Most people who walk into a house with a basement flooded by a burst pipe, abandoned water glasses on a table and musty green carpeting on the floor would walk away. But not Kelly and Bill McCarthy.
“It was eerie, as if the owners decided they wanted to sell it and just put their glasses down and walked out,” Kelly said. “It was a mess but still magical.”
Built in 1905, the Victorian-style single-family house at 1006 Cameron St. in Old Town Alexandria has a rich history. Its former owners include Charles Fremont West, an African American physician who served the community from his home office for 50 years until his death in 1979.
The house was sold to a group of consultants who had their office there until 2008, when the McCarthys purchased it and began their restoration project.
“The house has great bones, and we took it back to its original state,” Kelly said. “Other than adding Internet service, we decided not to add modern elements.”
“We left everything we could in its natural state, including the natural wood walls that have never been painted,” Bill said. “In Dr. West’s office, the original pocket doors still work.”
Among the house’s more unusual features, it has what looks like a closet door that opens from a second-floor bedroom to a hidden staircase leading to the attic. The attic, a room finished all in wood, has a full bar. The space was once servant quarters, among other things.
“There’s a light above the gable in the attic, that’s still there, that was the signal to people outside that the speakeasy was open and they could come in,” Bill said. “That room is really my favorite space. It was furnished when we bought it with a big couch, a table, a wet bar and a Tiffany lamp.”
West, a talented athlete, played quarterback in the early 1920s on the football team at Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania. In 1922, the team was invited to the Rose Bowl in California. When the bus arrived, a lynch mob was waiting for West, but he escaped with help from his light complexion and teammates who convinced the mob that he had been left behind, according to Kelly’s research. (W?&?J held the favored California Golden Bears to a scoreless tie.) West also qualified to compete in the Paris Olympics in 1924, but French officials refused to admit him.
The consultants who bought the Cameron Street property after West died included former astronaut Thomas Patten Stafford. Some NASA photographs from his Apollo missions are still in the house.
“We had great parties in this house, including fundraisers for our children’s schools and for nonprofits,” Kelly said. “We hosted lots of cigar, whiskey and poker parties around the table under the Tiffany lamp. Downstairs, there’s a perfect spot for a Christmas tree for hosting the best Victorian-style holiday parties.”
Recently they added a kitchen and a laundry room so the house can be used as a private residence. The building is zoned for both commercial and residential use.
“My favorite spot in the house is the backyard, especially in summer,” Kelly said. “There’s a great vine for shade, and its really quiet even though we’re only one block from King Street.”
1006 CAMERON ST., ALEXANDRIA, VA.
Features: The four-level Victorian-style 1905 house has original floors, windows, pocket doors and moldings. It has a new kitchen with white cabinets, stainless-steel appliances and quartz counters, a dining room with a working fireplace, a living room with a decorative fireplace, and a butler’s pantry. The house also has four bedrooms, three bathrooms and an attic-level room (a former speakeasy) with a full bar. It has lower-level storage, a new laundry room, a backyard and parking for five cars.
Approximate square-footage: 3,360
Lot size: 0.05 acres
Listing agents: Lyssa Seward and Anita Edwards, the Seward Group, TTR Sotheby’s International Realty