Postcards from the Past

Postcards from the Past: The Old Club Teahouse on Washington Street is Now Condos

ALEXANDRIA, VA – The card is postmarked 1956 and advertises the spot is midway between Mount Vernon and Washington, DC., that it seats 250, and is air conditioned. Do you remember?

The Old Club restaurant was located at 555 S. Washington St., and featured an afternoon teahouse and boasted fine dining served in an authentic colonial atmosphere.

The oldest part of the property of the two-story building with exterior end chimneys and a front portico supported by six square columns was originally built in the 1700s at Hunting Point, just south of Old Town, as a free-standing farm house known as “Broomlawn” or “Broomilaw.” It later became a gentlemen’s club, a private meeting place for political leaders such as George Washington and Virginia patriot George Mason. Around 1790, the original part of the clubhouse was moved to its current location on the corner of South Washington and Gibbon Streets in Old Town, onto a parcel which already contained a small brick structure reportedly used as an office for Washington’s Alexandria surveying business.

In the late 1700s to early 1800s the property transferred to the family of Thomas White, chief clerk for Robert E. Lee during the Civil War, and stayed in that family for more than 125 years, during which time it was expanded several times. In the 1940s, the building was converted to a restaurant. It went through a variety of identities as a dining establishment, the last being “The Old Club,” which closed in the 1980s. It remained vacant until 2004, when Linda St. Pierre, owner of Ryan-Corcoran, LLC, bought it to convert it to residences.

St. Pierre first became interested in the restaurant property because her yard abutted one of the vacant lots that was used for restaurant parking. She inquired about buying only that lot in order to expand her own yard, but the owner wanted the lot to remain with the building and so, she purchased the entire parcel.

“When I walked into the building it excited me because I could see the possibilities,” said St. Pierre in a 2013 interview with The Patch

Working with Alexandria architects, Dimond-Adams Design Architecture, St. Pierre worked hard not to let the exterior of the building change very much. One change was fencing around the property. “We found an old postcard of the building that showed there was a Kentucky white fence around it, so we did that,” St. Pierre said.

She also called upon the past for the property’s exterior walkways. “When we were excavating the front yard, we uncovered a lot of Tennessee slate from old patios that had been there,” St. Pierre said. “We gathered it up and used it for the walkways and porch floors.”

While changes to the exterior were understated, the interior of the building was gutted. St. Pierre soundproofed and insulated the building, then created four very different condominium units, ranging in size from 4,100 square feet to approximately 2,200 square feet.

When the four units hit the market in 2012 they were highly desired, and sold in excess of a million dollars each.

Mary Wadland

Mary Wadland is the Publisher and Editor in Chief of The Zebra Press, founded by her in 2010. Originally from Delray Beach, Florida, Mary is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Hollins College in Roanoke, VA and has lived and worked in the Alexandria publishing community since 1987.
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