Backstory and Context
Robert and Vinton Pickens decided while in Switzerland that they would buy land in the United Space in order to be used as insurance against potential fluctuation of the value of money in the coming years. When they returned to the US in 1934, they bought 289 acres of land in Loudoun County, Virginia, as a result of the advice of their friend, Philip Smith, who was part of the Smith and Walker Architects firm of Boston. In addition to helping the Pickenses choose their plot of land, Smith also worked to design a home for them, as well. Construction began and was completed on the house in 1936.
Despite being quite a large home for the time during the Great Depression, Janelia is notable for not having been majorly altered during this time period of America, when cultural and economic forces were altering the stylistic sensibilities of American homeowners. Janelia would continue to stay in the Pickens family for a time. On June 17th, 1986, it was designated on the Virginia Landmark Register, and on March 20th, 1987, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Not long after the property’s designation, it was acquired by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The property was then converted for the use of the Institute, and it was re-named the Janelia Research Campus.