Press Club

Historical Society to homeowners: please don’t tear down your old house

Demolition of Rouse estate in Dominion Hills (file photo by Jay Westcott)

The Arlington Historical Society is trying to convince homeowners of older and potentially historically significant properties to consider alternatives to tearing their homes down or selling to homebuilders.

The society said earlier this week that it “has sent an appeal letter to dozens of area homeowners, home-builders and real estate agents” which “asks that owners, builders and agents conduct research on their properties before rushing to the tear-down option.”

The society cited the demolition of the Febrey-Lothrop house on the 9-acre Rouse estate in Dominion Hills, along with the more recent demolition of the circa-1889 Fellows-McGrath House at 6404 Washington Blvd. Both properties are slated for the construction of new housing.

‘The recent demolition of several valuable properties… are key examples of beloved properties that fell to the wrecking ball without sufficient consideration, in our view, of creative alternatives,” the society’s letter said. “We believe the best way to preserve more properties that reflect Arlington’s heritage is through education and negotiations that honor the interests of all parties.”

The letter comes as a pair of bills intended to bolster historic preservation efforts failed to pass the Virginia legislature this year.

Supporters of the proposed legislation want to require local governments to block demolition of properties that are under consideration for historic status. In the case of the recently-razed Arlington homes, demolition took place before the county was able to complete a historic designation process urged by preservation advocates.

A press release from the Arlington Historical Society is below.

As part of its new push to improve preservation of historic properties, the Arlington Historical Society has sent an appeal letter to dozens of area homeowners, home-builders and real estate agents.

‘The recent demolition of several valuable properties — the historic Febrey-Lothrop house at 6407 Wilson Boulevard and the “Memory House” at 6404 Washington Boulevard — are key examples of beloved properties that fell to the wrecking ball without sufficient consideration, in our view, of creative alternatives,” the letter said. We believe the best way to preserve more properties that reflect Arlington’s heritage is through education and negotiations that honor the interests of all parties.”

Acknowledging that the county is changing and expressing respect for “by-right ownership and the free-market considerations that go into home sales and improvements,” the nonprofit asks that owners, builders and agents conduct research on their properties before rushing to the tear-down option. “We feel that Arlington’s government, residents, and businesses could do more to preserve properties that represent either notable personages, events, or architectural styles,” the letter said.

While the society cannot offer official advice as to whether a given property is historic, it could assist in explorations of alternatives to demolition — finding a historically minded buyer, or an architect who could design a partial renovation.

Society president Cathy Bonneville Hix invites residents who have questions on the historic importance of any residential or commercial property to contact the society via the website arlingtonhistoricalsociety.org or the county’s Historic Preservation Program office at 703-228-3831.

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