Saturday, April 18, promises to be a perfect spring day for the 2009 Alexandria House and Garden Tour. Eight Old Town buildings are featured on the tour. Six are private homes, one is a historic church and one is home to the Virginia Fine Arts Association.
207 N. Fairfax St. was built in 1749 by John Dalton on the first lot auctioned in Alexandria. The house, complete with wharf, was situated on the river’s original bank (now Lee St.) A foxhunter and horse lover, Dalton hunted with George Washington and bred his mares to the Mt. Vernon stock.
Washington often stayed with the Daltons when he was in Alexandria on business. The Dalton house literally fell into the cracks of history, underwent numerous changes and when purchased by the current owners in 1980, was a crumbling shell surrounding six very small apartments. The house has been handsomely restored and features spacious lawn and terrace areas and rooms and anterooms for two gardeners. Mr. and Mrs. Temple C. Moore, Jr. owners.
210 Prince St. is known as the Michael Swope House after its first owner, a Revolutionary War hero. Built between 1784-1786, the Georgian brick house features a gable roof with dormers, a modillion and fret cornice and a hand-carved pediment Doric doorway.
Inside the house retains random-width pine floors, some original paneled wainscoting, dentil crown moldings, chair rails, cupboards and 12ft. ceilings. Completely restored by the current owners, Mr. and Mrs. Donald Rocen, the garden has two fountains, a small outdoor kitchen and a variety of plantings including ferns, a trellised magnolia, boxwood and clematis.
426 South Lee St. is a frame house constructed prior to 1789 and was the parsonage for the Free Methodist Church at 424 S. Lee St. Wider than many houses from that period, the structure has four “bays” rather than three.
A sun room addition was added in 1988, replacing the original back porch and a guest room. A flight of steps leads from this room to the walled garden and a slate-floored garden room that doubles as a hothouse for potted plants in the winter. Mr. and Mrs. Walter Vance Hall, owners.
510 South Fairfax St., a Federal townhouse built in 1804, has been home to its current owners for more than 25 years. The restoration, renovation and the last of seven additions were designed by the homeowner and his firm, Robert Bentley Adams and Associates.
Features include a library, music room, second kitchen and eclectic furnishings from Mrs. Adams home in Switzerland. The garden combines classical elements with raised beds reminiscent of New England gardens. Mr. and Mrs. Robert Bentley Adams, owners.
513 South Fairfax St. is an early 19th century brick Federal-style residence that was redesigned and renovated by neighbor and architect Robert Bentley Adams. The interior has been opened with classical pilasters and new lintels and crown moldings are based on local precedent.
Restricted by local zoning from locating a window on the side wall, a bump out was added to a rear facing wall to bring more light into the space. The rear garden was designed with serpentine planters fitted around trees that were carefully preserved during construction. Kevin Schulman and Michelle Hicks, owners
307 South St. Asaph St. was built in 1854 by Benjamin Shreve and purchased by Richard Huck in 1854. Federal authorities seized the building in 1862 to house federal soldiers and escaped slaves. A fire swept the building later that year and it was sold at public auction in 1864.
In 1998 the front of the house was restored to the Neo-Classical style after extensive research from the Valentine Museum in Richmond. The front entry features a 300lb mahogany door topped by a custom-made window transom. The limestone steps and surround were handcarved by Patrick Plunkett and limestone urns were specially carved to flank the entrance.
210 Prince St. is situated at the top of the cobblestone street known as Captain’s Row. A glorious example of Greek Revival architecture in the Neo-Classical style, the Athenaeum features fluted Doric cloumns, a coved ceiling and towering windows with a walled garden in the rear.
Originally built in 1852 to be the Bank of the Old Dominion, the building was taken over by Union troops and used as a comissary and hospital. Leadbetter and Sons, a wholesale and retail pharmacy, occupied the building from 1907 to 1925 and then became the first Free Methodist Church of North America. The building sat vacant through the 1950′s and was bought in 1964 by the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Commission.
228 South Pitt St. is home to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. The building, whose exterior remains essentially the same, was erected in 1817-1818 and designed by Benjamin Harry Latrobe, sometime Chief Architect of the U.S. Capitol. In 1906 the east wall was partially removed to allow for the addition of a new, recessed chancel.
A few of the original pew boxes attached to the east wall were removed to facilitate access to the widened chancel entrance but the remaining pews are as they were constructed in 1818. A luminous round Catherine wheel window was added in 1872.
Historic Garden Week is the oldest and largest statewide house and garden tour event in the nation. Sponsored by The Garden Club of Virginia, tours benefit the restoration of important historic grounds and gardens throughout the state. The event offers an engaging variety of local houses and gardens, most open to the public for the first time for Garden Week.