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Tour Historic Homes in Old Town This Weekend

Posted on Sep 21,2009
Filed Under Entertainment , Local Style,


One of the grandest and most historic homes in Alexandria, 605 Cameron Street in Old Town, owned by  Leslie and John Ariail, who have been on the tour in previous years.
One of the grandest and most historic homes in Alexandria, 605
Cameron Street in Old Town, owned by Leslie and John Ariail,
who have been on the tour in previous years.

Alexandria ,Virginia - The 68th Historic Alexandria Homes Tour this weekend gives an opportunity for the public to explore five private residences and two other properties in the historic district of Old Town Alexandria that have been restored, maintained, adapted and furnished for living in the 21st century. The easy walking tour will also bring attendees past fine eateries, shops and boutiques.

Over the last 200 years, the residences on the tour have been home to various kinds of residents; such as well to do businessmen; tradesmen; an noted African American educator; a nursing ward, a Catholic girls school and a private gentlemen’s club.

This tour is one of several fundraising activities supported by the 158 women who make up The Twig, an auxiliary of Inova Alexandria Hospital. Proceeds from this year’s tour will fund nursing scholarships and will help complete a $750,000 pledge to IAH for The Twig Pavilion – a 16 private-room patient telemetry unit, which provides short-term care to patients needing hospitalization for fewer than 48 hours.

Join the Historic Homes Tour on Saturday, Sept. 26, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. You can purchase advance tickets for $30 at Tickets are also available the day of the for $35 – check the website for locations. For more tour information, please call 703-489-2823.

Historic building on S. Washington Street.
Historic building on S. Washington Street.

There are six homes on the tour.  Here are some details about them: 706 Prince Street, the location of two condominium units on this tour, has a long history in Alexandria.  The condominiums were created in the 1970s from a wing of the Swann-Daingerfield House.  The addition was constructed in 1905; the main house, now 712 Prince Street, was built in 1802 by Alexandria attorney Thomas Swann and renovated in 1832 by shipping magnate Henry Daingerfield.  In 1899 the building was acquired by the Sisters of the Holy Cross for $10,500.  It was the home of St. Mary’s Academy until 1942 when it was sold to Alexandria Hospital, renamed Carter Hall and began a new life as the hospital’s nursing residence.

Home # 1     

The grand scale of the original home is felt immediately upon entering the hall of #3 with its hand-painted silk wallpaper in an oriental motif.  High ceilings and large windows provide an elegant background to a living room filled with oriental art and colonial antiques including secretary previously owned by Alexandria apothecary Edward Stabler, Family portraits decorate the walls of the master bedroom where watercolors depict the Old Town residence of the owner’s parents and a former home in Belle Haven.

Pass through the kitchen, remodeled in the 1990s, to the enclosed porch.  This peaceful retreat provides year-round views of the changing seasons.  Returning to the hall, exit to the building’s foyer.   

Home # 2

Marks a complete contrasts with a totally contemporary style, sleek surfaces and exotic use of colors and textures – Every bit of space is thoughtfully used by the owners in this “intown” residence/  The starkly simple cherry cabinets and built ins of the galley kitchen demonstrate hove very much living on can put in to small spaces

Historic home on Duke Street.
Historic home on Duke Street.

Home # 3

Next a property within a property, according to record the original structure was two levels and frame, remnants of the cistern now wine cellars are surrounded by an handsome early 19th century brick Federal townhome that has been expanded and  updated by its many owners.  Space in this home accommodates both young children as well as fine antiques.  The current owners have restored and preserved to historic elements and added a 21st century conveniences in perfect balance. Interestingly, this home also served as a nurses residence for the single young women employed at the nearby Alexandria Hospital when is was located in Old Town.  The owners have maintained the room numbers above the doors to various bedrooms.

Home # 4   

This brick townhouse was built in the Federal style between 1790 and 1820.  The house followed the plan of many Alexandria homes of the period -- a rectangular house with entrance and hall at the side and two chambers opening from the hall.  The kitchen was originally housed in a separate building at the rear and was added to the back of the house in the later 1800s.  The home was remodeled in the 1870s and the façade was converted from Federal to Victorian.  The door frame and pediment were added, as well as the mansard roof and trim near the roofline.  The original “six over six” window panes were replaced with larger panes (the windows have since been returned to their original configuration.)  For comparison, the house at 809 Duke Street didn’t undergo the Victorian renovation and this “sister” house retains the original Federal design elements.  During the early part of the 20th century, this was the home of Sarah Gray, a noted African-American principal and educator, for whom the former Parker-Gray schools and the current historic district are named. Architectural details lost over the years have been replaced with custom Greek revival detailing and a two-car garage was added in the 1970s.  Since purchasing the home in 1999, the current owners have renovated or remodeled the entire house, adding modern and stylish details to bathrooms and a chef’s dream of a kitchen

Home # 5

In marked contrast to the stately colonial and federal townhouses for which Old Town is known, this property exemplifies the later, more decorative architectural style known as Queen Anne. – this grand lady has been included as an architectural study. The exterior of the building showcases a variety of forms, textures, materials and colors.  An octagonal corner tower and wrap-around porch highlight the ground floor details, while the second floor is dominated by a prominent front gable and bow window.  Because the Queen Anne style’s central circular core, arched openings and wide halls lends itself well to office use, the interior retains many original features.  The large fireplace in the main hall boasts a carved mantle of brown oak with a tile insert.  

Also of note are the grand stairway, interior shutters and the delicate bead and spindle fretwork over the doorways of rooms on the main floor.  The gingerbread carriage house and wisteria covered gazebo complete a peek to an earlier time.

Home # 6

This is a 1790  farmhouse/ tavern was move from the banks of Hunting Creek to this location by George Washington and other gentlemen – to serve as a town club.  

Over the years, a carriage house, dining rooms, kitchens, cellars and other facilities were added behind and to the sides of the original building, reflecting the change in use of the building from club to tea room to restaurant.  The “Old Club Teahouse” specialized in traditional Southern cooking and hospitality through the mid-1970s.  

The property is now the site of a group of residential condominiums surrounding Broomlawn, which continues to be  a separate residence.  The owner’s desire to continue Broomlawn’s tradition of hospitality is evident, as is the success with which he successfully mixes antique and modern elements.  The dining room opens invitingly from the entrance hall; the massive fireplace and oven are original to the farm house, as are the window panes and floors.  

The original brickwork in the kitchen blends harmoniously with the latest Viking and Sub-Zero appliances.  Another very large and dramatic townhome in the complex  will be open and serve as a hospitality stop for tour patrons to sample tasty nibbles from The Twig’s latest cookbook “More Good Taste” which will also be on sale.

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