A permit filed with Arlington County suggests that a potentially historic house in Dominion Hills may not be long for the world.
The Febrey-Lothrop House at 6407 Wilson Blvd, also known as the Rouse estate, has been the subject of sale speculation this year. The 9 acre property on which it sits is considered to be a “generational” land acquisition opportunity for the county and a prime site for a potential residential development, should it sell to a developer.
A historic designation for the property has been proposed, however. From a Sun Gazette article last week:
Members of the Arlington government’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) voted 10-0 on Nov. 17 to move forward on a preliminary study toward determining whether the 9-acre Rouse estate at the corner of Wilson Boulevard and North McKinley Road meets qualifications to be designated as a local historic district.
The bone of contention? The trust that controls the property doesn’t want the study, or the historic designation, to move forward.
The property is owned by a trust set up by sportsman Randy Rouse, who purchased the estate (then consisting of 26 acres) in 1951 and owned it until his death at age 100 in 2017. His widow currently resides on the circa-1907 main house.
Not only is the house more than a century old, but its former residents are of some note: Alvin Lothrop, one of the founders of the Woodward and Lothrop department stores chain; business magnate and aviator Howard Hughes; and actress Audrey Meadows of The Honeymooners fame.
A historic designation, should it be approved, may limit the development potential of the property. Also from the Sun Gazette:
Inclusion in a county-government local historic district in Arlington restricts the maneuverability of property owners in terms of what they can do with their property.
While owners of properties being considered for inclusion as a local historic district could always attempt what might be considered a nuclear option – razing the structures to the ground before a vote on such a designation takes place – such a move likely would result in a reaction that would complicate efforts to redevelop the parcel down the road.
A recent permit filing could be a prelude to the aforementioned “nuclear option” of a preemptive demolition.
This week the county approved a permit application to cap off the property’s sewage line. A sewer cap is one of the requirements for obtaining a demolition permit.
“[The] kiss of death of any house is the sewer cap on,” a tipster tells ARLnow.
Demolition of the house would forestall restrictions that may be imposed by a historic district designation. The actual plans for the property could not be immediately confirmed, however.
In April, Falls Church News-Press columnist Charlie Clark reported that while the trustees for the property were not actively marketing it, they had received an unsolicited offer that was seriously considered.