A Young Couple Brings New Life to a Historic Home and Neighborhood

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Megan Lord
Megan Lord

An architectural gem, the Queen Anne style home at 1734 Polk Street features original exterior details that will cause old house aficionados to swoon:  a full length front porch, gables with decorative wood shingles, spindle work brackets and a unique geometric railing design.  One year ago, those details caught the attention Alex and Lizzie Felter, first-time homebuyers who were looking to invest in an historic property in Alexandria’s Garden District.  Throughout the past twelve months, the couple has invested their time and resources into not only the restoration of this historic house, but also into their neighborhood, the historic heart of Alexandria.

 

Commonly known as the Bridendall House, 1734 Polk was constructed circa 1900.  By 1920, it was home to Phillip Bridendall, owner of Bridendall Photography, which was a prominent local photography business in Alexandria for the better part of the early to mid-20th century.  The home remained in the Bridendall family for over 90 years, passing to Phillip’s daughters Louise and Sara, both school teachers who never married.  Louise Bridendall passed away in 2011 and the home was placed on the market in late 2013 when it caught the eye of Alex and Lizzie Felter.

 

PIP_IMG_7199-webAlex and Lizzie both wanted a home with character and were willing to get their hands dirty if they found an old house that needed a little work.  Unfortunately, they were originally dissuaded from even looking at homes in the Garden District, but they persisted and reached out to neighbors in the community to learn more about the area and the people who lived there.  After doing their own research into the home and the neighborhood, they contacted AHPC for historical background and reached out to the Garden District Neighborhood Foundation to meet others who lived in the area. Alex and Lizzie discovered a diverse neighborhood with a community spirit that was truly appealing.  They ultimately decided that the home would not only be a good investment, but that its restoration would also allow them the opportunity to dispel negative misconceptions by helping to attract others who value historic character, community, and the neighborhood’s convenient location.

 

PIP_IMG_7176-webThe Felters immediately began work on restoring the interior of their century-old home. Though the house maintained most of its original interior architectural features, it had been the unfortunate victim of dropped ceilings, fluorescent lighting, and laminate wall board, all installed in the 1970s.  Fortunately, those changes were reversible, and with help from their family and friends, Alex and Lizzie have returned the 11-foot ceilings, period-appropriate lighting, and uncovered the walls of the home. The original pine floors required several sandings to reveal a beautiful golden tone that the Felters chose not to stain.  Instead, they employed a screening method of coating with only polyurethane. The results are striking against the original dark stained trim, paneling, and doors.   Though Lizzie knows white woodwork is en vogue, she wisely chose not to paint, but to recondition the original doors and woodwork.  The Felters also took to scrubbing the claw foot tub, which looks as good as new.  Though the kitchen renovation still lies ahead of them, Lizzie says that they are enjoying the process of living in and learning from the home as they work.  They intend to keep the beadboard walls, the vintage stove, the built-in corner cabinet, and re-hang some original shelving.  The kitchen work will surely follow the spirit of their work on the rest of the house, of which Lizzie says, “We didn’t change anything, we just brought it back to where it should have been.”

 

For their wisdom and willingness to revitalize their home and, in turn, their neighborhood, the Alexandria Historic Preservation Commission honors Alex and Lizzie Felter with our August Preservation in Progress Award.