Close to Home: No longer a fixer-upper

Close to Home: No longer a fixer-upper
The dining room to fit plenty of guests. (Photo/Caitlyn Meisner)

By Caitlyn Meisner |

Upon arrival, 13 Cedar St. may seem like a regular Alexandria home. The Rosemont dwelling has a red brick facade and beautiful greenery lining the front of the home and a lengthy wrap-around porch to fit almost every member of the family. 

But 13 Cedar St. is anything but the “normal” Alexandria home. Every home has its quirks and its stories that make it unique, and this one has more than most. 

The home was one of the first to built on the street in 1918 and has only had three families live there. Susan Tomai and Gerald Patterson – also known as Suzy and Gerry – have resided there since July 1995. 

“I always thought, ‘What could I do with that house if I could get my hands on it?’” Suzy said. “It was really run down. The windows were covered with ivy and the porch was decaying.” 

Suzy said she adored the nearly 2,800 square foot house from afar for quite some time, often taking their dog for walks down Cedar Street. At the time, the couple lived on Oak Street, where they had just recently finished their basement. 

“Then there was a ‘For Sale’ sign,” Suzy said. “I picked Gerry up from the airport [after a business trip], drove him by the house, and so we ended up buying it.” 

The location was convenient as both were working – Gerry for the federal government and Suzy as a broadcast producer – in the District of Columbia and the King Street Metro station was just blocks away. Then, as they had children, it was just a short walk to Matthew Maury Elementary, which is now Naimoi Brooks. 

She said they then brought over a friend to take a look at the house after they purchased it. His reaction: “Oh, God.” 

Suzy and Gerry said the house was more than a fixer-upper, which was what they loved about it. With no excessive damage to the home and plentiful opportunities, the couple knew they had snagged a great house. 

The front entrance is adorned with Rosemont charm: Beautiful hardwood floors that creak at each step with old-timey photographs and paintings to immediately show the home’s personality. Light from the outside pours in, reflecting off the glass table at the entrance. It holds three statues of birds, which Suzy subtly set as the theme to the home. 

“We call the house the ‘Bird House,’ because my nickname used to be SuzyBird,” Suzy said. “I have eight brothers and sisters, and I got a nickname. That’s how that happened.” 

Upon entering 13 Cedar St., three pathways beckon, each leading to another interesting space that reflects the couple’s life together. To the right, Suzy’s office – or the living room – is adorned with dozens of framed photographs of their two sons. A large, dark blue couch and three chairs make the room even more inviting. 

Straight ahead leads to the butler’s pantry, or what used to be the home’s main kitchen. Now, it serves as a landing place for the couple’s glassware and trinkets. 

Next is the dining room, painted a similar dark blue to match the living room couch. 

A long, mismatched eight-seater table sits in the middle of the room with a candelabra fireplace and glass chandelier. They’re unable to light the fireplace due to the elderly home’s setup. 

The second pathway leads to the kitchen, which was custom-built in 2010 to accommodate the family’s needs. Suzy said, coming from a big family, she knew exactly what she wanted. And as chronic hosters of dozens of parties, it was essential the kitchen could fit any number of guests. 

“I wanted the six burners, I knew I wanted a workspace – chopping, dicing, putting it right into the trash,” Suzy said. 

With that in mind, Suzy picked a table that was able to withstand the wear-and-tear of not only guests, but their two sons. 

“I wanted my house to be the place where my children’s friends would always come to after school,” she said. “I didn’t want a table that I’d say, ‘Don’t put that there.’ The only person who’s ever damaged it was me.” 

Under the six burners, they have a large oven and a smaller one just adjacent. Then a microwave, which Gerry said they only use to warm up their coffee or Chinese food. Off to the side is where the couple built a cleaning station for their dishes. In addition to the dishwasher, there is a separate sink and countertop. 

Right off the kitchen is the backyard. The couple said it was important for the transition from indoors to outside to be continuous, which is why they installed large windows and painted the kitchen ceiling a natural color. Suzy’s favorite spot is the sunroom, but Gerry adores the small fire pit surrounded by Adirondack chairs. Beyond the gathering space is a spacious planter – built with bricks from the original space – that hosts dozens of herbs and flowers. 

Gerry said he utilized the outdoor space as a way to connect with his friends during the COVID-19 pandemic and would invite neighbors over for socially distanced gatherings. 

The entryway to the couple’s expansive home. (Photo/Caitlyn Meisner)

The third avenue off the entryway leads to the upstairs portion of the home, which holds two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The main bedroom is attached to the larger bathroom, which has a his-and-hers sink in the middle with a shower, large floor-to-ceiling cabinets and a vanity. 

The balcony atop the second story holds plentiful seating for cooler days – as it often gets too warm during the summer months – that has a direct view of the George Washington Masonic Temple and their quaint backyard. 

Suzy and Gerry agreed their favorite part of the home is the front porch. With almost a dozen places to sit on the expansive porch, it’s a neighborhood gathering place – especially since Suzy decorates the ceiling of the porch for every holiday with everything from red hearts to shamrocks. 

Gerry said since retiring eight years ago, he and his dog love to sit on the porch in the morning and watch dogs, children and neighbors go by. He said he is thankful the city and neighborhood is so dog friendly. 

The massive pillars that support the porch from front to back are a statement piece. The couple said, as with the rest of the house, they had to restore the beautiful pillars. 

“These porches make a difference,” Gerry said. 

The couple said after 30 years, they still love the Rosemont neighborhood. Despite their long tenure on Cedar Street, one of Rosemont’s oldest, they are not the historic road’s residents of longest standing. In fact, they said there are denizens who have been there decades longer.

The couple often host parties and recently hosted a murder mystery-themed event. (Photo/Gerald Patterson)

“[We’re just] middle of the road … of how long people have lived here,” laughed Gerry. “People come and they don’t move. We didn’t really know that we wanted to stay here forever.” 

Yet they have.