Arlington, VA

(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) Arlington County was in a race against its own bureaucracy to save the Febrey-Lothrop estate from demolition — and it seems the County lost.

The Dominion Hills mansion, owned by sportsman Randy Rouse until he passed away in 2017, had also been home to Howard Hughes and actress Audrey Meadows. Of greater historic interest to County officials was the fact that the estate grounds, which had been a hunting ground and gathering place for pre-Columbian Native American tribes in the area, had been left virtually undisturbed for centuries.

The owners of the estate have been pursuing a demolition permit parallel to an effort from preservationists to try to give the property a local historic designation over the objections of Rouse’s trust. The designation would require additional archeological and preservation work before any development could take place on the property.

The County Board was amenable to the designation, unanimously voting to send the designation back to the Planning Commission on April 5 for approval, before returning to the County Board on April 17.

The house, which has sat on the hill in one form or another since before the Civil War — documentation suggests the original home was largely replaced by a new building in the early 20th century — may not live long enough to see that designation bear fruit.

The last holdup in the demolition permit process was a land disturbing activity (LDA) permit, but County officials confirmed that the demolition permit was issued last Friday after the LDA permit was approved. Previously, County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac told the County Board that the county could be hauled into court if it were to delay approving a properly-submitted demolition permit application.

The same day the permit was approved, a letter from Barrett Consultants P.C. was sent to neighbors informing them of the impending demolition activities.

“This letter is being sent to inform you that the owner of… 6407 Wilson Boulevard intends to perform the demolition of the existing home and/or structures located on the premises of the property,” the letter said. “The demolition and subsequent excavation of the structure will begin in the very near future.”

“In preparation of starting, appropriate tree protection measures will be installed, as well as proper silt fencing to help mitigate erosion and preventative purposes to adjacent properties,” the letter added.

With the permits in hand, there are no impediments under Virginia law preventing the owners from tearing down the house and thus preempting efforts to save it with a historic designation.

As of this writing, on Wednesday afternoon, the house was still standing.

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