Wendy and I spend plenty of time walking Lulu around our neighborhood in Old Town Alexandria, and we often find ourselves dreaming about what could be if we were ever able to afford one of those grand historic homes we've mentioned so often. We also tend to spend a lot of time on the blog talking about these very same majestic homes. Like this one.
You can't blame us for dreaming,can you? However, what we don't do very often is talk about ...ahem...the not so nice houses around town.
If you don't know our area, you have to understand, there are not a lot of "bad" houses to be seen, especially in the heart of the oldest parts of Old Town. This is even more true now than when we bought our house nine years ago. However there are still a few examples of "unrestored" homes and we often ogle with a sort of fascinated confusion at those homes as much as we do the grand examples of historic renovation. It's hard to imagine how these few places have, through various ways, avoided the renovation angels.
But if we were forced to pick the one home in all of Old Town's historic district that represents the "worst house" in the neighborhood, I think we could make that decision without hesitation. Wendy and I would both say at the exact same time "The Rastafarian House!" Jinx!
The aptly nicknamed structure gained it's monicker several years ago when the owners decided to slap a coat of paint on the splitting, somewhat rotted, and badly peeling siding and trim. I believe the color selection may have come during a late night session of Bob Marley listening. Green siding, yellow trim, and an orangish red door (sadly, we never got a picture of the door) worked together to stunningly create a pot head's dream color scheme.
The house was in a sadly tattered state. Missing shutters, peeling paint, water damage, splitting clapboards -- it's just sad. I didn't mention the paint they chose was all below builder's grade flat interior paint that quickly stained, faded from the weather, and began peeling off within three years of the last "fresh" paint job.
I think the anonymous arm and thumb on the left of the photo says it all. This small house sits on the north east corner of Duke St. and Royal St., and (to put it very kindly) it's seen better days.
Ownership of the home last changed in 1992 when the current owner purchased it and apparently never really lived in it. We first noticed this house and its mate shortly after moving to the area in 2000 as the small houses that look a little beat up. It's a small place that really looks like it hasn't been lived in for a while, but I have to believe it hasn't always been quite so bad. Over the years, due to vacancy and poor maintenance on failing paint and structure, this home has really started to suffer the effects of owner neglect.
The house, and it's mirror twin next door, were built in the late early 1800s by a man named Thomas Davy, a local 19th century grocer. Just about three rooms deep with two floors and an attic, they are each only about 1,200 square feet with a large amount of the home's livable space taken up by the huge fireplaces and chimneys.
The back yard of the house in question is small and completely overgrown. There's a cool wood fence that borders the sidewalk, which has sections that are falling over, rotten and near the end of their life. The entire house is doing sort of a gangster lean away from the street, perhaps knowing that if it needs to suddenly collapse, it should do so away from pedestrians. This is just my exterior assessment of a structure that Wendy and I are both completely fascinated by. Sadly, we've never been inside (and the windows are covered in black trash bags to prevent peepers like us), but I'm not so sure Wendy would trust an interior inspection, no matter how much she wanted to take a look around.
Even more bizarre is the juxtaposition of this house with the surrounding homes. Just look at some of the neighboring houses. Each home is just stunning, well maintained, and quite nice. This is definitely a case of "one of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn't belong." (You can sing along if you'd like.)
The house next door to the Rastafarian House sold a few years ago and received a nice little face lift and is looking pretty good, but even if you're looking good and wearing a nice suit, your Siamese twin sitting in his underwear, 50lbs overweight, un-showered and guzzling beer tends to detract. I guess you just need to try to ignore him and hope he cleans up his act at some point.
One evening back in 2010, we saw a notice taped to the front door notifying the property owner of pending legal action for failing to take care of the house. To our amusement, a passerby scribbled a note on the notice letting them know "Dude, NO ONE lives here!" Thanks for that.
This past summer while out walking Lulu, we stumbled on something that we didn't expect to see. The faded little green house had been shrouded in scaffolding and house sized tarps. Was it possible that what was once a neighborhood eyesore was finally getting a long overdue overhaul? Had the house gods finally granted a miracle on this seemingly forgotten home?
Wendy and I patiently waited, walking by every few days to see if any progress had been made. After a very long wait, the tarps and wrap were all removed from the house and we finally got our glimpse at the big reveal.
Nothin?!?! We waited all that time for a coat of bad paint and a changed trim color? Now it's not even the Rastafarian House, it's just the crappy looking white house. Boo.
They took their time on the paint job, and after a delay eventually painted the back of the house. But honestly, deep down inside, we're a little happy this house didn't just become an overnight flip "success." Even though it's still in pretty rough shape, there's still hope that it will eventually be cared for and brought back to what it once was and still could be.
Sure it looks better with a coat of white paint on it, but how long will that last? Someone needs to rescue it, but first the current owner needs to put it on the market. If you had a renovation budget of roughly $100,000-$200,000, it would be the perfect small home on one of the best blocks in all of Alexandria for (what I assume would be) a good price for the area. Hopefully the structure of the house isn't too far gone by the time it actually gets put on the market. I just wonder what the floor looks like. If anyone reading this can hook us up with a tour, we'd LOVE to go.
Sorry to go a bit negative in this post, just trying to keep it real. After all, life's not all rainbows and bubblegum, even in the heart of Old Town Alexandria. :-)
What do you think -- rough shape, too far gone, or can it be salvaged? And how does it compare to the worst houses in your neighborhood? C'mon, we know not all houses can be picturesque. Let us know what "that" house looks like on your block.