The Alexandria City Council was notified last week that the home of former president Gerald Ford had been designated a national historic landmark.
The Ford family lived at 514 Crownview Dr., Alexandria, from 1955 to 1976, during most of Ford's 25-year tenure as congressman from Grand Rapids, Mich., and for the first 10 days of his presidency in August 1974, while former president Richard M. Nixon moved out of the White House after resigning from office.
Council members received a report from City Manager Vola Lawson saying that Secretary of the Interior William P. Clark awarded the house national historic landmark status Dec. 17, 1985.
National Park Service officials said they will install a plaque signifying the home as a national historic landmark somewhere on the property, but said the house will remain in private ownership, closed to the public.
There are about 1,700 national historic landmarks across the country and about 60 in the Washington area, said Jim Charleton, historian with the National Park Service.
The birthplace of former president Nixon in Yorba Linda, Calif., is a national historic landmark, and there is legislation pending that proposes sections of Plains, Ga., be designated a historic landmark commemorating former president Jimmy Carter.
The Alexandria house was built for the Ford family and later sold in 1976 to Moussa Moaadel, real estate broker and developer now living in Bethesda. He lived in the house until 1978, when he began renting it.
"I'm glad it happened," Moaadel said. "I try to take care of the home as much as I can. I try not to make any changes."
Moaadel detailed his efforts to preserve the house: Ford left behind several gardening tools that Moaadel has stored as artifacts, and Moaadel has maintained the president's swimming pool and Secret Service room. He said he has repainted in the house's original colors.
The National Park Service does not have plans to encourage tourists to visit the house, since "We would not want to make a traffic jam out of Crownview Drive," said Charleton.
Moaadel said, "During the time I was living there people were always standing or stopping their cars or staring, and apparently they still do it." Moaadel said he welcomed the public attention and said it was not a nuisance.
Park Service historian Laura Fellers, who drafted the report approved by Clark on the Ford house, explained she felt the Crownview Drive residence was more historically significant than Ford's birthplace in Omaha or his childhood homes in Grand Rapids.
"We figured the Alexandria residence commemorated his long and distinguished legislative career," said Fellers, who said Ford's 10-day stay in the modest house while president "was indicative of his return to the normal period he represented after the tribulations of Watergate."
Fellers cited a passage from Betty Ford's memoirs, "The Times of My Life," about the house during the 10 days Ford lived there as president: "Aug. 10. At 7 a.m., the President of the United States, in baby-blue short pajamas, appears on his doorstep looking for the morning paper, then goes inside to fix his orange juice and English muffin. Before leaving for his office he signs autographs on the lawn."
Betty Ford also said in her book that, "Leaving the White House wasn't nearly so much of a wrench as leaving the house in Alexandria."