Long before it became Marymount’s main campus, the University’s land in North Arlington was owned by Admiral Presley M. Rixey (1852-1928) — a distinguished figure in local and national history, and a naval surgeon general and personal physician to Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt.
The property on which the current main campus of Marymount University sits today, then called ‘Netherfauld,’ was purchased by Rixey in 1888. President Roosevelt often came and visited Rixey as they rode on horseback through the many acres of rural lands on the property. Meanwhile, Mrs. Roosevelt would frequently walk from the White House to Netherfauld to have lunch with Mrs. Rixey.
A key advocate for the Washington Golf & Country Club, Rixey sold 75 acres of his property in 1908 to the organization, ensuring it a permanent home in the region. It was later discovered that there weren’t enough acres included for the completion of a swimming pool, so a member of the Country Club’s board of trustees challenged Rixey to a golf match over the desired property. Rixey lost and honored the deal by graciously signing over the additional land. The admiral also gave away some of his land in 1925 for the construction of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, which sits adjacent to Marymount’s main campus on North Glebe Road.
The iconic Main House, now a cornerstone feature of Marymount’s campus, was built by Rixey around 1920 to serve as his mansion residence after his previous farmhouse had burned down. He lived there until his death in 1928, after which his family leased out the mansion and surrounding property during the summers to notable occupants that included a secretary of the German Embassy.
The estate then went through a series of owners, including Ida Polen – who bought the property in 1936 and operated a tea house called ‘Rixey’ in the mansion for 12 years. In 1948, the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary (RSHM) order acquired the land that included the mansion, stone guest house (now The Lodge) and two cottages. They established a junior college on the property in 1950 that would grow into Marymount University, a thriving and modern residential campus today.