Preserved & Developed is a 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.
A great deal of discussion recently has revolved around the possibility of moving a Sears kit house here in Arlington, but this isn’t the first time it’s happened.
Back in 2004, the Arlington County Board approved a URD (Unified Residential Development) for 1600 North Randolph Street. This URD involved the relocation and preservation of a Sears kit house in Arlington’s Cherrydale neighborhood. The URD is a package of zoning variances that the County will grant when certain conditions are met and goals accomplished.
The house is a contributing structure to the Cherrydale National Register Historic District. It sat on a 21,756 sf parcel of land in the R-6 zoning district. When the developer, Sunnyside Development LLC, first purchased the property, the company proposed a pipe-stem development with a new house located in the rear yard.
After working with the immediate neighbors and the Cherrydale community, it was clear that relocation and preservation of the Sears house was important to the community. A proposal was put forward to move the Sears house to a new foundation (keeping the same address), allow for an architecturally sensitive addition to the Sears house, use the URD process to provide a package of variances, and put a conservation easement on sensitive land. In addition, the new house would have matching materials and design, such as an enclosed front porch, cement board siding, and wood cornices.
The Sears house is a Priscilla model and featured six rooms and a sleeping porch. The catalog listed it at $3,052 and said that it would “delight owners of colonial architecture.” It had three bedrooms and a bath upstairs. The downstairs had a spacious living room that extended the whole width of the house and measured 25’8” by 14’5”. According to the catalog, it provided ample room for a piano, phonograph, davenport, overstuffed chairs, and other furniture. The dining room featured a built-in china cabinet.
Today the Sears House and the new house fit well into the architecture of the community. While the Sears house did undergo substantial changes during its renovation, it still retains the same character and scale. As Cherrydale historian Kathryn Holt-Springston says, “At least it is still preserved and future generations can study it more.”
The new house picks up design cues not only from the Sears house but also from adjacent new homes providing a blending/transition. Both houses sold in the first quarter of 2006 for over $1.1 million. Neither has been on the market since.
Preservation Arlington supports the retention and upgrading of existing homes. We applaud that this was accomplished with one of Arlington’s highly coveted Sears kit houses.