This spring and the property on which it is located is rich with the recorded history of Arlington. Its first owner, Thomas Owsley, patented the land in 1696. by law, Owsley would have been required to build a house on the land within one year, or forfeit the right to the property. It is believed that the old stone house, now incorporated into the structure of the Dawson Terrace Recreation Center, is the house Owlsey built. If this is so, it is the oldest house in Arlington.
After passing through several owners, including George Mason, the spring and stone house were purchased by Thomas Dawson in 1859. The Dawsons enlarged their house on the east end, and named it Rio Vista. During the Civil War, a ring of forts was constructed around Washington to protect the Nation's Capital. Union troops began construction of Fort Bennett in 1861, just to the east of Rio Vista, the same year the Dawson's youngest daughter, Bessie Lola was born. Bessie Dawson married William Conway Bailey from New York. She continued to live at Rio Vista until her death in 1955.
According to Bessie Dawson Bailey, her father would bring black walnuts from the trees near his home to soldiers camped near this spring. Soldiers were cutting down many trees for firewood, and Mr. Dawson asked them to leave the tulip poplar tree which shaded the spring.
This is the large tree which you see growing next to the spring today.
When Dr. Jacobs purchased the property in 1936, he found the spring enclosed in a rectangular brick structure with a rusting metal roof. He instructed the stonemasons building his castle house to use left-over stone to construct the hexagonal-shaped spring house you see today.