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City Council approves modifications to Old Town home with strange architectural history

114 N. Payne Street (via Google Maps)

In April 1979, the City of Alexandria listed 114 N. Payne Street in Old Town as a historic building due to its unique architectural roofline.

One month later, the city approved a permit to destroy that roofline.

The phantom roofline, however, haunted the approval process for the homeowner trying to make modifications three decades later.

The homeowner plans to replace the building’s front aluminum siding to cement siding, remove a short fence installed in 2019 and replace a grassy area with parking. A neighbor from the Old Town Civic Association appealed the plans, arguing the changes should not be made, citing the historic significance of the home.

City Council dismissed the argument on the grounds that the feature that made the home historic no longer exists and ultimately approved the modifications (docket item 15). The whole process left some city employees and City Council members scratching their heads at the baffling decision by city leaders in 1979.

“The main reason based on the nomination paperwork that it was placed on the 100-Year Building list was that roofline, which has been altered,” a city staffer said.

The roofline was listed as a rare example of Gothic revival architecture in Alexandria.

Presentation on 114 N. Payne Street changes (image via City of Alexandria)

“We think the permit may have been issued a month after it was placed on the 100-Year Building list?” Mayor Justin Wilson asked. “So it was placed on the 100-Year Building list in April 1979… for the roofline, and then a month later we issued a permit to destroy that roofline?”

“I believe so,” the staffer said. “Our records do show that, I just didn’t want to say that.”

Without that roof, Board of Architectural Review (BAR) member Andrew Scott said, there is little of historical note about the building.

“The reason this building is on the 100-year protected building list was because of this very unique and distinctive gothic roofline that no longer exists,” said Scott. “We don’t know why it doesn’t exist, but absent that, there’s nothing really particularly historical remaining about this building.”

Siding with the architectural review board, the Council ultimately voted unanimously to deny the neighbor’s appeal and allow the homeowner to make the changes.

“I thank the BAR for making a good decision here,” City Council member Kirk McPike said, “and I apologize on some level to the applicant that they had to spend time and money to come here and present this case again.”

Presentation on 114 N. Payne Street changes (image via City of Alexandria)

Image via Google Maps

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