Six Old Town homes were open to the public today for the beginning of Historic Garden Week in Virginia. During the April 19-27 festivities, visitors across the Commonwealth will step through the gates of more than 250 of Virginia’ s most beautiful gardens, homes and historic landmarks. Three dozen separate tours will present a rich mosaic of formal gardens, walled gardens, cottage gardens, cutting gardens, water gardens, and even secret gardens. Visitors interested in architecture and interior decorating will have the opportunity to see renovated historic properties as well as contemporary residences. (Photography is NOT permitted in private houses and gardens.)
300 South Lee Street sits on land once used as a storage yard for lumber for James Green’s ‘Cabinet Manufactory’ dating to 1934. The two story building now occupying the space dates from 1885. In 1997 the present owners completed a renovation that included an excavation to provide basement living space under the entire length of the house. Prominently on display are an 18th century English desk, a 19th century map of New Orleans, and a framed $100 bill from the Bank of Louisiana dated 1862. A 19 century cigar-store woodcarving of George Washington marks the point where the original house ended. Mr. and Mrs. Brian B. Gibney, owners.
210 Duke Street is a classic home built in 1787 for Dr. James Craik, George Washington’s Revolutionary War private secretary and physician, and is now know simply as “Craik House.” Dr. Craik used the front two rooms of the house for his medical practice; he is buried in the Old Presbyterian Meeting House yard on South Fairfax. After Craik’s death, the building was used as a school and boarding house before being purchased by the Thompson family in 1943.
The Thompson’s also acquired the adjacent frame flounder house at 208 Duke Street and united the two buildings in 1946. Purchased by the present owners, Mr. and Mrs. Dennis J. Garcia, in 2004, the house and garden have been carefully restored. The garden in particular reflects 18th century design and features marble steps salvaged from Blair House during a mid-20th century remodeling.
217 South Fairfax Street dates to the late 1780′s when it was originally owned by Thomas Troy. Enlarged many times over the years, the latest renovation was done in 1992 by acclaimed neoclassical architect and Old Town resident, Allen Greenberg who, among other projects, designed the Diplomatic Rooms at the Department of State. Interior designer William Hodgins used architectural research to restore windows in a handsome library to their original, colonial dimensions. The pergola and rose garden are reached by curved French doors. Mr. and Mrs. David Holt, owners.
415 Wolfe Street sits on one of the largest lots in Old Town, almost 3/4 of an acre. The original clapboard house was owned by John Butcher, a hardware store proprietor, and built between 1763 and 1785. Expanded with a two-story, Flemish-bond brick addition in the early 1800′s it was untouched for 50 some years until 1935 when Mrs. Bernice Flemming Holland added brick walls around the property and a two-story brick ell was joined to the carriage house with a colonnade. The current owners, Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Turner, have a sculpture of Thomas Jefferson (one of 36 by renowned artist George London) in the courtyard and a large sitting room features a ceiling dome with a Baccarat chandelier and an original Gilbert Stuart painting of George Washington.
716 Wolfe Street was built by Johnathon Butcher between 1812 and 1814. It was used as a boarding house for unskilled laborers until after the Civil War when it was leased to an African-American businessman who worked as porter for the railroad. His son, the first African-American school teacher in the city of Alexandria grew up in the house and later, as an adult, purchased it for his own. The current owners, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Rehg, have added a modern sensibility to the interior including an acrylic piece by Frederick Hart who is perhaps best know for creating the bronze sculpture of three American soldiers that is adjacent to the Vietnam Memorial.
712 Prince Street was built as a Federalist townhouse in 1802 by prominent Alexandria attorney Thomas Swann. The Italianate facade, cornice moldings and mansard roof were added by Henry Dangerfield, a shipping magnate and philanthropist. A west wing was added in 1835 and an east wing in 1870. The house served as living quarter’s for St. Mary’s Academy nursing students in 1835 and later became a residence for nurses at Alexandria Hospital. Robert E. Lee was said to have accepted command of the Confederate Army in the parlor of this extraordinary example of Southern architecture. The small private garden was designed as a “moon” or white garden and features white crape myrtle trees and other seasonal white blossoms. Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell Wiley, owners.
Historic Garden Week in Virginia is celebrating its 75th anniversary. It is the largest and oldest statewide house and garden tour event in the nation. Sponsored by The Garden Club of Virginia, the tours benefit the restoration of important historic grounds and gardens throughout the state.
Enjoy! And thanks for stopping by,