A grand old Victorian home in Great Falls is getting a new lease on life.
The Fairfax County Board of supervisors this week approved a package of complicated regulations that would save the Alfred Leigh House from bulldozers.
The Leigh House, which is situated at the northwest corner of Colvin Run and Walker Road, north of Route 7 in Great Falls, is in dreadful condition. Age and neglect have left its porches sagging and its fancy Victorian fret work badly in need of repair.
Supervisors this week approved expedited changes to the county land-use plan so that the area around the house may be used for commercial parking to support a town-house office complex that will be built on adjacent land. The developer could have torn the house down.
Dranesville Supervisor Nancy Falck asked the board less than a month ago to take quick action to save the house, which local residents say is rich in Great Falls history.
Two years ago, area residents supported tearing down the house if that was necessary to keep commercial use off the site. However, a compromise was worked out to move the house to the rear of the five-acre site that it now sits on, but that fell through.
Great Falls residents decided in recent months that saving the house was important to the history of western Fairfax, and they organized a petition campaign to save it.
George E. Webb, a partner with Harold Shotwell in Leigh Corners Development, said his company plans to build town-house offices near the historic house.
Webb said it is their intent to renovate or rehabilitate the house for possible use as an inn, lodge or offices.
"The Leigh House means a great deal to us. It is part of the ambiance of living here," explained Estelle Holly, president of the Great Falls Civic Association.
The house was built by Dr. Alfred Leigh, who practiced medicine along the Leesburg and Georgetown pikes in Western Fairfax around the turn of the century. The original farm was built in 1890, and a north wing was added in 1910. Leigh died in a flu epidemic in 1910, and then the land was used for dairy farming. In recent years, homes have been built on what were once pastures.
This week's action by the board of supervisors carries some strong conditions. If the house is demolished, the land would revert to residential use. In addition, developers were told to check into the possibility to placing the house on some national register or listing of historic homes.
Rehabilitation plans for the house will have to be approved by an architectural review board made up of Great Falls residents.
"You are being given use of the land for parking as long as you preserve the house," Falck told developers.
Rehabilitation must start before occupancy permits will be issued for the new town-house offices.
Webb said he agreed to that condition so long as work to rehabilitate the exterior of the house would count as beginning renovation work. He said he needed a tenant for the house before knowing how to divide up and renovate the interior.
"We plan to start rehabilitation on the exterior as soon as possible," Webb said.
This week's vote represents a compromise between local residents and developers over a complicated piece of land and land-use issues.
Part of the five-acre site was zoned for commercial use and part for residential use because of long-standing grandfather clauses covering the land. Part of the area was used for commercial purposes or planned for commercial use before Fairfax adopted its comprehensive land-use plan almost 10 years ago.
Curt Bradley, former president of the Great Falls Civic Association, said he would like to see the old house turned into an inn. Bradley and other Great Falls residents, including Philip Stone, SuzanneTywford and SusanneRiva, are credited with helping to save the house. Riva and Twyford solicited petitions supporting preservation of the house.