Green Spring’s Historic House Coordinator. Waugh said the Straight’s donation put Green Spring on the map historically because of the architect and designer they used at their home, because “it means the site is able to interpret the historical significance of the house and the landscape.”
The Historic House was the Straight’s family home. They raised five children there. The following comments by Debbie Waugh were delivered at a memorial service for Dr. Straight.
Dr. Belinda Straight created an enduring legacy for the residents of Fairfax County and beyond. In 1970, she and her husband, Michael, jointly gifted their family home, Green Spring Farm in Alexandria, to the Fairfax County Park Authority. Their donation of 16 acres of land and the 1784 historic home was made on condition that the property be preserved for the benefit of the community. And so, Belinda’s Green Spring Farm became today’s Green Spring Gardens, a beautiful public garden, horticulture center and historic site enjoyed by thousands of visitors each year.
When Belinda and Michael came to Green Spring Farm in 1942, the house had been standing for 158 years and already had an interesting history. But Michael and Belinda proceeded to write a whole new chapter that was to be pivotal. As soon as they arrived, they brought in two American masters of design – Colonial Revival architect Walter Macomber and famed landscape designer Beatrix Farrand – to redesign their house and gardens. As a result, Historic Green Spring is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register. A pivotal chapter indeed.
To commemorate this unique claim to historical significance, a Historical Highway Marker was dedicated at Green Spring on June 12, 2010. That day we were honored to have Belinda in attendance and delighted when she chose to speak to the audience about her former home.
We know that Belinda was a generous and gracious hostess when she lived at Green Spring, opening her home to many distinguished guests as well as friends and neighbors in the community. Today, we uphold her tradition of hospitality by welcoming visitors to Green Spring Gardens and the Historic House year-round.
Her generous gift is now considered a treasure in our community that finds its way into the hearts of everyone who visits; it’s a sanctuary for quiet contemplation and enjoyment, it’s a resource for adults and children to discover nature and gardening, and it’s a historic home of grace and beauty where guests learn about local history and hear stories of the lives of its many former residents. Belinda was a woman ahead of her time, and she led a remarkable life of personal and professional achievement. At Green Spring, we will continue to enjoy sharing her story with our guests.
The staff and volunteers at Green Spring Gardens and all of our visitors are deeply grateful to Belinda for providing that all-important chapter in our story and a legacy that continues to enrich our lives.
Debbie Waugh is the Historic House Coordinator at Green Spring Gardens.