Walter Brooke was born in Charles County, Maryland in 1740 to a family of landowners with ties to the Mason family (George Mason was his first cousin). He began his career as a midshipman with the British Navy before receiving his commission as captain with the Virginia Navy in 1775. Within two years, he was selected as one of three commodores before being named commander-in-chief.
Sadly, his career was cut short due to severe gout, and on the advice of his close friend George Washington, he purchased retirement land in the vicinity of Mount Vernon in northern Virginia.
Brooke’s tranquility was shattered within the first year with the tragic death of his eight-year-old son, Robert. Brooke lived on the property until his passing in 1798, and while it is known that he was buried on the property, the exact spot remains a mystery.
Also shrouded in mystery is much of the history of the property and house between 1800 and the 1940s. In 1945, Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Cohen took ownership of the property and conducted major renovations to restore and update the house. These included a fieldstone façade, symmetrical wings on either side of the main house, and a beautiful portico. The home was renamed Benmae Manor at that time.
Cohen once claimed to have seen “ghostly white horses that race across the lawn in the early morning mist, driven by the wind,” keeping alive a legend that has lived with the property since its early days.
Local historians are still working to untie the roots of the property and its history.
Know Before You Go
The property is now called Stoneybrooke Park and is owned and managed by the Fairfax County Park Authority. The grounds feature basketball courts, hiking trails, a playground, and a picnic pavilion.