Historic Mixed-Use Property Helps Revitalize the Garden District

Megan Lord
Megan Lord

The Victorian home on the corner of Jackson and 20th Street in Alexandria’s Garden District is turning heads. Built in 1910, the historic home at 2004 Jackson Street was converted to an office in the 1980s and outfitted with dropped ceilings, blue commercial-grade carpet, vinyl wall paneling, and other such alterations that disguised most of the home’s original interior details.  The home’s interior no longer suited its architecturally rich exterior, notably its iconic wrap around front porch.


Realizing the potential of this historic property, Marksville attorney Ben Luke and his wife, Celeste Luke, purchased the home in April 2013 and began the renovation efforts. No stranger to preservation, Ben Luke previously restored his Colonial Greek Revival residence in downtown Marksville, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Ben Luke has also restored and renovated six other historic homes in his Marksville neighborhood, converting them to commercial and residential rental properties. His efforts have helped to revitalize the neighborhood by preserving the original charm and character of these buildings.


Luke was drawn to the character and location of Alexandria’s Garden District when searching for local office space for his law firm and abstract and title company.  The office overlay zoning on Jackson Street, which allows for commercial use within a single family zoning district, combined with available historic preservation tax credits, provided the perfect opportunity for Luke to create not only a local office, but also residential space for his family as his children attend Menard and Alexandria Country Day School, and had been commuting daily. After sixteen and a half months of work, Ben Luke’s beautiful office/residence is a project that reveals historic beauty and sets a positive example for mixed-use rehabilitation and neighborhood revitalization.


The project took advantage of federal and state historic preservation tax credits to accomplish the following list of repairs, upgrades, and restorations: re-plumbing of the entire building, re-wiring of the entire building, new HVAC units and ductwork, complete bathroom upgrades with Carrera marble custom showers, complete kitchen upgrade of appliances and granite countertops, restoration of original kitchen cabinets, removal of dropped ceilings and restoration of original 12 foot pine ceilings, removal of multiple flooring layers and restoration of original pine flooring, wainscoting milled to match original, custom Cypress shutters, salvaged doors and mantles from The Bank in New Orleans, complete repainting of the interior and exterior, restoration of original wood windows and stained glass, porch spindles replaced with Victorian style, period light fixtures, and a two-hour firewall installed from floor to roof required to separate commercial and residential spaces.


2004 Jackson Street-webWhat is most attractive about this lovely project is the quality of work and the thoughtfulness of design. A grand central hall runs the length of the building, visually connecting the office and residential spaces. The office space is furnished entirely with period antiques and fixtures, while the residence space is furnished with more contemporary pieces. Though a firewall was required to separate the front commercial area from the rear residential space via two large metal doors, the doors have been painted to match existing wall finishes. The doors are required to remain closed during business hours, but they can easily be opened after hours, creating the feel of a cohesive single-family home. Likewise, the rear bedrooms could easily transform into office space simply by replacing the beds with office furniture. The versatile nature of the structure will eventually allow it to transition from mixed-use to either all commercial or all residential without any structural alterations, making it both an economically and architecturally attractive property.


Because this project was one of the first projects of mixed-use nature in the Garden District–following on the heels of 1921 Jackson Street: A Coffee Shop—Ben Luke endured many setbacks and delays, yet followed through with fantastic results. When asked why he chose to invest in the rehab of a building that didn’t have to be restored, Ben noted that his mother, Katherine Melancon of Marksville, taught him to appreciate older homes by raising her children in an older house which she restored and renovated herself. As he got deeper into this project, Ben says that her influence, “brought out the purist in me, and I wanted to do it right.” Ben is also quick to note that historic preservation tax credits were a huge incentive for the project and helped justify the extra expenses that make this project so outstanding. From the moment you cross the threshold of 2004 Jackson Street, it is clear that perseverance and quality are hallmarks of this project. For this reason, the Alexandria Historic Preservation Commission honors 2004 Jackson Street and Ben Luke with our October 2014 Preservation in Progress Award.


Visit the Alexandria Historic Preservation Commission Facebook page for additional before, during, and after photos of 2004 Jackson Street.  More information on historic preservation tax credits can be found under the Resources tab on our website at www.alexandriahpc.org.