History and Practicality

History and Practicality

New additions to National Register of Historic Places preserve Arlington’s past and stay relevant today.

Put simply, Allen Jones said, his home is a mixture of new chains and old fixtures. “It’s a combination of Pottery Barn and Smoot Lumber,” he said, referring to the trendy housewares chain, and the lumber supplier that’s been an Alexandria fixture for over 100 years.

It’s a mix emblematic of the merger of old and new styles in one of Arlington’s historic homes, the George Crossman House at 2501 N. Underwood St., which Jones has owned for the last three years.

The Crossman House was one of eight Arlington sites added to the National Register of Historic Places this month. Also added were the John Saegmuller House, 5101 N. Little Falls Rd., the Ashton Heights, Cherrydale and Maywood neighborhoods, Arlington Village and the Commons of Arlington apartment complexes and the commercial building Al’s Motors/Gold’s Gym at 3910 Wilson Blvd. Arlington now has 40 nationally recognized historic sites.

When Jones moved into the Crossman House, he and his wife Kitty knew they wanted to preserve the historic architecture of the 19th century Victorian farmhouse. But raising a family, they wanted to make the house a little more livable. With help from Charlie Moore and his Alexandria-based Moore Architects, they found that restoration actually led to a more practical living space.

That’s indicative of Arlington’s approach to historical preservation, said Michael Leventhal, the county’s historic preservation coordinator.

It’s important to keep older buildings an active part of Arlington life, even in the midst of new development, he said. “It’s like having pictures of your parents and grandparents and your children, so that you know where you came from and where you’re going.”

PREVIOUS OWNERS KNOCKED out walls in the main parlor and the master bedroom of the Crossman House in the 1960s. “I think it was a mistake,” said Moore, whose designs returned the layout of those rooms to something closer to the original Crossman plan.

Moore and the Joneses wanted the restored walls to look indistinguishable from the originals, but trim patterns have changed in the 111 years since the house’s construction. Fortunately, Smoot Lumber supplied many building supplies for homes throughout Northern Virginia in that era, and they still had the original blade used to cut the custom trim.

That’s just one of the small details that made the renovation project a success. The farmhouse attic was an unfinished storage area, but Allen and Kitty Jones converted it to a bedroom, bathroom and study area for their 10-year-old son Chris. That meant extra living space without building an addition, which would have ruined the house’s historic exterior.

“We got another floor of living space, without actually adding square footage to the house,” said Moore. “That’s a pretty good story from the historic preservation standpoint.”

Renovating a historic home doesn’t come without complications. “When we moved in, we really didn’t think we had a lot to do, but we constantly have stuff to do,” said Allen Jones.

APPLYING FOR HISTORIC status can be as daunting as the actual renovations, Kitty Jones said.

A part-time certified public accountant, she spent countless hours researching the history of the house, and published an article on it with the Arlington Historical Society. “It’s a hobby of ours to get really into it,” she said.

From 1892-1953, the house was the centerpiece of the 62-acre Crossman family dairy farm, which was eventually divided and sold off, allowing for the development of much of the East Falls Church area, including Bishop O’Connell High School, Tuckahoe Park and Tuckahoe Elementary School.