When Wendy and I look through the open house listings for any given weekend, we typically look for one of two things. We’re primarily interested in houses that are either significantly old or seem particularly impressive. This past weekend we were quite happy when we looked at Redfin.com (our go-to real estate website and related iPhone app) and found a house that easily fulfilled both of these criteria. Better yet, it was open this past Sunday.

Interestingly enough, it actually isn’t the first time we’ve seen the inside of this house. Several years ago it was one of the homes featured on the annual spring Virginia Garden Week tour of homes. It was spectacular and impressive then, but we were limited to seeing only the first floor and backyard. One of the drawbacks of local home tours is that oftentimes you only get to see a small portion of any given house. When any of these homes are put on the market and held open it is always a treat because we finally have an opportunity to see the rest of the home.

The stately home we visited is located in a prime Old Town location in the 100 block of Duke Street. The nearly 4,000 sqft home with four bedrooms and three and a half baths on a large lot was expanded from a slightly smaller but still pretty amazing house built in 1800. The house sits on a large lot that had enough room for the owners to build a three story entryway addition to the right of the original structure. Technically, it occupies two lots, 107 and 109. This allowed the owners to eliminate the main staircase for the home and expand the second and third floor significantly. With the main staircase removed, the owners constructed a new three level entry foyer with “spiral” staircase.

I actually have some mixed emotions about this house. On one hand, the restorationist in me is a bit sad the main staircase and entry hall was removed and house’s original floor plan significantly reconfigured. Given the size and age of the home, I have no doubt that it probably had a pretty spectacular entryway with a beautiful “Christmas staircase” as Wendy calls it. But on the other hand, the part of me that enjoys a functional and well laid out house feels the owners did a pretty great job making the original portion of the house blend with what feels like a mid-1990s addition that made every attempt to keep with the nature of the home, without being horribly obtrusive.

The end result of the effort is a home that still possesses many of the original character elements that make it unique and individual coupled with an addition that takes advantage of the home’s location near the river to provide stunning views in a very desirable location.

Before I go on, let me start by saying that the asking price for the house is nearly $2,950,000. Yes, nearly $3 million, so it had better be pretty spectacular. Here's the home's actual listing if you're interested.

The façade of the house’s original portion is still as it was originally constructed. The original front door remains in it’s initial location (the Board of Architectural Review dictated this, which I think was a good decisions) though it is non functional. Instead, the actual front door was formally moved to the addition to the right of the home, set back slightly from the property line so that it doesn’t appear as a brick monolith. This touch does establish a significant amount of needed depth and interest. In all, the builder matched the brick and architecture from the new portion to the old, bit it is still obviously an addition.

Walking into the front door you are welcomed by an open and spacious foyer. The main stair follows the perimeter for the addition as it winds up the three floor addition, an east facing window on every floor that undoubtedly gets significant light each morning.

Immediately to the left of the foyer is a nicely done arched doorway that leads to the main floor of the home. You can get a sense of the thickness of the home's original exterior wall by the depth of this doorway.

The main floor has a formal living room and dining room through the front parlors of the house. The living room has been expanded to take on the area where the entry way originally existed, giving a much more spacious feel to the front of the house.

The kitchen is well appointed with nice cabinets and appliances.

And an open family room sits just beyond the kitchen area and looks out on the large backyard/patio area.

Walking up the stairs you can take in the beautiful river and foliage views that each floor offers via windows on each landing. (I think I'm obsessed with "river views.")

The second floor houses three of the home's four bedrooms, and two of the three full baths. The fact that the original main stair was removed (sniffle) has allowed the bedrooms and bathrooms to be expanded to quite an impressive size. Each is much larger than I expected them to be.

The third floor is actually my favorite part of the house. What was once an attic with brick walls, chimneys, and big old beams has been transformed into a beautiful example of what one can accomplish by incorporating interesting architectural details in a finished space.

There's even a great little balcony off of this third floor room that looks out over the back of the house and Old Town.

With all of these items, one of the most impressive elements of the property is actually the home’s backyard. The fact the home is essentially on two lots more than doubles the amount of available outdoor space, and it has been done up very nicely. There’s an actual yard with grass, a seating area, fire area, little log play house, it’s quite impressive for being in Old Town.

But beyond the yard the home also has a gated wall with several parking spaces. Another rarity, especially in this part of town.

I guess I’m a little conflicted on this house. The fact the home’s original character is somewhat lost due to the reconfiguration makes me wish it was still the way it was, but the remaining elements of the home, and even some of those added with the addition, make it an even more beautiful place.

And now for our game...

Would You Trade?

Alex: Yes, absolutely. I can look past the missing elements and just dream about what it once was, and I’ll do that from the large yard or while watching ships sail up and down the Potomac.

Wendy: Yep, in a second. The house is stunning, and I can't even fathom having this many bedrooms or bathrooms! Plus, the fact that it has ample parking, a huge outdoor entertaining space, and a second floor laundry room make this house a winner in my book. Now if only I had a few million extra clams laying around...

What do you think of the house? Impressive or uninspiring?

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: Carol Cleary, listing agent for the home.

Comments 4


10/18/2011 at 10:01 AM
It's beautiful, that's for sure.

But there's something about it that I can't put my finger on. I don't get the "wow" feeling that I sometimes do when looking at pictures of old homes.

Of course, if it was a matter of being unable to do anymore work to my house, and somehow moving this house to where I live...then it'd be a no brainer!
Yep, I see what you mean. Since the "would you trade" game ignores all budgets, I guess that means I would give myself an unlimited decorating budget too, and with that, we could really make it our own taste.

Sometimes dreaming is half the fun! :-)
10/19/2011 at 8:56 PM
My reaction is similar to Ashley's, I think. It is very tasteful and well done but ultimately somewhat bland in terms of colors, furnishings, etc. Perhaps when one is working on a house and thinking about what it could take to sell it for almost $3M, there is a strong impetus to be conservative in one's choices?
Perhaps. I believe agents tend to encourage toning down houses with too much "personality." It is really lovely in person, although I agree most of the choices are safe, the location just doesn't come across in the photos.
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