By Glen Roe, Alexandria
To the editor:
The City of Alexandria has a long and rich history of historic preservation. Beginning with the creation of Old Town’s Old and Historic District, and continuing with the establishment of the Parker-Gray district, our community has decided it is worth saving historical structures and landmarks.
Subsequently, private citizens incur significant expenses due to the resulting restrictions that prevent the demolition of structures and regulations prohibiting the use of modern building materials. Furthermore, complete demolition and building anew is, more often than not, an option that is precluded from private property owners.
Government agencies should be held to the same standards. The Parker-Gray Board of Architectural Review recently denied the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s request to demolish the historic Ramsey Homes, located on the 600 block of N. Patrick St. ARHA is appealing that decision to city council on September 12.
ARHA argues these buildings are neither historically significant nor financially feasible to rehabilitate. Built at the onset of World War II, the homes were first used as housing for African-American war workers. Following the war, the homes were transformed into public housing and are one of the few remaining examples of early public housing in both Alexandria and the United States.
Although Alexandria is fortunate to have homes and structures that date to the founding of our country, buildings such as Ramsey Homes, which were built nearly 75 years ago, should not be considered any less historic.
ARHA’s contention that it is not financially viable to refurbish these buildings is based on organizational decisions and priorities, not feasibility. Ramsey rehabilitation could be paired easily with the development of another ARHA property, thereby allowing the development of an additional property on the condition that Ramsey be preserved and rehabilitated.
Private citizens would not be permitted to demolish historic structures due to financial constraints or their own opinions about the historical significance of a structure. If that were the case, much of Old Town could be quickly demolished for modern condominiums. Therefore, council should hold ARHA to the same standards and ensure the history of Ramsey Homes is protected and the buildings preserved.