Today's Around Old Town subject house is actually no longer a home, though it started its life as one. This building is located at 311 Cameron Street and is situated directly across the street from Alexandria's city hall building.

Today, this building is now a collection of small stores and apartments on the upper floors (although Wendy and I have long admired this home and have dreamt of turning it back into a single residence). It's three doors/windows on the first floor are quite tall, wide, and very atypical for Old Town. It feels far more like a house you'd find in a more southern city.

Though the home, built in 1817, is quite jaw dropping on its own, the thing Wendy and I have always been enamored with is the carriage passage to the right of the main building.

Again, more typical of a southern style city mansion, this passageway with its hanging gas lanterns and classic moldings lead you to what was once a private "piazza," and to the rear of the over 100 foot long and three story home.

Luckily, this passage is now open to foot traffic as it's the primary way to reach the shops in the rear. The courtyard is still setup for lounging, and though a commercial space, still offers a very serene setting and quiet enclave in the city.

As you can see in the photo above, the rear portions of the building are as impressive as the front. The balcony, more typical of the south, is quite an unexpected attribute to the building.

From "Historic Alexandria, Virginia, Street by Street: A Survey of Existing Early Buildings," the home's description reads. "When advertised for sale in 1817 by owner-builder William Dunlap, a three-story brick with two stories in the rear, running back 117 feet, with 12 rooms, some "spacious and elegant;" with one front, two back stairways; kitchen with two fireplaces; a portico in front; in back a covered way with piazzas; a pantry and smoke house adjoining. "So far" Dunlap had spent over $12,000."

Though the home is not likely to ever become a private residence again, it's a great example of a very well maintained retail/rental establishment in Old Town. It's also amazing to think the whole place was originally built for about $12,000. Today you'd be lucky to get the three large and solid wood doors and windows on the first floor for $12,000.

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 4


6/6/2013 at 12:25 PM
According to's inflation calculator, $12,000 in 1817 would be just above $210,000 today. That would still be a bargain for a brick house that size. Don't you wish you had a time machine, so you could go back and see it when it was a home? Old houses have so much more charm than today's cookie-cutter McMansions!
That would definitely be a bargain, especially in this area! We talk all the time about how we wish we had a time machine. What we wouldn't give to go back in time and see what Alexandria and our house looked like in the 1880s! We'd love to see what types of stores existed in town, what the original owner of our house was like...and then quickly return to modern conveniences and air conditioning! :-)
6/6/2013 at 3:06 PM
We love all of the old Federal style architecture in Alexandria! It's nice to see that so much of it has been preserved, especially since it seems like most of NoVA has an "if it's over 20 years old, tear it down!" attitude. That carriage passageway is to die for. There are a couple of Federal era rowhouses in Baltimore that have original passageways to the rear courtyards, but nothing like this one.

We're going to try to make it to Old Town again sometime this summer to check out some of these buildings. While we love all old American architecture, I think the Colonial through Greek Revival era (basically anything pre-1840) is our favorite.
I think the range of architecture in the whole DC area, Old Town, Capitol Hill, Georgetown, and all of the various DC neighborhoods, is by far my favorite part of the whole area.

I wish someone had taken the reigns in the 1960s-1980s in and around NOVA. There would be so many awesome places still around uf this had been the case.
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