Sonny Jurgensen is an icon to the worshippers of the Washington Redskins. Yet, for much of his life here, he has been linked with others in that firmament.
It was "Sonny and Billy," when he and fellow quarterback Billy Kilmer alternated leading George Allen’s Over the Hill Gang. After retirement, it has been "Sonny and Sam," as he joined Sam Huff calling the Redskins’ games on radio.
This story, however, is about "Sonny and Margo," Mr. and Mrs. Christian Adolph Jurgensen, III. This has been Sonny’s best partnership — the home team, if you will — one that raised two boys and lived a good life in their Mount Vernon home since 1970. Sadly, for both the Jurgensens and the community, Sonny and Margo are preparing to sell their house and leave the area.
"We hate to move," Margo said. "This is the only house we’ve ever owned. We love the location and living in Mount Vernon."
Spreading out family photos in her living room, one could tell by the way her fingers lingered over one, then another, that leaving will be hard.
"The drive to Redskins Park is killing me," Sonny said, answering the obvious question before it was asked. "We have a house in Florida and we stay down there except for football season. We want to find something closer to Ashburn."
Sonny joins NBC Channel Four’s George Michael at the Redskins’ offices about four times a week during the season for evening TV sports segments.
WITH AN UNLIT cigar clamped in his teeth, a grin known to all, and a hint of the physique that was unique among NFL quarterbacks, Sonny moves about the place, eager to show off his home. It is a grand Italianate villa, standing on a bluff overlooking the Potomac that is immediately adjacent to the Mount Vernon Estate. The stucco finish, tall, arched windows and doors, and an abundance of ornate, wrought iron dramatically set it apart from the neighboring, center-hall colonials. It has a huge, two-story living room — built before "great room" became a real estate buzzword — with balconies and Juliet windows that overlook the ground floor. Completely modernized, the house has four bedrooms and 4 and a half baths. Sonny’s den, complete with fireplace and an NFL-size TV, also serves as his office when he reviews game tapes and scouting reports on the Redskins’ next opponent.
Anna Boal Wickes built the house in 1933, after the original structure, one of the same size and style, burned to the ground that year. The Wickes family first built on 62 waterfront acres in 1918, buying land that the Washington estate had sold originally to Captain William Neitzy in 1869.
Wickes, who named the rebuilt home "Villa Buenas Ayres" in honor of the Ayers branch of her family, wrote in 1941 of her choice of home design. "I have been criticized for not building a colonial style house, but I felt it was too presumptuous so near the beautiful colonial Mansion of Mt. Vernon so I put more of an Italian type house, which seems to fit in very well with the wooded ravines all around."
Wickes died in 1961, with her son Robert all but abandoning the house within a few years.
"We were living in a D.C. apartment in 1969, when we started looking for a house to buy," recalled Margo. "A friend told us about a run-down house on the river near Mount Vernon. Sonny and I borrowed a four-wheel drive Bronco and drove through the woods to the house." Margo explained that the developer of the Riverwood subdivision had torn up the Wickes’ old driveway, requiring a cross-country route.
THE OLD HOUSE had been empty for five years at that point, doors and windows open to the birds and beasts, a relic of pre-suburban times. "The local high school boys used it for Saturday night beer busts," Sonny said. "I had to chase ‘em out. Later, my dad came up from North Carolina and when he saw the place, he turned to me and said, ‘You are out of your mind.’"
They bought the house in 1969, after asking realtor Sam Pardoe if it was worth saving. "Sam told us that the quiet peacefulness along the river was alone worth the price, said Margo. "He said that he would buy it if we didn’t."
The Jurgensens moved in the following year after a lengthy rehabilitation of the house, including connections to county sewer and water. They later added a pool and tennis court after buying the three adjoining empty lots.
"Fixing up this house was a challenge, and we did it together," Margo said. Sonny grinned and waved his cigar in agreement, "It was an adventure," he said.
"Our boys loved it here; they fished and swam and played in the woods," Margo said. Erik, 35, is a lawyer in the Arlington firm of Albo & Oblon; Gunnar, 32, is the national sales manager at Software Performance Systems, a firm providing golf course operations software. "They both wanted to get married here, but I told them that I can’t wait forever," Margo said.
"This has been the best place for parties and crab picks in the summer," Sonny said, standing on the lawn between the house and the riverbank.
"We’ll miss this house," they said together.