Club’s Renovation Plan Includes Tearing Down 1890s House

by ARLnow.com February 10, 2011 at 3:59 pm 5,081 78 Comments

Members of the Overlee Community Association (6020 Lee Highway) voted last night to move forward with a renovation plan that includes tearing down a late 19th century structure that currently serves as the association’s clubhouse.

By a vote of 55 to 4, members approved a $3.1 million renovation plan (see: Option C-2) that includes enhancements to the club’s three pools, more terrace space and a new clubhouse. The existing Victorian-style clubhouse, built in the 1890s and known as the Febrey-Kincheloe House, is expected to be torn down by the end of the year.

Association President Pat Shapiro says the clubhouse is in poor condition and it would be too expensive to try to safely restore it.

“The facility now is at a point where it needs a tremendous amount of work structurally and otherwise,” Shapiro said.

“The deciding factor was cost and usability,” she continued. “[The structure] does not meet our needs as a clubhouse facility… [and] it would take a lot more money to renovate it.”

Although the building is not listed under the National Register of Historic Places, a number of tipsters have contacted ARLnow.com with concerns about losing one of the county’s oldest non-governmental buildings.

“It is a classic example in my opinion of people who are opposed to development and want to save historic structures — but now that it is their property and asset, they want to ‘do what is best for them,'” one tipster wrote. “The historic community is just about apoplectic and will have a huge outcry over this… It is just the easy way out.”

“It is hoped by many that the Arlington Historical Society and other interested parties will appropriately document and photograph the… home before it is lost forever in the fall,” another tipster wrote, after the vote.

Shapiro said the renovation project will now enter the final design phase. The final design of the clubhouse, she said, is expected to include many of the Victorian features of the existing structure.

Construction will to begin after the swimming pools close in September, Shapiro said. The association has hired an arborist to make help preserve as many of the property’s old-growth trees as possible during the renovation.

“Right now we don’t anticipate big problems with the trees,” Shapiro said, adding that the property’s two most distinctive old trees will be protected.

County zoning officials have been notified of the plan and have not voiced any objections, Shapiro said. A blog has been set up to provide updates on the planning and construction process.

The Overlee Community Association is a private 800-member club that was founded in 1957.

Photo by Uriah Kiser

  • othersideoftheriver

    “The final design of the clubhouse, she said, is expected to include many of the Victorian features of the existing structure.”

    Oh, gee. How nice.

    • charlie

      let’s tear down the REAL thing and then offend everyone’s design aesthetic by pasting features of “what was” on our new building.
      boy, aren’t we great community members??

  • Sheriff Gonna Getcha

    Overlee used to be a BEAST in my swim league (NVSL) back in the day. Are they still real good?

    • Dale

      Yes. They came in second to Chesterbrook in Division 1 in 2010 but won the championship a bunch of years in a row before that.

  • Matt

    I’m not sure the history of the house is all that significant to Arlington. Its more about the historical significance to Overlee, and all the stories etc….. The house would have been great to keep but too expensive and not functional enough (and terrifying!). As long as the pool stays the same then it’s all good.

    Full disclosure: Long time Overlee member

    • Deb

      No what should have been done was UPKEEP of the structure. Everything falls into decay if it is not maintained. Will the new structure face the same fate. Geez. It is a beautiful house. Too bad the MEMBERS did not take CARE OF IT!

    • local

      Pretty much any old house is going to be significant to the history of wherever it’s located.

      • YHSPatriot

        No, its not.

  • Matt

    26 time D1 champs. Won 1993-1998 and 2006-2009 D1 champs

    • Westover

      Growning up on the otherside of the county line, there were always stories that Overlee let families with fast kids move to the top of the then five year waiting list. 😉

      • Matt

        Hahaha false……we werent Tuckahoe and aren’t Chesterbrook…..with the exception of one family maybe, we r homegrown

    • swimfast

      and 1980-1985!

      • swimfast

        Overlee has never and does not admit anyone who has not done their time on the waiting list.

  • Arlwhenever

    It’s their property, so long as they comply with building code and zoning laws the association ought to be able to do as it pleases.

    • mehoo

      Interesting that you say that while also noting building codes and zoning, which regulate the use of private property.

      • Arlwhenever

        Building codes are directed at safety issues, and don’t impose requirements on the look, feel or use of a property. What zoning does classically is group like uses with similar uses under the almost universally accepted theory that grouping incompatible uses detracts from the use and enjoyment of private property. These are very different from the in-your-face, site-plan, whine-and-moan processes that Arlington increasingly turns to where effetes like Jay Fisette and Chris Zimmerman dictate the color and texture of brick, creating a mess like the Ballston-Rosslyn corridor which looks like it resulted from a kid playing pickup sticks.

        • Lou

          Traditionally they have been for life safety. But wait until the ICC Green Construction Code is finalized. Then energy considerations will be mandatory instead of voluntary like they are now for LEED. Want to take bets on who will be one of the first adopters of the new code?

  • Westover

    Will the club offer it up to anyone willing to pay to move it? I would imagine this would be a grand opportunity for someone who wants a house that was built when house were built with the great-great grand kids in mind, or for one of the developer/remodelers in the area.

  • charlie

    By their own admission, the building is in bad shape. And that only happens for one simple reason — the owners haven’t taken care of it.
    It is sad that a property owner has willingly neglected their property and is now being rewarded by being able to tear it down.

    I think it is great that everyone talks about Overlee’s Swimming history — a team that changes EVERY SINGLE YEAR — so now let’s talk about a house that hasn’t changed for years and is part of Overlee too.

    (also a former Overlee swimmer).

    • G

      I agree. There are plenty of homes out there, older than this one, that are perfectly functional.

      • david

        There’s a massive difference between being perfectly functional as a family home and perfectly functional as a clubhouse for a swimming pool. There’s a completely different set of needs and requirements for the two.

        • charlie

          good point. BUT, Knights of Columbus is in a pretty old house and they have additional buildings (as does Overlee) for other functions (like their pool). Other private clubs in Arlington have been able to maintain their buildings. As conscious decisions of their ownership.
          Overlee has never maintained this house.

          • Backstroke

            Knights of Columbus’ structure is stone construction, and whichever other private clubs you are comparing to OVL doesn’t make a point either; unless you can be more specific? A compatible situation does not come to mind. The comment about never maintaining the house is incorrect. Can you support your statement? The property has been Overlee’s for over 50 years, hasn’t it now? We all love the house, but it has been a money pit and the hole is getting deeper.

          • JoeAdams

            i was a member of Overlee in the 1970’s. No one cared about it then. And even then people wanted to take it down. It really has always been in the way.

          • Backstroke

            I’ve was there in the 70’s and always thought the house was one of the coolest things about Overlee, besides the water. No other pool has it, or the shade of the trees to watch swim meets. It’s going to be tough to see it go.

  • OaklandStreetHome

    I love this blog because it keeps me informed about my community. I love the comments because it never ceases to amaze me how many judgmental, self-righteous opinion there are on every topic.

    • Glebe Roader

      Exactly — I couldn’t agree more.

      If you’re not a member of Overlee, it’s none of your business. Why do you care? (Except to see your comment in print.)

      • Lou

        Well that’s interesting, because let’s say a developer owns a small piece of land along Lee Highway and wants to build some condos because the site’s zoning allows it. Very few people say “let them do what they want, it’s nobody’s business”. The County government and everyone else comes out of the woodwork and forces all kinds of extra concessions from the project for the “public benefit”. The idea of by-right is almost gone in Arlington.

        Since this project seems to be an exception to the norm, it kind of stands out and makes you wonder.

      • charlie

        seriously? I care because it is my community. Just as much as I care when someone scrapes land in Ballston for a huge development. There has to be a community standard somewhere somehow.
        But if not, then we should let all the big developers do whatever they want too.

        • Glebe Roader

          I’m glad I didn’t need your approval when I did some work on my house. I just had to make sure it was up to code.

          • charlie

            actually i DID give me approval.
            1. Each November when I vote for County Board. They run the government which approves the application of the Virginia Building Code and the International Building Code to your property. A very technical uniform government control.
            2. Each November when I vote for County Board. These folks approve the zoning code, which is more subjective and closer to and Arlington community standard, that applies to whether or not your house is too close to property lines, covers to much land and has proper drainage.
            So yes, I did approve your right to put the addition on your house.

          • Lou

            They’re enjoying what I see as a loophole or oversight in their zoning. This house sits on a different piece of property from the pool. Both are owned by the swim club, and both are zoned Residential. But the land use class for the clubhouse property is single-family detached. I doubt any family lives there.

            For comparison, WGCC is also zoned Residential. All 120 acres is zoned for up to 10 units per acre. But the land use class is General Commercial (same designation as Overlee’s pool property). That’s to prevent WGCC from building 1200 residences, by-right.

          • Westover

            Actually, they have a resident manager who does live on the property with his family. I do believe though, that they live in a different house on the grounds than the one being discussed.

          • Lou

            Hmm, cool. Like their own resident Carl Spackler.

          • Dale

            A manager has lived upstairs in the clubhouse before. Overlee is currently managed by a couple and they and their kids live in the house immediately to the NE of the clubhouse. As far as I know they don’t generally blow up gophers.

          • Westover

            Too bad, Metro could have used them in Ballston.

          • mehoo

            As if “code” is just something that comes out of the air. Or zoning for that matter.

          • Glebe Roader

            Yes, I understand how the “code” works. And, if the article is correct, the county folks who enforce the code believe it is within code.

            “County zoning officials have been notified of the plan and have not voiced any objections”

            The people who object are those who believe it doesn’t fit into what is THEIR image of good taste.

          • 2wheeler

            I agree with GlebeRoader- if County Zoning officials are behind the plan, they must have agreed that the property is NOT historic or worth saving, seems like Overlee leaders have followed Arlington’s processes (even if these are still overbearing on property owners rights) and came to the best decision for their property, others commenting just want to insert their thoughts about what should be built or taken down

          • Backstroke

            The building has history, but it is not historic. It will not qualify for a Historic Designation. That option was investigated by the Overlee Board several years ago. It is suspect that some of the anonymous tipsters who are tossing around the term ‘historic’ are aware of this fact. The truth is that the entire membership,neighbors,and guests are going to miss the house. The decision to not include the house in the plans for the next 50 years for Overlee is a result of years of careful research,volunteer hours,and meetings. This site plan could never have been arrived upon had it been based solely on emotions displayed in some of the comments on this article.

      • mehoo

        So you don’t care one bit what your next door neighbor does with his house?

      • South Awwwlington

        By your logic, one might argue why all of North Arlington vocally supports Affordable Housing on Columbia Pike and a homeless shelter in Courthouse…

  • MC

    From what I understand, there wasn’t much in Arlington in the 1890s, only some farm houses and maybe a few lot houses near rail stations. At that time Arlington as simply a remote satellite of Alexandria City, not even a county. So loosing a house this age is unfortunate.

    Arlington suffers from a lack of architectural character due to the rapid growth of cheap garden apartments and cape cod boxes after the second world war. It would be nice to keep something a bit more interesting looking that pre-dates that era.

    • Westover

      Totally understand why the Club would like to knock it down, as it does not, and cant be made to, meet the needs of the membership. It would be nice if can be moved to a suitable location to be rehabed into a home or a new community use. Great to move it down to the old Westover Library lot.

      • GMo

        What a fantastic idea!

    • DCReader

      I have to agree. Its one of only a few left in Arlington.

      • DCReader

        Just for the record, i was agreeing with MC

  • ThisOldeHouse

    The house they will tear down is 120 years old. I’ll bet that whatever replaces it will only last about half that long.

  • westovergranny

    i can’t believe a few people can destroy such a community asset. I can remember girl scout meetings in that old house and families meeting there for potluck suppers. We live in such a throw away world when a fine, historic home; one recognized for its historical significants, can just be bulldozed for a new pool, the old pool at Overlee is fine, generations of kids have learned to swim and done pretty well for themselves, can’t the Arlington Board do something to stop such arrogant actions by a few

    • 4Arl

      Talk to the other 700+ members who didn’t vote and relay your thoughts to the board http://www.overlee.org/people.php
      No, not the County Board, the Overlee Community Association Board, who has the power to change this decision.

      • 2wheeler

        the LeewayOverlee civic association has known about this for months, had a nice presentation from Overlee Pool Board last month and none of the neighbors had concerns. Its for the community association to decide what to do with THEIR property, not all the Arlington liberals who want to save every tree and makes rules about fresh air.

    • backstroke

      The fact is, that the original pool has been failing for the past eight years. That is about the time that Overlee was in the beginning stages of the process to determine what any renovation to benefit generations to come would encompass. The pool which you say is fine looks OK from the street, just like the house does. The problem aside from the wonderful and loving memories you convey which no one will ever bulldoze, is that your bloated, self righteous opinion is incorrect.

  • Bender

    Community asset? Arrogant actions by a few? I thought that this was PRIVATE PROPERTY.

    • Hank

      It is just an old house that doesn’t meet their needs. If you want to save it then buy it from them, buy some land and move it there. At your expense!

      • Westover

        It will be great if someone does this.

    • 4Arl

      Since it’s Private Property I’m glad to hear they will be giving up their 501(c)3 status and subsidy from other taxpayers. Oh wait, it’s for the community… Can’t have it both ways. Would there be such a reaction if it were only some person’s personal house?

    • Johnny Utah

      Liberals don’t believe in private property, remember?

  • Lacy Forest

    You can’t keep every old building. If it doesn’t serve their needs any more, then it should be replaced with something that does. If you don’t want it torn down, buy it from them and move it.

  • My Hood

    It would just be nice to have one building from my childhood still around. My highschool is gone, my elementary school is gone, the park I played at is gone.

    • YHSPatriot

      really? So you drive by Overlee and look at this house on private property tucked behind trees and think, “ive always enjoyed looking at this house, I wish I could look at it more” and then get on with your day? Thats weird.

      • CrankyMom

        I don’t know about MyHood, but I drive by that house on my way to work every day, and, yes, I usually look at it and admire it a bit as I pass (slowly, mind you, because of the speed trap at the bottom of the hill). It is really a remarkably beautiful house. I know that the Overlee owners have every right to tear it down, but it will still make me sad when they do.


    It is sad to see these old houses demolished to make way for newer “disposable” structures constructed with modern lightweight materials that will not meet the test of time. As another example several beautiful old homes in the 4500 Bl. of Carlin Springs Rd. were demolished this week to make room for new “luxury” homes. Such a shame that these grand old homes couldn’t be saved. Sadly, history has taken a back seat to progress. I know many native Arlingtonians share similar feelings, but it seems that the mighty dollar is driving the bus and there is no stopping in sight. My Grandfather is probably looking down on us and just shaking his head.

  • A lot of Overlee members. myself included, wanted to save the building, but it’s a democratic process and saving the building lost out. I’ll be sorry to see it go. I think it’s a mistake, but I’m not sure I want to pay the much larger assessments that would be required to keep it.

    As far as preservation, there’s always the question of what’s being preserved. The building had been added on to, modified, and changed many times. If you were take preservation seriously, it would require determining which era counted as the original, and stripping off a lot of changes made in later decades. People look at the picture and think “save that house,” but it’s more a question of “save which version of that house?” Half or more of what you see in that picture is not original

  • John Andre

    First…this appears to be a North Arlington issue, of peripheral concern to us South Arlingtonians who sometimes feel that the more affluent north side of the County gets the lion’s share of funding and attention though we pay the same real estate taxes as North Arlingtonians.

    That said…should the building be designated a historical site on either the National Register or an Arlington County register? Is it more “valuable” in terms of real estate tax assessment than a new Overlee clubhouse which would presumably be far more energy-efficient?

    This point–energy efficiency–could be the sticking point in the whole preservation debate! Too often, many of the old structures we wish to preserve are real “energy hogs” when it comes to heating in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. The cost of retrofitting to meet current energy efficiency standards may be greater than the cost of demolition and construction of a new facility which meets the current “green” standards.

    From what I read, little of this structure remains of its original 1890’s design. Thus it may not qualify as a “historic structure” the way the Reevesland farmhouse a few blocks from the Bluemont Park rose garden does.

    The Overlee Club sounds a lot to me like the Arlington Forest Club on Carlin Springs Road closer to where I reside. The waiting list for an Arlington Forest membership seems to be two or three years long.

  • Brendan

    I think the best part of this is that if you want to remain a member you must now pay an additional $500 per summer to help pay the costs.

    • backstroke

      That is not correct.

  • Tamala Brown

    I live in a 1983 historical home in Sanford, NC and was wondering if there is any historical grants to restore this home. Pleases let me know if you have any information. Thanks a bunch.

    • Backstroke

      Is that year correct? Anyway this house does not qualify for a historical grant. That option has been researched. The house has been heavily modified and almost half of it is a later addition.

  • Early Bird

    The swim team gets what the swim team wants! The Overlee membership should not have to pay $1,000 extra for this swim clubhouse (they have almost exclusive use – check the reservation log). The online survey before the vote – for those who could not make the meetings – was very slanted. It basically said, “Oh, you’d like to save this crappy old house? Then are you prepared to pay A LOT more for it?” Of course everyone voted “no”… then the $1,000 bill is announced. What a sham. And what a shame. Overlee will lose old members over this, but they will get new swimmers! Yay.

  • Gary

    I guess Overlee might not demo their clubhouse afterall… I was walking my dog by their pool and nothing has starting even though their website said construction was supposed to start right after pool closed back in September. I heard there having trouble getting permits and that their demo plan for the historic clubhouse is running in to troubles at the county. Hopefully, they will re-think destroying this historic home. Never thought I’d cheer county red tape!

  • suze

    I wondered what was happening. (Everyone in the neighborhood has been.) I sure hope they can build the pool this year, whether or not they keep the clubhouse. A lot of us members have paid quite a bit to have a new pool in our dues and special fees. I’d hate to hear that the county is holding up a project that so many citizens want.

  • GoSox!

    the Overlee Board has been cryptic about this project from the beginning. A lot of members wanted to keep the house (even the pool) but a secret group has been doing most of the planning and decision making, with only a few updates for the members. The last update on their blog (http://overlee-pool.blogspot.com/) is months old and emails to members have been vague and spotty at best. For such a big change to a historic community resource information should be better broadcast to the community

    • smithers.cm

      hard to believe its almost a year since Overlee decided to knock down their clubhouse and build a new one. Not much has happened from the construction side, and it looks like things are stalled. I wonder if the Board had decided to repair the old clubhouse if the new pool would be almost done by now

  • Pam

    So sad to see this. I lived in this house for 18 years – all my childhood memories are in this place!

    • Margaret Febrey

      Me too! 🙁

      I’ll be so bored and lonely once the workers are gone.


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