The plaque adorning the house in Old Town Alexandria proclaims “George Johnston’s Home.” It was placed there in 1964 after a campaign to move the plaque from its original site at the corner of Prince and Lee streets.
Research shows that Johnston lived at 224 S. Lee St. and had his law office down the street. Back in 1932, when the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce undertook a campaign to mark historical sites and buildings throughout the city, the two sites were confused. As was the date of Johnston’s death, which on the plaque is listed as 1765, but was a year later.
Johnston was a prominent attorney who shared an office with George Washington in Manassas when the future president worked as a surveyor. The two men also served together in the Virginia House of Burgesses. His son, George Johnston Jr., was an aide-de-camp to Washington during the Revolutionary War.
Over the years, many stories have been associated with the Georgian brick house. Some say it was in the home’s library where Johnston drafted the denunciation of the Stamp Act that Patrick Henry delivered. (The original draft was reportedly found in one of Johnston’s law books.) They also claim the mantel in the library was a gift from Washington.
But in 1996, when the home was selected for the Alexandria Decorator Show House, a historian probed deeper into its history. T. Michael Miller of the Office of Historic Alexandria found that many of the house’s architectural details dated to a period later than Johnston’s life. He confirmed his findings with Denys Peter Myers, an architectural historian with the National Park Service.
Miller didn’t dispute that Johnston had lived at that address but as he wrote in his report “subsequent actions have done much to confuse the general public about the true historicity of the dwelling.”
Miller wrote the flounder section of the house was most likely constructed by Thomas Preston around 1800 and the front section built circa 1802 by Daniel Douglass, who probably destroyed the Johnston house to build the new section.
He noted the mantels in the drawing rooms and the reeded chair rails in the dining room appear to be Colonial Revival additions. The Federal period mantel in the library was probably installed in 1946, when naval officer John Opie lived in the home.
Regardless of the home’s provenance, it retains its historical character even as it has been updated for today’s living. The six-bedroom, five-bathroom, 5,259-square-foot house is listed at $4,995,000.
Listing: 224 S. Lee St., Alexandria, Va.
Listing agent: Eileen McGrath, Washington Fine Properties
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