By Mary Dempsey
Strolling through the quaint streets of the Old Town, with its rows of carefully preserved historic houses, it’s almost impossible to resist the urge to peek inside. One cannot help but wonder if the interiors of these houses are as beautiful as their charming facades suggest.
On Saturday, September 23, The Twig’s 76th Annual Alexandria Historic Homes Tour will allow attendees to do just that. The tour includes eight homes on a five-block stretch of N. Columbus Street. The majority of the homes span the century between the early 1800s and the 1900s, but this year’s event also includes an innovative new green living space.
A tradition of service
The Twig, also known as the Junior Auxiliary of Inova Alexandria Hospital, is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting Alexandria Hospital since 1933. Since its founding, the Twig has raised $3.9 million dollars for the hospital. He is currently working on his most recent pledge of $1 million, which will be used to help the hospital renovate its cardiovascular intensive care unit.
The Twig is an organization run exclusively by women. Alexandria Hospital was also established by a group of dedicated women who recognized the need for more efficient medical care in the aftermath of the Civil War. Founder Julia Johns and her Board of Directors led the
hospital from a converted house and also opened a nursing school and a horse-drawn ambulance service, among others.1
Today, the Twig continues in the spirit of Julia Johns and her founding board of female volunteers with her tireless commitment to improving the hospital.
“We are working very hard,” said member Jane Matthias. “We take our fundraising mission very seriously. We are not a social organization. We work.”
The Twig raises funds through various avenues, including a thrift store on N. Columbus St. and seasonal bazaars held at the hospital. The Alexandria Historic Homes Tour, however, is Twig’s most lucrative fundraiser.
The Alexandria Historic Homes Tour 2017
According to Amy Furr, co-chair of the 2017 Homes Tour, she was walking along N. Columbus Street and was inspired by the charm of the buildings she saw. She and her fellow board members set out to find owners along the stretch who wanted to be included.
“It’s a great way to be part of the community and also a great opportunity to give back to a good cause,” said owner Tucker Bailey, whose home will be on the tour. He added that he hoped to “get to know some of the other owners”.
Bailey’s House was built in the late 1800s by famed Capital Region architect Glenn Brown.2 The Romanesque Revival structure features bold arches in vibrant brickwork as well as dramatic details in iron, brass and in copper.
“I absolutely loved the architecture itself,” Bailey said. “It was completely different from other houses in the area. There are windows on three sides which bring a lot of openness and space to the house.
While Bailey’s home has many historic features, such as the ornate fireplaces in many of the home’s five fireplaces, the owner has added his own modern touches, including a wine cellar, updated master bath, and an exit to the roof terrace.
“The rooftop deck is what really sold me,” said Bailey, who has outfitted the space as a three-season entertaining space with a dining and living room, outdoor kitchen, fire pit, and patio. flat screen television.
At the end of the street, owner Guy Lamolinara agreed that “[the tour] is for a wonderful cause” and that he is “happy to share the house with anyone who would like to see him”. He laughed and
added that “it’s a great incentive to spruce up your home. The house will be more beautiful than it has ever been before.
Lamolinara’s house dates from the late 19th century, although the property itself was bought and sold several times in the mid-1800s. history of the house.
“I knew it was in the Boothe family and was built in 1895,” Lamolinara said. “I knew it was related to the Stabler-Leadbeater family.”
Lamolinara said he was originally drawn to the house because of some of its original details and the sense of comfort he found walking around the historic house.
“In my opinion, a new house does not have the same cachet and the same warmth. Even a new house that is built today with the same features will not look like an older house that has been lived in.
Immerse yourself in the history of Alexandria
This year’s Home Tour would not have been possible without the diligent research of Home Tour Co-Chair Roberta Stevens. Stevens, who worked at the Library of Congress for many years managing the National Book Festival and served as president of the American Library Association, used her professional skills to uncover every historical detail she could find on each home.
“Only one house had done extensive research on this,” Stevens said. “I dove deep into the Alexandria Courthouse Deed Books and the collections in the Local History Room of the Queen Street Branch of the Alexandria Public Library. It was like putting the pieces of a puzzle together and gradually seeing an image emerge.
Stevens used everything from “deeds, city directories, fire insurance maps, tax records, building permits and news articles” to help him paint the pictures of each house’s history for the guidebook. tourism this year, which she describes as the crest of a tsunami. wave of information.
Much of Stevens’ research alluded to a developmental spurt that occurred in Alexandria after the Civil War.
“The late 1800s saw a growth spurt that moved north from King Street in response to businesses served by the railroads and economic recovery after the Civil War,” Stevens said. “I’ve seen the same names and real estate investment companies pop up over and over again in the deeds. I found myself saying, ‘Hello my old friend. I see you’re back.
Despite the intensive research work, which included lifting heavy books of historic deeds in addition to mental muscle strength, Stevens has an unwavering enthusiasm for these homes and the efforts of their owners to maintain and improve them.
“[I enjoyed] meet the owners and see how clearly the homes reflected their personality, interests and creativity,” Stevens said. “They have put their financial resources and themselves into beautiful and beloved spaces to share with Homes Tour participants.”
An innovative green house
While the majority of the homes on the tour are historic, one of the properties is completely new and state of the art. It is part of Cromley Row, a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified townhouse development.
LEED certification is a third-party rating system developed by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). It assesses whether homes meet green living standards.
“The important thing to understand is that when you call something green it has to mean something and it’s not greenwashing,” said Bill Cromley, the architect who designed Cromley Row.
Cromley added that LEED certification is not just about the more obvious environmental factors such as efficient insulation and energy consumption.
“It’s not just the durability,” Cromley said. “It’s the health and safety of the house. There are mental health credits to create a connection between the outside and the inside. It also takes into account the workers and residents who move into the houses with regard to the fumes from glues and paints.
Some of the features of the home include a rainwater filtration system, geothermal heating and cooling, non-toxic carpets and paints, and a bright, open floor plan.
“It’s not just how a house looks, but how you feel as you move through space,” Cromley said. “A high window-to-wall ratio creates a connection to nature that can make you calmer and therefore healthier.”
In addition to its green features, the Cromley Row home on the tour is filled with its owner’s artistic touches, including original paintings, sculptures and decorative designs.
Although the house itself is not historic, it is on historic land, which the owner was well aware of when she purchased the house. According to Stevens, on her first visit, “she walked to the end of the property and laid yellow flowers to honor the people who were there before her.”
Finding your home
The story bug is contagious, and many Alexandria residents are becoming experts in local history. Learning about the background of a neighbor’s home may inspire some to delve into the roots of their own home.
While Stevens has used her professional expertise to investigate the houses on the tour, she encourages everyone to do their own digs. She recommends starting in the Special Collections Room of the Barrett Branch of the Alexandria Library, where she did much of her own research.
“Office staff are very willing to help and show you how to navigate online files, books and microfilm,” Stevens said. “It’s actually fun and you find yourself feeling a connection to the people who lived in the houses a century or more ago.”
Alexandria is known for its cobblestone streets, brick sidewalks, waterfront views, and historic homes, from stately 19th-century Victorians to funky turn-of-the-century craftsmen. Ultimately, the home tour is a way for residents of Alexandria to celebrate the efforts they have made to maintain such a beautiful and welcoming hometown.
“When people care about their homes and their neighbors, a region thrives,” Stevens said. “The interiors of the houses may change, but retaining the character of the exterior of the house brings a particular consistency and quality to Alexandria.”