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The rail versus the trail: The history of Washington Lacy park

Posted on Wednesday, August 9, 2017 at 1:08 pm

By NATALIE MILLER

H-P Reporter

A photo of 10 family members around a Washington Lacy Park sign shows of generations of Lacys honoring the newly-opened public park nearly a decade ago. Washington Lacy Park is one of few public parks in the area with horse paths, and the first to be dedicated to an African American citizen.

The park was dedicated to Washington Lacy, an African American man who lived next to the property with his family. Philip Lacy, Washington’s grandson, said Washington’s love of horse riding made him a prime candidate to name the park after.

Residents of Jamestown Road and surrounding communities learned in the last few months that a possible DC2RVA Rail eastern bypass route that would go through their park and community could still be on the table for consideration.

Philip said that in many ways, the park represents a same path that other African Americans have experienced.

“It’s what we’ve got,” Lacy said.

Washington Lacy was born to George and Sarah Lacy March 17, 1873, who were slaves on the Gregory sheep plantation.

As an adult Washington worked as a carpenter. In 1894, he got 10 acres of land adjacent to what is now the park property. After his first wife died, Washington married Minnie Jackson and the couple had four children.

Washington cleared the land, built a two-story home and started a farm.  Washington worked on his farm through his 80s, until he lost his leg to gangrene. He was known in the area for his foxhound breeding skills, and enjoyed hunting and horseback riding.

Washington was deacon at Providence Baptist Church like his father, and his son would later continue the tradition. According to Philip, the land that Washington Lacy Park is located on served as a cut through to get to Providence Baptist Church.

Members of the Lacy family continued Washington’s legacy, like his niece Phyllis Jackson, who started a career in animal husbandry. Washington’s eldest son is another well-respected member of the family, who was  Buffalo Soldier in the Cavalry Division during WWII.

The park holds not only family significance, but part of Ashland’s African American history. Philip likened Washington’s significance to the family to an influential celebrity.

“Number 42 is a number that no baseball player can wear, and it’s kind of like every family has their own Jackie Robinson, and someone they can look to who was kind of special,” Lacy said. “Washington Lacy is that person for us.”

Washington’s family made sure to keep his name alive after he died June 17, 1961.

Washington’s son Franklin Lacy and other others petitioned to have another road so Jamestown residents had another entrance if there was a problem with the I-95 bridge. Homes and developments like Woodside Estates have since been built near Washington Lacy Park, and face some similar struggles in fighting against an eastern bypass.

“It’s just so disappointing and sometimes we feel powerless,” Lacy said.

As an architect, Philip said he had concerns about the flatness, and potential flooding, of the land a rail would have to run through.  A rail could also make future developments more difficult, he predicted.

“Once you run the train, nobody else is going to build in the area because it’s not as attractive,” Lacy said.

“This eastern bypass was a bad idea three years ago and it’s still a bad idea but somehow people are still pushing it not to disturb the other side,” Lacy said.