By James Cullum
Gerald Ford lived in Alexandria for 23 years before he became President of the United States. Yesterday was a homecoming of sorts, as City officials, former neighbors and members of the Ford family dedicated the President Gerald R. Ford Park. The one-acre park at the corner of Quaker and Janney’s Lanes is designed as passive recreation space where people can “walk the paths, sit on a bench and contemplate life,” said Roger Blakeley, deputy director of the Alexandria Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Activities.
The park contains a series of flowerbeds, open green space, a walking path and a pergola. In future, there may be a bust of Ford. The design and placing of that bust will be a joint effort between Parks and Rec and the Alexandria Commission on the Arts. The land for the park was donated to the City by Elm Street Development.
“If you asked mother and dad, the number one attribute of living in Alexandria, besides the beauty and charm was the people,” said Jack Ford, a 1970 graduate of T. C. Williams High School.
The family moved to Parkfairfax in 1951, when Ford was in his second term in Congress. They moved into a new house at 514 Crown View Drive in the Clover-College Park neighborhood in 1955.
“We knew the boys from T. C. Williams. Mike Ford was in my graduating class,” said Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille.
The family lived in the home on Crowne View Drive through Ford’s twelfth term in Congress and his subsequent appointment by President Richard Nixon as Vice President on December 6, 1973, after the resignation of Spiro Agnew. Nine months later, on August 9, 1974, Ford became President of the United States following Nixon’s resignation. The Fords lived on Crown View Drive for the first ten days of his presidency.
Betty Ford later wrote: “For me, leaving the While House wasn’t nearly so much of a wrench as leaving our house in Alexandria. After we decided we weren’t going to move back and put the house up for sale, I never went over there again. I didn’t want to. We had built the place, the children had grown up there, all of our neighbors were our friends. We’d been to so many block parties and Fourth of July celebrations, we’d planted gardens and put in trees, and I knew if I saw it again it would upset me. I wanted to think of my new life, to look forward.”
After he left the Presidency in 1977, the Fords retired to Palm Springs, California and Vail, Colorado.
President Ford died on December 26, 2006, at the age of 93. In honor of his years in Alexandria, the funeral motorcade passed through the City en route to the U.S. Capitol while hundreds of Alexandrians lined Washington Street to say farewell of one of their most famous residents.
John Irvine is president of the Clover-College Park Civic Association. “Though much has changed in the world since 1955,” Irvine told Jack Ford, “I’m happy to report that today, the Clover-College Park neighborhood is still a close-knit neighborhood in large part because of the sense of community your family planted here.”