What It Means to Renovate a Historic Home in Alexandria, VA

Alexandria, in fact, all of Northern Virginia, is full of history and historic properties.  Narrow stair cases, high ceilings and interesting floor plans can be appealing but what happens when an owner wants to change something?  What does it really take to renovate a historic home?

Bottom line – a good relationship with your neighbors and the local historic preservation committee.

You can almost always renovate anything you want on the inside. Take a Victorian kitchen to one straight out of the Jetson’s?  No problem.  But try to move a roof line or add an extra room, particularly if it can be seen from the street and, well, you’ve got trouble.

Sticking points for getting approval generally revolve around color, architectural style and details and additions.

Alexandria historic-preservation planner Lee Webb suggests that home owners always visit with their local preservation staff before beginning work. Approval processes may vary according to the work involved too.

Webb gives this example:  Placing a new gas light in the front yard in the historic district of Alexandria or a new electric fixture where there was not one before requires full board approval as opposed to staff level approval.

And just because your neighbor had a change approved, don’t assume it will be the same for you.  A wrought-iron garden wall may be appropriate for a late 19th century home but not for your 17th century residence.

Plans to change a home formerly owned by a notable or historic figure will also get closer than normal scrutiny.

There are five historic districts in Alexandria:

  • Alexandria (Old Town)
  • Fairlington
  • Parkfairfax
  • Rosemont
  • Town of Potomac (Del Ray)

Parker-Gray, the largest historically black neighborhood in Alexandria, has applied for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places and is awaiting confirmation.

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For more information about available properties in these historic Alexandria neighborhoods, call me at 703.927.4554