If one house alone could be chosen to symbolize the history and growth of Arlington’s neighborhoods, the Fraber House would be a contender. Built in 1913, this charming bungalow at 1612 North Quincy Street has anchored a prominent corner in Cherrydale, not far from Central Library and Washington-Lee High School, for over a century.
Last year, while owned by Arlington County, the Fraber House became one of the county’s newest Local Historic Districts, affording it the strongest possible protection against demolition or inappropriate changes by any future owner. The house recently sold to preservation-minded new owners and is a preservation success story in Arlington.
A Popular Style and a Growing Neighborhood
This one and a half story house was built for its original owners, John and Lucia Fraber, by prominent local builder John Artis “Jack” Spates, with a full-width front porch and overhanging eaves that were typical of the bungalow style. The house features three bedrooms, ample closet space, a living room, kitchen, large dining room with a bay window, and an attic and basement. A two-car detached garage was built on the property around the same time as the house and by the same builder.
Although not a catalog house, the bungalow is reminiscent of the Sears kit houses that can still be seen throughout Cherrydale and other neighborhoods, and it’s probable that the booming popularity of the catalog houses, both locally and nationwide, was an inspiration for the house’s design. Spates was a very skilled craftsman who worked exclusively in Arlington Country throughout his 50-year career, according to the County staff report on the Fraber House. In addition to residential work, he built the original St. Agnes Church and the Cherrydale Baptist Church, among others.
The Fraber House remained in the family for almost 90 years, witnessing the growth of Cherrydale from a farming town to a booming Washington, D.C., suburb, as Cherry Valley Road (as Quincy Street was once known) became a primary thoroughfare connecting Arlington County. The house was located only yards away from the Bluemont branch of the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) Railroad, which opened in 1912 along the right-of-way that is now Interstate 66.
During this time of tremendous growth, the Frabers made very few significant alterations to the house, maintaining its original windows and footprint, and adding only aluminum siding and a new roof in the 1970s.
Click this link to see a collection of historic photos of the Fraber house, compiled by county preservation staff.
Designation and Preservation
In July 2002, the Fraber family sold their home to Arlington County, whose original intention for the house was to tear it down and expand the adjacent Oakgrove Park. In 2003, the house was listed as a “contributing building” in the Cherrydale National Register Historic District, and the county began considering an alternative proposal that would protect the home–now recognized as one of the oldest bungalows in Arlington. Last year, a large tree fell on the home, which required some cosmetic repairs but did not affect the historic integrity of the building and its eventual designation as the Fraber House Local Historic District by the county.
Last year, the Fraber House was purchased by Charu and Colin McDermott, who appreciate the house’s history, structure, and charm. (The couple both happen to work in the building trades; Charu is an architect and Colin is a structural engineer.)
Rather than being daunted by the historic district designation and its design constraints, Charu says that they were mostly just excited about moving into a historic home. “We both love old houses,” Charu says. “There wasn’t a lot we wanted to change.”
Nonetheless, they are expanding their kitchen, adding a new full bathroom downstairs, and upgrading the mechanical systems, all of which can be done without threatening the house’s historic integrity. “We were very excited to get the home,” Charu says. “We’re very lucky.”
“The Fraber House is emblematic of the period in which it was built and the working-class people who helped to establish Arlington County,” says Cynthia Liccese-Torres, the county’s historic preservation coordinator. “We’re pleased that the house will continue to be an important part of the architectural fabric of one of Arlington’s historic neighborhoods.”
Preservation Arlington applauds the Fraber family for maintaining this house so well for so long, Arlington County for protecting it through a historic district designation, and the McDermotts for making sure the house retains its historic charm well into its second century.