Our Man in Arlington

August 9, 2018 10:16 AM0 comments

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Just sold: The modernized 1836 cabin of Caleb Birch, where Teddy Roosevelt stopped while riding, where Presley Rixey’s valet lived while building Washington Golf and Country Club.

Birchwood “is NOT historic,” claimed the Century 21 description of the commemorated site at Wakefield and N. 26th sts. “It could be a great remodel or tear-down.”

Selling Arlington’s historic houses, say friends in the trade, requires a specialized enthusiasm—in the hearts of buyers and sellers.

“A lot of older homes in Arlington have irreplaceable charm and history, but less of the functionality of newer homes,” said Natalie Roy of Keller Williams Realty. Sellers are tempted to market an oldie as a tear-down, but they could price it “higher and wait a little longer, to see whether there’s a buyer willing to upgrade,” she said.  “I do what clients need.”

Alyssa Cannon of McEnearney Associates said, “The buyers most likely to buy older houses appreciate their charm and the way they were built. They want solid construction and character, but also a connection to the past and community.”

Similar enthusiasm comes from Tim Landis of Long and Foster. “Buyers of older properties either grew up here and want to reestablish connection to their past, or simply appreciate a home that stands out.”

Landis, whose love of history dates to childhood, said he always points out spots of local interest to clients. “Not sure they want to hear it, but I tell them anyway.”

Switch to the point of view of the buyer. Tom Jensen, who with wife Sarah bought a modernized home wrapped around a 19th-century log-cabin at 4025 N. Randolph St., got their first glimpse in spring 2010 when his wife spotted “a postage stamp-sized photo on the Web. My reaction was skeptical: Honey, there are no log cabins in Arlington.”

Marketing materials stressed the home’s “unique”, “rustic”, “individualistic”, and “historic” character,” Jensen said. But “quirky, worn, weird, drafty, and old would have been equally accurate.”

They bought it the next morning. Though the previous owner of 31 years neglected it, their renovations have made it comfy and weather-tight. “The county’s excellent research into the house’s history has given us an even deeper appreciation,” he said.

Leslie Aun, with husband Buzz McClain, bought and renovated the 1892 Crossman farmhouse at 2501 N. Underwood St. “We didn’t choose Crossman House, it chose us,” she said. “We wanted more character and history than your average brick rambler.”

In online research, she was astonished to find something on the Historic Register in Arlington, “so I persuaded the two kids to come investigate. The house was in foreclosure and looking a little ramshackle.”

Oddly, a door was unlocked, so she and her spooked children “crept down into the cold, dark, dirt-floor basement using our phones for light.” Aun “felt the house welcoming me from the very first moment. It was beautiful, but needed some TLC, and somehow it decided we were the ones to do it.”

Aun thinks Mrs. Crossman would be pleased with their renovations. “It has not been cheap or easy. But the county historic preservation team “was really helpful. I am excited we’ve helped preserve a bit of Arlington’s residential history, which is getting bulldozed at a frightening pace.”

N. Jay Thierry of Century 21 just received a contract on Birchwood. The prospective owner plans a remodeling.

***

The Social Security Administration under President Trump followed through with its announced plan to shutter the Social Security office in Rosslyn.

An agency spokesman confirmed to me that the consolidation—which drew protests from unions, senior advocates and lawmakers–happened on June 22“due to an expiring lease.”

I swung by and found the second-floor digs in the Monday Properties Building now empty. All employees were relocated to other offices.

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