Named one of the South’s Prettiest Cities by Southern Living, Alexandria, Virginia, invites HGTV-lovers and architecture buffs alike to roam among the city’s rich collection of historic houses and imagine themselves in another century. In Old Town Alexandria, a nationally designated historic district founded in 1749 and minutes from D.C., spend an afternoon strolling one square mile of historic streetscapes and revel in the range of design styles, from Federal to Victorian. Then, journey off the beaten path to one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Mid-century modern gems. Keep reading for some of Alexandria’s most inspiring architecture spots.
1. Captain’s Row
Located at the 100 block of Prince Street, past and present intersect on Captain’s Row, Alexandria’s most picturesque cobblestone block. Here, Federal-style row houses are adorned with colorful doors and flickering gas lamps, and wanderers stroll the brick-lined sidewalks as cars rumble atop the uneven 18th-century surface. Named after Captain John Harper, who built many of the homes, Captain’s Row is a favorite site for photo shoots in all seasons, especially in the spring and fall when the leafy trees fan out into a green and golden-hued canopy.
2. Spite House
Once you’ve visited Alexandria’s famous cobblestone street, head to its most iconic—and tiniest—home. A private residence located at 523 Queen Street, Spite House is the skinniest historic house in America at a mere 7 feet wide and 325 square feet. The house earned its name in 1830 when an irked John Hollensbury built it to keep horse-drawn wagons and loiterers out of his alley. The New York Times offers a peek at the house’s interior. After taking in this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it blue home, set out to find Alexandria’s other hidden spite houses.
3. Queen Street
Not far from Spite House, the 400 block of Queen Street is a beloved stretch of charming clapboard Colonial homes that have stood the test of time to become an enduring and endearing slice of history. For many, the homes’ colorful combinations and fluttering American flags epitomize Old Town’s visual charm. Mosey along Queen Street to find more abodes of distinct architectural eras rubbing elbows.
4. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House
Hop ahead a century or so to Frank Lloyd Wright’s stunning Pope-Leighey House, located 10 miles south of Old Town. Built in 1940 as part of Wright’s Usonian series intended for the middle class, the L-shaped, angular abode was commissioned by a Falls Church journalist, Loren Pope, who courted the famed architect to blueprint his dream home. The Mid-century modern home blends simplicity with intricacy, from a modest kitchen to complex window silhouettes yielding intricate shapes of sunlight. Immerse yourself in Wright’s design during tours offered Friday through Monday.
Image credits, left to right: Misha Enriquez for Visit Alexandria and Paul Burk for the National Trust for Historic Preservation
5. Alexandria’s Painted Ladies
For a bit of hidden West Coast flare, head to the 500 block of S. Fairfax Street and revel in Alexandria’s rendition of San Francisco’s famed “painted ladies.” These fanciful ladies range from tangerine to turquoise, with steep gables and ornate accents adorning their windows. Take in the full panorama from across the street and enjoy the whimsical, Victorian-esque aesthetic.
6. Carlyle House
Just off bustling King Street, step through the gates of Carlyle House. Scotland-native John Carlyle was a city founder and merchant whose restored manse models Georgian architecture in the Palladian style. Built between 1751 and 1753 for his new bride, Sarah Fairfax of Belvoir, Carlyle’s home echoed the imposing stone homes of the Scottish Lowlands. Behind the sandstone facade, you’ll find bright colors and bold patterns among rooms that hosted historical figures including George Washington and General Braddock. Step outside to enjoy the peaceful back garden, then dig deeper into the history through guided tours, exhibits and events.
Image credits, left to right: Kristian Summerer for Visit Alexandria and Daisy Saulls
More historic homes and architectural experiences await in Alexandria, where there’s always more to explore.