Letter to the Editor: Silberberg stands for historic preservation

Robert E. Lee's childhood home at 607 Oronoco St.(Photo courtesy HRL Partners)

To the editor:

A vital quality we look for in the mayor of Alexandria is an abiding support for historic preservation in Old Town, a unique American historic district that invites tourists from all over the world to stroll past our 18th- and 19th-century homes. And tourism is a major component of our tax base.

When protection of Old Town was put to the test last year regarding a historic home at 319 Queen St., Mayor Allison Silberberg passed with flying colors. Her opponent in the June primary, Vice Mayor Justin Wilson, failed. A Fairfax County realtor had purchased the home to “modernize” and flip it. Her developer proposed extending this historic home 20 feet to the north, eight feet to the east, raise the roof two feet and add an elevator – thus destroying its historic integrity forever.

Queen and Royal Street neighbors, Historic Alexandria Foundation, and the Old Town Civic Association challenged the BAR’s approval of this partial demolition. We gathered the signatures of 75 homeowners and asked for a city council vote. Our case was solid and clear, but we could not overcome Wilson’s predisposition to side with the developer. Eventually, the Fairfax owner decided against this investment. One of our neighbors bought 319 Queen St. to restore — not demolish it — and move into. Silberberg stood up for preserving historic Old Town, and we stand up for her.

-Francois Duret, Michael Maibach,
Gebe Martinez, Joan Roland,