Arlington in recent years has lost several homes to the wrecking ball after their owners refused to support community efforts at including them in local historic districts.
But in the latest instance, the homeowner and preservationists are on the same page.
As a result, it could be just a few weeks before Arlington County Board members formally designate a Virginia Square property – known as the Anderson House for a couple who lived in it long ago – as its own historic district.
“I’ve tried to respect the building,” said its current owner, Marie Schum-Brady, in remarks at the October meeting of the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB).
HALRB members at the meeting affirmed that the property, set on a third of an acre at 3500 14th Street North, met several of the criteria needed for acceptance into the historic-district list. The final say, however, rests with the County Board.
HALRB members, who over the past two years tried but failed to win owner support for inclusion of several homes on the historic-district list, savored the moment.
“I’ve been admiring your house for many, many years,” HALRB chairman Richard Woodruff told Schum-Brady. “It’s so unique.”
Definitely unique for Arlington: The four-square style is rarely seen in the community, although more may have existed before waves of redevelopment moved through neighborhoods over the past half-century.
The home dates to 1912 and was located on a lot on what then was known as 301 North Ridgely St. (Arlington’s streets were renamed to their current alphabetical order in the 1930s.) In 1916, after the addition of a front porch, it was assessed at $3,000 for tax purposes; today that assessed valuation is about $1.26 million.
Another addition, completed in the 1930s, survived for more than 70 years before it was removed to make way for a rear addition in 2016. Schum-Brady told HALRB members she “tried to carry the details of the house into the addition.” She also has improved the roofing, added accessibility features and opened up the narrow windows to bring more light into the home and eliminate somewhat somber curb appeal that at times could spook some people, Schum-Brady said.
The home sits near, but not within, three districts that are on the National Register of Historic Places. But that designation is merely an honorific that places no limits on the property. Being made an Arlington historic district puts restrictions on what can be done to the exterior of the property without HALRB approval.
That was the sticking point in two recent cases, one involving the Rouse estate on Wilson Boulevard and the other a Victorian-era property in East Falls Church. The owners of those properties had them razed, circumventing efforts of preservationists to have them declared historic by the County Board.
In the case of the Rouse property, County Board members were advised by their legal team that trying to impose historic status and restrictions against the will of owners likely would fail in court, Virginia being a strongly pro-property-rights state that gives local governments little independent power to deviate from edicts imposed by Richmond.
Arlington’s local historic districts include neighborhoods such as Maywood as well as individual buildings or groups of buildings. There also are slightly more than a dozen individual homes on the list, dating from the 1760s to the 1930s.