In the late 17th-century, English colonists with land grants settled northern Virginia. Beginning in the 18th century, large landowners such as the Pearson and Minor families sold chunks of what is now Arlington County to smaller landowners, who in turn divided parcels among heirs or sold tracts to farmers. In 1849, the Febrey family bought 176 acres, hosted tenant farmers, witnessed the arrivals of railroads and the Civil War, and over the years constructed several residences, one of which was a three-bedroom Queen Anne-style home on a knoll overlooking an apple orchard and creek. It was built in the 1890s by Ernest J. Febrey, a steamfitter, shortly before his wife, Grace, gave birth to their daughter Margaret.
Margaret, then the Febreys’ only child, died at half past noon on Jan. 15, 1913, of Pott disease, a tubercular infection of the spine. She was 14. Her funeral was held at her parents’ city residence, 3547 13th St. NW, and she was buried down the road from the family’s country acreage.
In 1919, Ernest conveyed the house’s four-acre lot to a man named Fred D. Paxton. In the ’20s, investment company Arlington Properties Corp. scooped up more Febrey lots and built subdivisions under the heading “Overlee Knolls” (“Overlee” meaning north of Lee Highway).
The New Deal and World War II drew an army of federal workers to the Washington area, and the county evolved into a settlement of GS-4s through GS-12s who commuted into the city. In 1947, Florence Kincheloe, who repurposed the Febrey house as the Crestdale Sanitarium, approved the construction of public streets and alleys through the property, knitting the once-agricultural area into the capital’s urban fabric.
In January 1957, after shuttering the sanitarium, Kincheloe sold the lot and the house for $60,000 to the newly founded Overlee Community Association, which sprang from a jigsaw puzzle of neighborhoods lined with single-family homes.
The association laid a pool and opened it to 100 member families on July 4, 1957. By then the creek had been overtaken by John Marshall Drive. The remnants of the orchard were paved into a parking lot.
The erstwhile sanitarium, looming
over the pool, became the community association’s clubhouse and pool manager’s quarters. Robert G. Wrigley, a high school science teacher, managed the pool with his wife and five children for its first 22 years.
When the Wrigleys moved in, the house was colonized by rats and cluttered with medical detritus and sprinkler piping. Mealy wallpaper from the 1890s had to be steamed off. A closet door opened up to a brick wall studded with small hooks, apparently for keys to patients’ rooms. The serpentine brick chimney curved from the tomblike basement up through the creaky domed attic.