Today's Around Old Town subject houses are a collection of three very similar historic homes along Old Town's Columbus Street that were built between 1885 and 1890. 

Right in the center of town, I've heard these homes referred to as "Three Queens for Three Sisters." As legend has it, a wealthy merchant in Alexandria had three daughters. As a gift to his daughters and their future husbands, he decided to build three nearly identical Queen Anne Victorian home's on land he owned. His thought was simple, give his three girls similar homes so they won't fight, but give each home their own slightly distinct look, because each girl is an individual. Most importantly, keep them all close to home, so he could keep an eye on their husbands.

Today each retains many of the original details that make the homes stand out in my mind as very unique finds in Old Town. from the detailed ornamentation on the roof lines, to the crown detail masonry just below, each home is intricate and highly detailed. 

Each home is also fully detached, retains original architectural details, has an unexpected floorplan with plenty of character on the façade, and most importantly, is situated across the street from Christ Church on the corner of North Columbus and Cameron Streets. To say they have a beautiful view is an understatement.

Though the story of how these three houses came to be is a lovely one of fatherly love and concern, in reality these homes were most likely built by a local real estate prospector. In fact, there was a fourth home built to the right of these houses that was lost at some point over the years. You can see proof of this fourth home in the 1891 Sanborn Fire Maps.

July 1891 Sanborn Fire Map for Alexandria, VA

Typically homes of this age constructed in groupings of pairs were done so by housing developers looking to sell or rent them and make a profit on the land. Not too dissimilar to the way smaller home builders might work today. Further proof from the map above shows that the houses were each built with slightly difference specifications. This tells me that the builder was very likely working with clients who had specific requests for how the home was built, but the fable of the three sisters sure makes for a better story.

Do you know of any great tales of home construction in your neighborhood that are ultimately only rich in legend rather than fact? It's always fun to learn what other people think when you know or eventually learn otherwise.

Do you have a favorite home in your neighborhood that you always pause to admire? Perhaps the home itself, a beautiful garden, interesting portico, or some other architectural feature that captivates you? If so, we'd love to hear all about it in the comment section, or snap a photo and send it to [email protected]for a chance to be featured in an upcoming "Around Town" segment.

Comments 6


6/13/2013 at 5:07 PM
By checking city directories and/or census records as well as property ownership records you might be able to tell if the houses were given to sisters by a father or sold to unrelated individuals by a builder/developer.

Might be a lot of work to disprove a charming story - never mind! They are lovely houses - hope the interiors are just as nice.
I was thinking the same thing, both about the research and the level of effort.

We've only been in the middle house of the three, and the interior is quite nice. Where our house has a layout that is one room after another, the layout of the home we were in felt more like your typical house, not a shotgun row house. Since it was built around the same time as our house, many of the moldings are the same style/profile as what is in our home.
6/14/2013 at 11:40 AM
I'm going to sound like an asshole when I say this but...

I now live in the home that I've always admired in my town.

We've got a lot to live up to. The previous owners were amazing caretakers of the grounds and we have to keep that reputation going strong!
Hey, we appreciate assholes around here, especially those that now have their dream home!
6/14/2013 at 10:28 PM
Alex, I have quite a few favourites posted on my blog (Click the tag for "Local Houses"). A few that come to mind immediately are:

The Wood House:

The "Sherwood Adams" House:
Those are some pretty awesome place!
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