Do you have a block or collection of homes in your neighborhood that catches your eye almost every time you walk or drive by? Perhaps even an enclave in another city that you go out of your way to pass simply because you like the houses so much? Admittedly, there are many blocks in and around Old Town that hold this distinction for Wendy and me, but one block in particular stands out as an unexpected collection of beautifully maintained and interesting historic homes. As luck would have it, one of the homes among this quaint row was recently put on the market and was held open this past weekend -- and there was no way we were going to miss our chance to see inside.
The particular block I'm talking about isn't among the grand homes of the southeast quadrant of Old Town, but rather in the 200 North block of Columbus St. Nestled between Washington St. and Alfred St. sits Columbus, where modest yet elegant homes were built due to their proximity to the access points of Alexandria. Along the 200 North block of Columbus, in the shadow of Christ Church (once known as "The church in the woods" because of it's distance from the town's center in the 18th century), a collection of six homes was built around 1870 in a late Federal to early Victorian style (correct me if I'm wrong on this assessment). Each is similar to its neighbor, yet distinct in its architectural characteristics to differentiate it from the others. Most likely built by a real estate speculator, homes such as these constructed during the post Civil War reconstruction era of the United States are indicative of and represent the nation's struggle to emerge from war to pursue a brighter and more promising future.
The specific home we were able to visit is stunning (in our book at least) from the outside.
The natural brick, arched original windows, architectural details above each window, cast iron stairs, shutters, cornice details, and grand doorway turn this otherwise simple home into something far more appealing and decorative. It's amazing what a little embellishment can do to an otherwise simple home's facade.
Do those stairs look familiar? They are the same newel, tread, and riser pattern as our salvaged cast iron stairs.
Walking into the home beyond the louvered double doors you are greeted by what seems to be an original door with intricate details. Though the knob has been replaced at some point, you could restore it to what it once was and install some period hardware.
When you enter the home it appears the original passage hallway was blocked off to make room for a coat closet. This is a bit of a shame as it prevents you from seeing the whole home upon entry, but it's a somewhat typical 20th century change in homes with this layout.
It seems the house was most likely renovated somewhat recently (in the last 15 years or so), but it appears care was taken to maintain much of the historic character. For example, though it isnt' the original fireplace and mantel surround, a good bit of time and detail was put into the construction of the front parlor's focal point, the fireplace wall.
As you can see in the photo, the first floor retains its beautiful heart pine flooring and it is absolutely stunning and rich in its color.
Another original detail element of the home that is still intact is the home's central stair. This type of stair is typical in a home of this period, and we've seen many similar in homes built within this timeframe. By the time our home came to be about 15 years later, central stairs with landings had fallen out of vogue and straight staircases were the new thing. I know Wendy is quite saddened by this fact as she loves a good staircase as a focal point for holiday decorating.
Beyond the stairs and double parlor (that is currently acting as a formal living room and dining room) sits the home's family room. Two large windows allow ample light into the room, and a heavy crown detail adorns the ceiling. The red is quite bright, in both photos and in person, but that is an easily changed aspect of decor.
You can also access the basement from the family room area. Though it is unfinished, the basement ceilings offer enough headroom to make it a nice and workable space.
It is plenty large enough for a wood shop, has direct outdoor access through the back yard (so you can bring in large items too wide to fit through the main door), and you could conceivably finish it as well.
The kitchen, located in the very back room of the first floor, looks to have been recently updated. The kitchen seems workable given the space, but there are probably a few things you could do to rearrange for function.
Atop the main central stair a smaller bedroom and the master suite is located toward the front of the house. The ceiling in the master bedroom is quite high, much higher than the hallway.
Initially I suspected it had been raised, but the tall original windows that go nearly to the ceiling show that it has always been this way. The master also has a small fireplace, something I'm actually quite jealous of.
Each room has one or more windows which allow in a nice amount of natural light.
And several of the doors seem to have retained their original knob and rim lock hardware.
Again, the floors in some of the upstairs rooms are the original heart pine flooring. Sure it scratches and dents easily, but it still looks stunning.
The bathrooms are all workable but could use some updating.
And the back room on the second floor would make a great bedroom or home office depending on your needs.
The back yard is a decent size and offers a area where one could easily entertain with quick access to the kitchen for necessary supplies. Though you can access the back yard through a wood fence that faces another building's parking lot, there is no reserved parking for the home.
In all, the home is nearing 150 years old and is in great shape. Many original details persist and the structure of the home seems quite sound. If this seems like the right home for you and you'd like to move right in, you can get all of the details you need in this home's online listing.
And now for our game...
Would You Trade?
Alex: Though I love the house and it's location near the historic Christ Church, I'm going to have to say no. If we were looking for a first home in Old Town, or trying to move up from a condo or one bedroom place, this would be perfect, but an even trade for our house I could't do. The layout is not quite as functional as our house, it touches two neighboring homes, is lacking parking and a private back alley, has a somewhat smaller back yard area compared to ours, and each bathroom needs an updated (versus only one of our baths). It makes me sad to say it, but I wouldn't trade.
Wendy: I'm going to agree with Alex on this one and say no as well. Despite its impressive curb appeal, gorgeous Christmas staircase, and open and bright double parlor, it's not enough for me to trade. I would't be willing to give up designated parking, the size of our master bathroom, or our amazing neighbors. The kitchen is really closed off in this home, and having to stoop while navigating the steep basement stairs are a no go. It's a beautiful home, but I'm staying put.
Interested in reading about other interesting homes for sale? Want to offer your take on "would you trade"? Check out the Open Housing section of Old Town Home.
Photo Credits: Listing agent, McEnearney Associates Inc., and Elizabeth Lucchesi "2012 MRIS" is noted in the photo watermark.