ALEXANDRIA, VA–On Thursday, April 14, the Ivy Hill Cemetery revealed the new renovations to the 166 year old house on the property.
In 1837, a family cemetery was started on 22 acres of the 66 acre farm. When owner Charles Smith died, he had arranged for a group of Alexandria business men to buy the 22 acres, which received a charter as a community cemetery in 1856. The house on the property was used as the caretaker’s home.
Nearing two centuries later, the house was in need of some care itself. Rafters were missing in the attic, causing the roof to sag; water was rushing underneath the foundation; new electrical, plumbing, and HVAC were all required; and it is no surprise that a house built in the mid-nineteenth century was not ADA compliant.
In 2017, Lucy Goddin, who has family buried in the cemetery herself, took over as the General Manager of the property. Dreams to renovate had been discussed amongst staff for years, so when Goddin joined the team in her new capacity, she decided it was time to make those dreams reality.
“When I came in, [the house] was old and cluttered; masses of wires and piles of files lay around; nothing had ever been thrown away. After working out of it in that state for a couple years, we said it’s time,” explains Goddin.
In 2020, the team began designing, and set up a Capital Improvements campaign and reached out to their wonderful donors to help make this design possible.
After plans and funds were solidified, Old Dominion Renovators got to work on renovations in 2021. From roof to foundation to everything in between, the house underwent a dramatic overhaul in just one year.
“They added rafters in the attic where some were missing, rebuilt the foundation, repointed the exterior brick, uncovered the fire place, redid the floors with solid pine, expanded the porch, and put in a chair lift and grab rails for ADA compliance,” details Goddin. Some elements of the house were even free of charge. “My husband built the fireplace mantle, all the antique furniture came out of our family home, and the windows in the downstairs main room are original to the house.”
Despite the necessity to upgrade the building’s bones for safety and longevity, the original character of the house remains intact. The exposed brick, closed floor plan, mullioned windows, and antique furniture are all in keeping with that original 1800s character, while the new rafters, foundation, pine floors, and ADA features will ensure those features last for centuries more.
“This is just the biggest accomplishment we could do here,” Goddin concludes.
In the coming years, the house will offer families a warm place to gather after funeral services, as well as serve as a place to host events, like the recent open house and the annual Haunted House. Once the cemetery exceeds its burial space, the property will still stand as a landmark of natural beauty and history in Alexandria. An endowment fund stands to ensure the preservation of all the property in the continuing years.
Scroll down for further images. (All Grace Billups Arnold)