1251 Barrister Street is a textbook example of a Craftsman cottage that has had few alterations made to the exterior and interior character since the home’s construction circa 1920. The home, recently restored by Barrister Street residents John and Sid McDaniel, features freshly painted wood siding, restored original wood windows, a Craftsman style front door—which they traveled all over the state to find, exposed rafter details lining the porch roof overhang and porte cochere. Inside, parkay flooring installed in the 1970s was removed, revealing original wood floors underneath. Sticky black glue was scraped off and the original wood floors were beautifully refinished. All walls have been refreshed and repainted, and new doors were replaced with old doors and hardware. The kitchen and bathrooms received upgrades appropriate to the vintage nature of the house. The home has been completely restored following SOI Standards and is an excellent example of historic preservation tax credits at work.
More impressive than the restoration of this historic home is the commitment of local neighbors actively reaching out to improve their street. The McDaniels are longtime residents of the Garden District, raising their family on Thornton Ct., and later restoring and moving to Sid’s family home on Barrister. Prior to the rehab of 1251 Barrister, the McDaniels purchased and renovated the small brick non-contributing structure next door, turning the low-income rental property into a desirable home that is an attractive improvement to the neighborhood. 1251 is their second property on the block to be purchased with the sole intent of restoring its former charm and attracting long-term residents that will invest in the neighborhood. John and Sid note that “it just hurt us” to daily see the potential hiding within the walls of 1251 Barrister and not take action. “If we as Alexandria citizens don’t take care of it, we’ll lose it, and we can’t re-create neighborhoods like this,” says Sid. Their sense of responsibility for taking care of their neighborhood is both convicting and inspiring.
Like any preservation project, this one came with its surprises—both challenges and unexpected victories. Due to rotting wood, the porte-cochere’s flat roof needed to be rebuilt, and the McDaniel’s chose to renovate it with a more efficient gabled roof, which required discerning how new construction codes apply to existing historic structures without disrupting the architectural character. In addition, harsh winter weather and unexpected illness of their contractor extended the project timeline. Pleasing, however, was the minimal effort but vast difference it made to refurbish existing interior and exterior architectural details. “The features had so much charm,” says Sid, “it was really fun to bring them all back to life.” Asked if they considered their effort worth it, the McDaniels replied that “some things are worth working for”. The project has truly renewed a sense of energy in the neighborhood and, in John’s words, “made a difference to everyone”.
Through their preservation efforts, the McDaniels are changing their block for the better, one house at a time, and for this the Alexandria Historic Preservation Commission is proud to present to them our Preservation in Progress Award for May 2014.