To the editor:
Until recently, hundreds of cars have passed by the Towne Motel address, at 802-808 N. Washington St., each day without giving the location a second look. However, the address deserves a second look as things are rapidly changing. The familiar Towne Motel that has been around since the mid-1950s has been taken down. In its place will be a new, more modern facility, probably part of the Holiday Inn chain.
To make room for the new structure, not only was it necessary to demolish the Towne Motel, but an historic townhouse, the former McCauley House built in the early 1900s and connected to the former motel, had to be moved. To accomplish the move, Wolfe House and Building Movers Company, specialists in moving existing structures to new locations, were contracted to move the former McCauley House about 150 feet back toward Columbus Street.
Moving the historic structure was no easy task. The move began in November 2020. First, it was necessary to excavate around the perimeter of the structure to be moved. Next, thick steel beams had to be placed underneath the house. Additional support came from cross beams. Special attention was given to the perimeter of the house where shims and hydraulic jacks gave even more support ensuring the property would be level during the move.
Everything was now ready for the hydraulically driven dolly system to begin slowly moving the house to its new, but temporary location. By mid-December 2020, with many people watching, the move was complete.
As of this writing, the part of the property where the where the McCauley House was located is now vacant and ready for the additional excavation that would make room for the house’s foundation. Like the Robinson Terminal site, where excavators did yeoman’s work, passersby will notice that at the former Towne Motel site, several large John Deere excavators are busy at work accomplishing the digging task.
Once the foundation is laid, the process discussed above will be reversed and the house moved back to a newly laid foundation. According to those on the scene this part of the project should be completed by early spring 2021.
With the historic house back in place, construction of the new hotel can start. The final design of the new structure calls for it to be an integral part of the hotel. This will be made possible by a connection to the hotel’s ground floor, making the house accessible from the main lobby of the hotel. It is possible that guest rooms will occupy the upper floor of the historic house.
With the historic McCauley House as an integral part of the new hotel, it is worth saying a few words about the architecture of the house. As viewed from Madison Street, several features are apparent.
On the east end of the house there appears to be living space above the cornice of the house. This is accompanied by a sloping roof with dormer windows. These styles are characteristic of an architecture that dates back to the mid-19th century era. Other architectural styles that date back to that era can be found in the neighboring Parker-Gray Historic District.
This feature of the new hotel is an architectural connection to the neighborhood and is something the Holiday Inn management may wish to point out in any brochure that describes the new hotel.
-Dick Chait, Alexandria