This week we're going to deviate just a bit from the norm on our Open Housing posts. Until now, we've primarily covered homes for sale in Old Town that Wendy and I have gone through on our weekly Sunday open house trips. This past weekend, we had a unique opportunity to tour a house for sale that wasn't officially listed yet and won't actually have a true open house.
How did we score this first look? Did Wendy get a real estate license or something to help fuel our obsession? Nope. The home actually belongs to a good friend of ours. And you're correct if you recognize it from posts we did back in December on installing Sonos Whole House Audio and creating outdoor holiday decor.
This friend is a wonderful supporter of us and of this blog. She's also a fan of our Open Housing posts, so she invited us to take a tour of her home as if we were touring it as an open house. She also knows how much we absolutely love her house and that we would enjoy the opportunity. We happily accepted her invitation and stopped by last Sunday afternoon to have a look around. (We did it on Sunday to at least make it feel a bit like an open house. Besides, the weather was beautiful.)
This home is a wonderful example of some of the more generously sized homes in and around Old Town. Situated on a "double lot" (which just means it wasn't subdivided and sold over the years) with ample private outdoor living space, the home's curb appeal is both attractive and inviting.
The structure of the home is quite typical of early 19th century masonry construction. A rear two story flounder building was constructed much earlier, probably around 1790, and the front three story section of the house was added around 1850.
From this 1930s photo, you can see that little has changed with respect to the home's exterior, save for some masonry repair, shutters, and paint stripping. Even the fire plug in front of the home is the same as it ever was.
The home's history is a winding and interesting one. Though it was built as a single family home, it's proximity to the old Alexandria hospital that stood nearby until the late 1970s made it an ideal spot for a nursing school during the early to mid 1900s. The school was one that conducted itself from within the building and also had its students living there as a dormitory. Many people in the area remember it as this school because they either attended while becoming a nurse, or were somehow tied to someone who was enrolled. Oddly enough, the current owner even had a friend come to the house who had a photo of himself as a newborn in a bassinet in a room in the house.
After the hospital closed and was torn down, the home returned to life as a single family residence and it's restoration began.
The outdoor gardens of the home are simply stunning. Where we only have a back yard, this home has a two large side yards as well as a back yard.
Each has beautiful landscaping and is so very nicely maintained.
The largest side yard has some great visual interest due to the sitting room/bedroom addition that is full of windows.
There is a cool side entrance beneath an bit of an alcove that is similar to that of several homes around Old Town. I absolutely love this feature in homes like this.
There's just something about the nook it provides coupled with the wood sided addition in the room above. We just think it's so cool.
As interesting as the side entrance is, take a look at the massive and intricate double front door.
These doors are probably 10 feet tall and each one is larger than our single front door.
Walking through the front door you are greeted by my absolute favorite features of the home. The entry hall and main staircase with its heavy and thick newel post offer a substantial and impactful entrance. The handrail and newel post show the signs of their age in their rich patina but extremely smooth textures.
Just to the left inside the entry is a large window that allows ample light into the area. But it's not just any window.
I believe this window is actually called a Jefferson door (if I'm wrong and you know what it's called, let me know). The lower window sash opens tall enough that an average sized person can fit under it. Then, the portion of the wall just below the sash, is hinged and can be unlatched and opened into the house like double doors.
How cool is that feature of the home?
The ceilings throughout the first floor are rather tall, probably 12 feet or more. It's difficult to get a feel for the scale without seeing a person in comparison, so here's a shot of Wendy standing in the doorway.
The house is full of original details, such as mantels, moldings, doors, and hardware. It also holds period details appropriate to the various eras the home has experienced and evolved through.
In addition to the entry hall, the first floor houses the formal living room, dining room, second entry area, nicely sized powder room, multiple closets, the kitchen, and a sitting/family area (as well as a back staircase).
The kitchen is well appointed with ample storage, but I really like it due to the large cooking fireplace and how the joists from the floor above have been exposed.
Due to the various fireplaces and staircases, this isn't a particularly open floor plan, but each room easily flows from one to the other through multiple doorways and open passages.
And at some point more recently, a large living/sitting room was added (along with a 2nd floor bedroom) that really expands the feeling and footprint of the house. It's an extremely bright and airy room with great garden views.
Venturing upstairs, I absolutely love the way you can look up through the center of staircases in homes with more than two floors. I imagine myself as a kid dropping parachute soldier toys down and watching them fall. There, I've gone and over-shared.
The second floor has three bedrooms, a sitting room, a small office/large closet room, two full baths (including an en suite master bath), and plenty of closets. The master bedroom has very large windows that allow a significant amount of light into each room from three exposures.
One bedroom is currently setup as an office and sits above the sitting/living room addition. I would LOVE to have this as my home office. With all of the windows and their northern, western, and southern exposures, the room never feels closed off or dark.
Venturing up another flight of stairs to the third floor, the outside wall of the stairs is all beautiful exposed brick. I love looking at this feature in homes and thinking about the people who laid the brick 200 years ago, having no idea of what would eventually become of the homes.
The top of the stairs has another small sitting area where you can relax and have a look out the window. (Hahahaha, I just realized I said "small" like it isn't an area that is way larger than our office...and it's at the top of the stairs!)
The views from these windows are great because of the vantage point, and even have an unobstructed look at the Masonic Temple and surrounding neighborhood buildings.
This floor also has a nicely sized bedroom...
...along with a full bath and large walk in closet.
The basement of the home has a fairly large area that can be used as a bedroom.
As well as a large unfinished area that seems to be screaming for a wood shop.
If you noticed on the right, several of the home's original elements, such as doors and a mantel, have been stored in the event a future homeowner would like to reinstall them. This is the type of conscientious historic homeownership I'm on board with!
At the far end, beneath the kitchen fireplace, is an arched brick area. I love details like this about old homes. Most likely, this was the home's baking hearth, used to bake bread, pies, or whatever else needed a prolonged warm but not too hot cooking.
In all, this home is a large, unique, historically intact, and functional home. The amount of land makes for some unbelievable outdoor space, and the indoor situation is conducive to both everyday life and entertaining. Oh, and I forget to mention...the house has a garage.
We're quite sad that our friend has decided to put her home on the market, but consider ourselves fortunate to have had the opportunity to get to know this home as we have. Lucky for us, unlike many friends who sell their homes, she is staying nearby so we really only need to say goodbye to the house, not our friend as well.
And now for our game...
Would you trade?
Alex: Sorry to our house, but Yep! There's no way I could possibly pass this house up. Sure, there's a lot more upkeep that needs to be done on a house and yard this size, and we barely have time for the one we're in, but I'd find some way to make it work. This house has pretty much everything I want in a home. It's a standalone home, has three floors, an unfinished basement for my toys, it's steeped in history, boasts a large outdoor space, has a garage and loads of original details, and on and on.
Wendy: What? I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you over the sound of my boxes and packing tape gun I was just using in preparation of our move... Wait? This game is just a hypothetical trade? We don't actually get to trade? But why? I really want to trade! I mean, I REALLY REALLY DO!
This home is simply ideal to me. It has everything I want in a home and I could see us living there for the rest of our lives. It has three floors of Christmas staircases, unbelievable charm, covered parking, amazing outdoor space, and tons of room. <sigh> Even though it won't be a reality to live in a dream house like this, it sure is fun to dream.
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: Weichert Realtors and listing agent, Christine Garner where "2012 MRIS" is noted in the photo watermark.