The Virginia Land Conservation Foundation has awarded the city of Alexandria $900,000 to help buy a 244-year-old private home in Old Town and open it to the public.
The grant, part of a $6 million-plus set of grants to be announced next week by the office of Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), does not entirely cover the cost of the purchase, said Glenda Booth, who represents the Alexandria area on the foundation’s board.
The city had sought $1.25 million to buy the house, which city manager Mark Jinks said Thursday is valued at about $2.5 million. Lance Mallamo, executive director of the office of Historic Alexandria, said that the current owner will donate his equity, which when added to the $900,000 state grant leaves a $350,000 funding gap. Jinks and Mallamo said that the community will stage fundraisers to make up the difference.
The property, at 517 Prince St., was both a home and a stable known as Murray’s Livery from 1772 to 1794 and was owned by the same family for 184 years. Slaves lived there with the Murray family, and historic preservationists call the site a rare example of a working-class home and business from the 18th and 19th centuries.
In June, Alexandria did not act on a proposal to let the Northern Virginia Regional Parks Authority acquire the house as part of a deal that would also extend the authority’s lease of the city parcel where it operates the popular Cameron Run water park.
City Council members balked at the proposal, saying they had not studied whether to extend the life of the water park or use that land for athletic fields or another purpose. They also questioned who would pay for maintenance of Murray’s Livery and whether the house would operate as a museum, with public tours.
The parks authority wanted to use the lease extension to secure a loan to buy the house from Joseph Reeder, who lives there and was offering it for sale for $1.5 million.
Reeder, 89, will have a lifetime tenancy in the house as resident curator, officials said Thursday. He bought the house in 2001 from the family that had lived there for almost two centuries.The house will be open to the public several times a year and will be considered an official city museum, much like the Lyceum, which is a block away.
“It was amazing good fortune this was able to come together,” said Mallamo, who has worked on the project for several years.
Parks authority executive director Paul Gilbert said he was happy that the city found another way to preserve the house.
Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward called the purchase a “very, very exciting” project that aligns with McAuliffe’s goal of investing some conservation money in more heavily populated areas.