Vint Hill Farm History
From high-tech barn to high-class winery.
Our winery is a state-of-the-art facility, using “green” technologies and materials wherever possible and created as an example of sustainable design. The building is a restored circa 1900 dairy barn, located on the former Army base, Vint Hill Farm Station. In its past, the building was used as a secret listening post by the government.
The 1993 closing of a United States Army post used for decades to eavesdrop on military and diplomatic communications has become the unlikely catalyst for a burst of new development, just west of Washington, DC. The post is the former Vint Hill Station. Until it was closed in 1997 and its intelligence-gathering equipment removed, the dominant feature of the base was a vast field of antennas inside security fences.
Probably the first antenna installed by the Army at Vint Hill was in July 1942, when a long wire was strung out a window from the first floor of the property’s estate mansion to a nearby tree to intercept messages transmitted in Nazi Germany. By August of that year, a barn complex behind the manor house had been converted into a permanent intercept station and powerful rhombic antennas were installed. These are the barns that are renovated to create Vint Hill Craft Winery.
In 1943, according to an Army history of the post, a soldier working in the barn copied decoded radio messages from the Japanese ambassador to Berlin to his superiors in Tokyo that gave a detailed description of the German Atlantic Wall defenses at Normandy and Calais. Because the Japanese diplomatic code had been broken, the intercept provided Allied planners with details needed to overcome German defenses. Over the years, the Army suspended miles of antenna wire from poles in the fields at the base. The antenna arrays, which eventually spread over 450 acres, could be tuned to collect high frequency radio messages being transmitted to and from embassies in Washington.
From the late 1960′s to 1974, Army Security Agency troops with special wide-band receivers were recording all signals that reached the agency’s field stations around the world on inch-wide audio tape. The tapes were shipped to a bunker-like operations building at Vint Hill where ”signals of interest,” according to the Army history, were extracted using highly classified techniques developed by the National Security Agency. Most of the wide-band signals processed came from the Soviet Union and its satellites, but the Army admitted that on at least six occasions the Vint Hill facilities were used to spy on ‘antiwar activists’ radio communications in the United States.
Today, Vint Hill is one of a Washington DC region’s premier mixed use office parks. Over 60 businesses and organizations and 1,000+ employees enjoy Vint Hill’s diverse living and working environment, enriched with over 170 acres of parks and open space.