Preserved & Developed: The Eastman-Fenwick House
Preserved & Developed is a weekly series of articles by Preservation Arlington highlighting local development projects that have involved both development of a site and preservation of historic resources. The projects highlight a wide range of challenges and solutions over many years. At the time they were completed the projects represented a commitment by the developer and the community to embrace the future and preserve the past. Preservation Arlington is awarding each project a gold, silver, or bronze star based on the extent to which the project protected historic resources within its particular constraints.
Built in 1876, the Eastman-Fenwick House at 6733 Lee Highway is classified as an Eastlake-Victorian (a late Victorian style) with some Italianate features. It was originally built for Albert and Sarah Eastman. The lot, which was given to Mr. Eastman by his grandmother, had been part of Isaac Crossman’s historic Falls Church Farm.
The Eastmans lived in the house until the 1930s, after which it was home for the Fenwick family until the property was sold to developers. As part of an agreement to redevelop the site, the house was sold. The current owners have been there since 1996 and have painstakingly renovated the house. A substantial write-up on the house can be found on the Virginia Department of Historic Resources web site.
At the time this project was initially presented, the County was in the early stages of developing a historic preservation program and working to build public support for historic designations. First proposed at their January 1979 meeting, and deferred several times, the County Board unanimously approved historic district designation for the house in May 1980.
In January 1993, Yeonas and Sons brought a proposal before the County Board to develop 30 townhouses on the property. This required a General Land Use Plan (GLUP) amendment and subsequent rezoning (standard process at the time). In this case, the GLUP amendment would change the property from “Service Commercial” to “Low Medium” Residential (16 to 36 units per acre) and the rezoning from R-6 (One-Family Dwelling District) to RA8-18 (Apartment Dwelling District).
At their January 16, 1993, meeting the County Board approved the GLUP amendment and rezoning for the Eastman-Fenwick House, conditioned on the granting of two easements to favor the County. One is an easement on the single-family lot created for the Eastman-Fenwick House to preserve the existing structures for a period of 30 years, and the second is an easement on the open space area to the west of the subdivided lot.
Changes to the house and adjacent lot must be approved by the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) and are subject to conformance with the easement with review and approval by the County Attorney’s Office. In July 2010, the County Board adopted a resolution to accept the East Falls Church Area Plan, which includes specific language to protect historic sites — specifically, the Eastman-Fenwick House and the W&OD railway siding nearby.
The Eastman-Fenwick House sits on a large parcel (11,000 square feet), and the adjacent conserved parcel is similarly sized, which provides for a nice buffer. While the new townhouses are of the typical colonial-style variety, and changes to them, even as modern buildings, need to go before HALRB, they are well screened.
Overall, the site offers a good representation of the historic appearance and context of that part of Arlington. When standing at street level, views of the Eastman-Fenwick House remain largely as they once were.
(History photo courtesy of the Arlington County Library, which has made a portion of the Eastman-Fenwick Family Papers available online.)
Updated: This project was developed by Yeonas & Sons.