The case of Mrs. Margaret Orrock's disputed doors was finally closed yesterday, nine months and one day after the Old Town flower shop owner was told the doors had to go. The doors won.
And the losers, the Alexandria architectural board of review, arbiters of all facade changes, big and small, in the city's historic district, didn't slip away without a chastisement.
"Why couldn't you have told Mrs. Orrock what you wanted?" demanded an exasperated Councilman Carlyle C. Ring, as he referred to the board's months of haggling with the businesswoman over what type of doors would be acceptable on her lower King Street shop.
Orrock had gone to the board, which is empowered to regulate any outside change to buildings in the city's historic district, three times with door designs, only to be turned aside and told to come up with yet another door.
Each time she had appealed the board's ruling to the City Council, only to be told by city fathers that the issue needed more study. Yesterday the council decided that the time for studying was over and approved her plans for a door.
"I understand the niceties of not giving advice, but when the board kept saying no, no, no it must have had some impression of what they thought might be compatible," said Ring.
Board members had said it was not within their authority to proffer advice. Theirs, they said, was a question of aye or nay. No more, no less.
"It's not in the board's purview to suggest what they [applicants] should come back with or estimate what it might cost to make certain changes," said Daniel Bairley, obviously ruffled by the council's thrashing. "That's not our job."
Architectural board members had insisted during the 10 months of debate that the four pine doors Orrock was using were too small for the original openings and the wide trim was incompatible with the colonial ambience of the street. Orrock had contended her doors were no worse than those of other buildings and to change them would run more than $6,000.
Yesterday, the council agreed with Orrock's final plan, altering only the door's trim and saying it should be beaten to look weathered.
Later from her Old Towne Flower Shoppe, the pearly haired Orrock, clothed in winter whites, greeted the approval with the sense of a wearied soldier.
"I've lived in Alexandria for all of my 65 years and had never had a problem with the building department, the city council, or any agency. And I am in whole-hearted agreement with the purpose of the architectural review," she said, striking the rolled plans against her chest. "But I ran into a gamut of personality conflicts with the board that I'd never experienced before."
"Nothing I could do would please them."
"Tell me," she continued, "are my doors any more objectionable in the context of the other doors on the street? Are they any less in compliance with the historic mood?" Orrock pointed to the shop next door where three glass doors stood, framed in metal and found in any large grocery store. The same across the street. "I don't know how they make their judgments." she said.
One council member said privately it wasn't a question of judgment, but of personalities. "They [the board] are just a bunch of snooty old snobs who live, for the most part, in Old Town [and] who can't be pleased."