The Twig hosts 81st Alexandria Homes Tour

The Twig hosts 81st Alexandria Homes Tour
Hundreds of locals toured the five homes open for display Sunday. Photo/Kaitlin Murphy

By Kaitlin Murphy | 

The Twig hosted the 81st Historic Alexandria Homes Tour in Old Town on Sunday. While originally scheduled for Saturday, the event was postponed out of caution of the approaching tropical storm. Five historic homes were open for self-tours. About 715 guests attended, according to The Twig. 

The Twig was chartered in 1933 in support of Alexandria Hospital. Now, the organization still helps the hospital in addition to operating a thrift store in Old Town. It has hosted the Homes Tour each year since 1997, though the Tour actually dates to 1941, when it was hosted by the Hospital’s Senior Auxiliary to raise money for the hospital, according to Twig’s website. 

Highlights of the tour included original architecture, “vintage meets color professional designs,” Federal Style with a modern twist, a refurbished nursing school and the home of a previous Alexandrian mayor. Below is a glimpse of three of the homes that were on the tour. 

A traditional Flounder home 

The tour began with a quintessential Alexandrian architectural style, a Flounder house. This home remains true to its 1798 original structure. It is identified by a single slope roof or a shed roof. In homes that are oriented with the short side facing the street, there is little space for windows and doors. Set back from the road behind a large brick courtyard, this home measures only 20 feet wide and climbs up three levels. According to a docent, the flounder design was used as a quickly built, temporary home allowing time for the homeowner to decide what they wanted to build later and avoid the glass tax. 

The current homeowner is an artist and the daughter of a painter, so the walls are decorated with both of their works. Modern appliances have been creatively arranged in the kitchen to fit the space which might have been the side ally at one point. 

A wooden staircase and railing – believed to be original to the home – winds up to the top floor. The ceiling slopes down on one side almost to waist height where two small windows open up for ventilation and the view. Baskets from Bunny Mellon’s collection hang high above the bed on a peg board showcasing the tall wall on the opposite side. There is a change in light while ascending from the dark ground floor with one bay window to the bright space on the top floor. 

Home fit for a politician 

The Ticer House – with a name plaque on the exterior – began as a 1700s Flounder house. The original foundation is still intact. Over time, the house was expanded from its small footprint into the townhome it is today. Patsy Ticer, who served as Alexandria’s mayor and as a Virginia State Senator before her death in August 2017, saw the potential of this home when she purchased it in the 1960s. The space was modernized for comfort without compromising the historical details. 

The living room opens to the dining area sharing a 10- foot ceiling allowing space to entertain. Furnishings give a nod to the era of the home and the clock in the living room is from the 1770s. Walking back, a step up reveals the exact footprint of the initial structure of the flounder house. The current homeowner was on site and showed the spots where the original fireplace and ladder or staircase would have been placed. The recently remodeled kitchen adds function to form and this space opens to the more modern 1970s family room. 

Family heirloom 

The Patton-Fowle House was built in the early 1800s and stayed in the hands of the Fowle family for 158 years. It was recently purchased and renovated in 2021. This is a classic example of Federal style architecture; due to the historic nature of the home, the foyer and staircase have an interior easement preventing a future change in style. 

The current homeowners have been able to put their personal touches on the home in other ways. The large formal dining room boasts silk-painted wallpaper and highlights one of the eight working fireplaces in the home. The salon across the way centers on a custom serpentine couch in a 1950s design. Above, a custom chandelier with a ginkgo leaf design floats on top of three-dimensional wallpaper on the ceiling. Two art deco chairs flank another fireplace and the hues of the room are saturated with creams and blush. 

A large and newly refreshed kitchen flows into an eating area with custom-printed marbleized wallpaper matching the walls to the ceiling. An edgy lounge off of the kitchen can be closed off with darkening shades and thick velvet curtains to allow the family to enjoy movies in a theater-like setting. The family made a comfortable space that suits their personality while making a modern home in a classic landmark. The juxtaposition of the interior of the home with the traditional Federal exterior was a surprise to the visitors.