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After fire, Capitol Hill rowhouse rises from ashes

(Photo by Shoot & Showcase In March 2013, a fire broke out and gutted this 1890 Capitol Hill rowhouse.)

After 25 years of raising a family in Bethesda, empty-nesters Don and Tracy Fox moved to an 1890 rowhouse on Capitol Hill in November 2008.

“This was going to be our dream forever house,” Don said. “It just didn’t turn out that way.”

In March 2013, a fire broke out underneath the stairwell. Tracy was traveling and Don was at work when he got a call from real estate agent Phil Guire telling him to come home because his home was on fire.

The fire gutted the house. Remarkably, the few objects that survived were family antiques. Sadly, their two cats perished in the fire.

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The insurance company recommended Jenkins Restorations because of its track record for rebuilding homes damaged by fire, water and storms.

“If you go through a fire, it’s really important to go with a construction company that has experience and some expertise in fire restoration,” Don said.

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22941 Foxcroft Rd., Middleburg, Va. (Roman Caprano/Sky Blue Media)

Jenkins took the entire house down to the surviving floor joists and brick walls. Because the house had been remodeled a little more than 10 years earlier, Don and Tracy hadn’t been planning any major renovations. The fire, however, allowed them to expand the kitchen and change the layout of a few bathrooms and closets upstairs. But aside from that, they essentially got back the house they had.

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“One of the things we liked about the house, you clearly felt like you were on Capitol Hill,” Don said. “It just had so much character to it. It has the convenience of a 21st-century house, but, on the other hand, you always had a feel it had its roots in another century with the exposed brick, tall ceilings and transoms above the doorway. We took great pains to put it all back so the trims and finishes were fitting to the time and the property.”

While their house was under construction, the couple found temporary lodgings near Nationals Park. One day, they were chatting with the owners of Lot 38 Espresso Bar. The coffee shop owners asked what brought them to the neighborhood. When the Foxes told them about the house fire, the owners’ reaction was unexpected.

“They’re like, ‘Oh, you’re so fortunate,’ ” Don said. “In Korean mythology, fire purges any and all evil spirits from a house. A fire is a very lucky and good thing.”

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As the restoration was wrapping up, Don, who was getting ready to retire from a career in government, received a job offer from his former boarding school. So the couple moved to Indiana, leaving their son in the home while he finished his graduate studies at American University. Now that he’s graduating, they’ve put the house on the market.

“It sounds more awful than it was,” Don said of the restoration process. “We enjoyed the building process, and we had a good partnership with the guy who was in charge of our project. It wasn’t painful.”

The three-bedroom, three-bathroom home is listed at $899,000.

Listing: 1214 Constitution Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 

Listing agent: Jeanne Harrison, Compass

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