What's the story behind the beautiful old house at 5115 Little Falls Road that now serves as the Columbus Club of Arlington?
It was the home of George Saegmuller and his family. Saegmuller immigrated to the US from Germany in 1870 when he was 23. His German education and engineering skills were greatly needed in an era of southern reconstruction and western expansion. He soon started working in Washington, D.C. for William Wurdemann, manufacturer of astronomical and geodetic instruments. He then went on to work for the US Coast and Geodetic Survey in charge of precision instruments. He was lucky in his choice of boarding houses where he met and married Maria Jane Lockwood.
Saegmuller's original house on Reserve Hill burned in 1892. He decided to rebuild on the same site and wanted a house reminiscent of his native Nürnberg. The new house, completed in 1904, was constructed of fine bluestone quarried on the estate. Tall white columns at the front show a Southern influence combined with that of a German castle.
Saegmuller lived most of his adult life in the mansion. It has 3,718 square feet with 21 rooms and 10 fireplaces. The "Big House," as it is known to Saegmuller's descendants was the family's summer home until Saegmuller's 1926 retirement.
It is the first house to have a telephone line in Arlington County, installed in 1894 between the Reserve Hill and Easter Spring Farm, also owned by John Saegmuller. It was the first house to have running water in then-Alexandria County because it had a water tower built in 1896. The water tower was modeled after one on the Nuremberg city wall, of which Saegmuller had a beer stein. This stein remains a prized family heirloom. The house was equipped with the latest technology of the time: a lighting system powered by gas, and four bathrooms, including one with a shower.
Saegmuller was not only a successful businessman, he also served his county as Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, and "was influential in the choice of the Court House site. He advanced money to meet county expenses during that period, and personally supervised construction of the new building." His belief in education led him to advance money for a new school building.
Saegmuller held patents for military instruments, his best known probably is the bore sight, but "with the assistance of Admiral Sampson during WWI, he invented the modern telescope sights for the Navy and the range-finder." His scientific and inventive abilities benefited the US military for decades.
The Saegmuller family raised livestock, including cows, horses, pigs, chicken, geese, and guinea hens, maintained a vineyard and orchard, and grew crops such as corn and hay. By 1891, George N. Saegmuller was thought of as one of the “principle farmers” of the area of then-Alexandria county. Saegmuller died in the home on his 87th birthday, February 13, 1934.
The mansion was a private home until 1951, then it was bought by the then-named Columbus Club of Clarendon. Today it is the headquarters of the Columbus Club of Arlington.