A dedication stone honoring fallen soldiers sits on the lot of 205 Park Avenue, the site of the old Blue and Gray American Legion Post 225 building, covered in weeds, with an infantry of insects guarding against anyone who comes near.
The majority of the writing on a plaque attached to the stone is covered in the weeds, but it was installed by members of that American Legion post on November 11, 1997, dedicating the site of the building to the members’ bygone comrades. The plaque is barely visible from the sidewalk on Park Avenue and could easily be passed up by anyone walking up to the main entrance of the building.
It’s actually a fitting symbol for the building, which is in a state of disrepair, and is one of two traces – the other is a mailbox that reads “American Legion Auxiliary Unit 225” on the side – of the American Legion post that used to occupy the building. Beyond that, there is a tattered American Legion sticker on the window of one of the doors to the building and an American flag, with its red, white and blue washed out from weathering, hanging in front of another one of the doors.
The rest of the property looks like an ordinary abandoned lot, with weeds, vines and other plants growing into the building’s structure and broken windows scattered throughout the building’s facades.
But the old Blue and Gray building – also known as the Old Cloverdale House, the oldest surviving house in the City, which was built in 1797 on W. Broad and later moved to its present location on Park Avenue – has a makeover in its future.
The ownership group that owns Liberty Tavern, Lyon Hall, LeoNora and Northside Social in Arlington has purchased the building and is converting it into a second location of Northside Social. The owners, Stephen and Mark Fedorchak and Brian Normile, hope to begin restoration and construction on the Blue and Gray building in June and finish and open the new Northside Social location in mid to late fall.
The new owners of the property have a knack for restoring old buildings, like the ones housing their present businesses in Arlington, and opening restaurants in the new digs. They plan to do the same with the old Blue and Gray building and are nearing completion of the permitting process with the City’s Historic Commission and Historic Architectural Advisory Board.
Mark Fedorchak, who also owns Galleria Florist in Falls Church, said that the new owners of 205 Park Avenue “appreciate historic buildings and the aesthetic cues that the history gives them.”
“It gives us a starting point for our design process that we find valuable,” Fedorchak said. According to City records, the group has plans on demolishing part of the building, but renovating and adding onto historic segments of the remaining structure.
“What we’re doing is keeping the historic facades of the building and over the years there had been some additions that had been put in the building that really are pretty decrepit,” Normile said. “We’re basically demolishing the additions that were made in the mid to late 20th century and putting on an addition that I would say is contemporary in design. It should really be an interesting contrast between the historic facades that are there currently.”
Normile said that integrity of the original facades will be maintained, but that the interior of the building is going to undergo a “full restoration” in order to get it up to code. “The interior of this building is in particularly rough condition,” he said. “It hasn’t had any improvements for probably the better part of 40 – 50 years.”
Another challenge for the Fedorchaks and Normile is that the building was not built to be compliant with commercial building codes today.
“I’ve got to get this building compliant with commercial code for the level of occupancy, which is going to be coffee shop, cafe and wine bar,” said Normile, who is handling the construction and renovation of the building. “As it relates to that, it’s basically going to entail structural work to solidify the integrity of what’s there.”
Despite the need to fully restore the interior of the building, Mark Fedorchak said that they will take their design cues for the interior of the building from the historic nature of the structure. The group is considering incorporating some of the existing building materials on the inside, Normile said.
These considerations, and the ones that pertain to the facades of the building, have not been taken lightly by the ownership group converting the old Blue and Gray building into a new Northside Social.
The months-long process of working with the City to ensure the integrity of the historic structure is the fruition of the responsibility both Fedorchak and Normile claimed for maintaining the building’s historic nature. Normile, who has been the point person working with the City on behalf of the group, said that he has heard enthusiasm from longtime City residents about the restoration and use of the building.
“One of the things our group likes to do, and I think it shows in projects in Arlington, is historic renovation and restoration projects, so we’ve got pretty significant experience in that,” Normile said.
“And that was really what ultimately attracted us to restoring this building and this project. It gave us a chance to bring back to life a building that had historic significance in Falls Church and it really was located in a place where we felt we could create a community center.”
In addition to the restoration and renovation of the interiors and facades of the building, Falls Church’s Northside Social will have lots of patio seating, according to Fedorchak, and “two porches stacked on top of each other,” Normile said.
So there will be plenty outdoor seating. And Normile ensured that the dedication stone, now obscured from view, will remain on the property. In fact, it will be moved closer to Park Avenue, so it will be much harder to miss.