Milk used to be the dominant beverage at Route 28 and the Prince William Parkway outside Manassas, where the old Thomasson Barn still stands. But the plan for the property’s future depends on another drink: beer.
Villagio Hospitality Group, which runs the Trattoria Villagio Italian restaurant in Clifton, is turning the land in Prince William County’s Innovation Park into Farm Brew Live, a brewing, food and music campus.
It’s an endeavor that aims to repurpose a historical structure while providing the county’s business park — and western Prince William as a whole — with new options for dining and entertainment.
Project developer Marcus Silva originally wanted to put a brewery in Clifton, said Meredith Arnest, director of operations for Villagio Hospitality Group. But he also was interested in the look of the Thomasson Barn, which had been vacant for more than 50 years.
Silva wondered, “How do I buy that barn and move it to Clifton?” Arnest said.
That didn’t happen, but Silva Holdings Co. agreed last year to buy the two-story dairy barn and six acres of surrounding land from the Prince William Board of County Supervisors for $1 million.
The 8,600-square-foot barn, which has exposed-beam, vaulted ceilings, is being restored to house a cafe and a restaurant called Farmers and Brewers. Arnest said her company is using as much of the original structure as possible, as well as materials from another barn in Prince William that was being dismantled.
“So we’re actually using some of their reclaimed wood,” she said.
Farm Brew Live, slated to cost nearly $11.5 million to develop, also will include the 14,000-square-foot 2 Silos Brewing Co. — the Thomasson Barn has two silos where grain feed was stored — as well as hops fields, an outdoor music venue called the Yard, a tasting room, a retail store, an events tent, a garden, bocce courts and walking trails.
The idea is to make the campus a destination for customers, whether they’re looking for craft beer, dinner or a chance to see a touring musical act, Arnest said.
“I think it will speak to a lot of different people,” she said.
Farm Brew Live will be developed in two phases, Arnest said: The first, encompassing the brewery, tasting room and the Yard venue, is expected to be done in spring or summer. The second, with the completion of Farmers and Brewers, would be finished six to eight months later.
The campus is expected to employ more than 200 people in slots ranging from executive positions to hourly jobs, she said.
Prince William Supervisor Jeanine Lawson (R-Brentsville), whose district includes the Thomasson Barn area, said Farm Brew Live fits in well with her part of the world.
The brewery ties in with the innovative nature of the county’s business park, Lawson said, and growing hops on-site connects with the agrarian nature of western Prince William.
“It’s such a great blend of everything that represents western Prince William today,” she said.
The refurbishment of the Thomasson land is welcome news to Bettie Compton, as well.
William T. Thomasson, who built the barn in 1929, was Compton’s grandfather on her mother’s side.
Compton, who was born two years before Thomasson died, said her mother, Claudia, was the third of four daughters in the Thomasson family and had to help milk cows on the farm before and after school.
Compton also recalled last week that her grandfather had to take milk to the train station in Manassas for transport to the District. She still has one of the old metal cans used for shipping milk.
“We’re so happy that it’s being saved and restored,” Compton, who lives in Manassas, said of the barn.