Some call me inhospitable

Or, maybe that is what the doctor whom I almost tossed off my front porch thought.

It started out as a pleasant day.  Lazy Saturday…sitting around the house.  I heard a knock on the front door and went to answer it.  Standing on my front porch, well dressed, was a man in his late 30s.  I took it in and thought, hmmm….this man is somebody, or THINKS he is somebody.  The first thing he said was “You may think I am crazy for knocking on your door, but do you want to sell your house”.  Immediately, I am intrigued.  This man appeared to be well dressed and his demeanor spoke of money….lots of money.  Even though I love my house, in the interest of historic preservation and if it would get “fixed up” quicker, I entertained the thought of selling it.  I was processing the thought and heard myself reply “We can talk about it”.  At that time, my husband moved out on the porch and my dogs went berserk.  Not a good sign.  So, I hushed my dogs and put them in their kennel and came back.  The man was gone.  I looked accusingly at my husband for an answer.  I was wondering what he said to the man that caused him leave.

My husband chuckled at the questions in my eyes and said only four words “He’s friends with Ratcliff“.  Immediately it dawned on me.  This dude wanted to buy my house, hack it up into pieces, and move it to a “good” neighborhood.  I became incensed and threw open the door to give him a piece of my mind and what I thought about people like him.  He was gone.  Darn.  Poor man.  He had no idea that being friends with you know who was a con as far as we are concerned.  He would have done better keeping that name to himself. 

My husband told him very kindly (he is the nice one) that he should not say that name so loud, that his wife (me) might overhear.  He warned him about my feelings on the matter and told him that we prefer to advocate for historic neighborhoods rather than to tear out the good pieces in them which leaves empty lots and only memories.  Pulling up a large house in this area would be like pulling out your front tooth.  He also informed him that we advocate for neighborhood revitalization, better preservation laws, better oversight from the Housing Authority, better code enforcement, landlords paying attention to their properties, pride of ownership, etc.  That what he proposed to do was not the answer.

So, I guess I am glad that I had to return inside the house.  Otherwise, they might have had a write up in the paper about some crazy blonde woman chasing a man down Monroe Street with a crowbar…..  🙂  Well, maybe not that drastic.  But, you get my point.


New-Old picture of my house

I just received this.  When I get more details, I will edit this post.  This is a picture of my house sometime in the early 1900’s.  Note the horse and buggy parked out front.  I am soooo thrilled to have this picture!  The turret (the cone) is long  gone and I have had an architect draw up some plans to restore it.  This picture is better than the other one I have.  I hear rumors that there are several pictures in existence, just tracking down who has them has been the hard thing.

Here is the only other picture I have of this house:  Click Here.

Same Drum, Different Beats

Like the crazed madwoman I am, last night I decided to have a garage sale this morning. So, I got up at 6:30, tossed everything outside on the tables, put out my signs and waited on customers.  I love to people watch.  If I could go back to school for leisure, I would study the human brain, psychology, sociology and why we do what we do.  I find it interesting that you can present a problem to two people and they would come up with completely diverse solutions to that same problem.

Before I start, I would like to say, like I have before, that I am white.  If you want to be technical about it, right now I am actually red (from the sun) and purple (bruises received from setting up tables).   You are probably wondering why in the world I am making this absurd declaration.  Read further and you will understand.  I live in a melting pot of a neighborhood.  There are a lot of African-American people, a few Asian and a few white.  Today, at my garage sale, I met a man who was well dressed, well spoken, classy and very polite.  He invited me to the Shriner’s parade and told me all that was going on.  Recently, I read that donations for the Shriner’s hospitals have been dwindling, so I perked up when he was speaking and told him what a great cause he supported and I wished him well.

I also met several ladies who were polite, considerate, thoughtful and conversational.  Some of them even invited me to church.  If I had not already had a church I attended, I might have been compelled to accept their invitation.  All of them were African-American.

Some had causes, some had families, some had churches….all of them were the wonderful diverse people I call neighbor.  I find it interesting that most of the people I refer to above who had beautiful manners and whom invited me to Shriner’s events were not your typical average joe white person.  Nope, they were ALL African-American.  To all the backwards racist people who live in Alexandria, I would like you to meet these people.  These are the faces of the African-American community.  They are not drug dealers, they are not con artists, they are not out to eat you for dinner.  These wonderful people march to the same drum of life, as do all of us, just with a different beat.  I find it a sad injustice to lump a whole race into a negative category, based on a few bad apples.

Incidentally, I find it nonsensical when reading the recent story the Town Talk did about the car vandalism wherein persons of low intelligence are commenting and using racial slurs and putting all the blame on a certain ethnicity in Alexandria.  Rubbish!  The persons behind all of the vandalism in Tennyson Oaks and West Point is probably some Momma’s precious little baby who is bored, spoiled rotten and thinks that daddy’s pockets are deep enough to take care of his little messes.  

I am so tired of racial profiling and all of the ignorant stuff I hear out of Alexandrian’s mouths.  It is time to grow up and stop using daddy’s opinion and get your own educated opinion from firsthand experience!  Further, I find it interesting that people have a whole lot to say about things they know nothing about.  The people who criticize me for living here go on and on about the crime…have never lived here.  What crime?  My car was not vandalized.  My house has never been broken into.  So, does that mean that all the people in Tennyson Oaks need to move because of the crime that happened there?  Crime is not a respecter of persons or race, nor is it a predisposition of one race over another.  Nor does it only happen in poor areas of town and skip over the well-to-do areas of town.  I just find it absolutely ridiculous the things people say to me.  I don’t know if it is steeped in ignorance, stupidity or if some people just lack tact.  Might be a combination of all.  

I find it so funny when the insurance inspector recently visited my house, his reaction, which was not completely different from other tradesmen and other people who visit, was to inform me of how bad an area I live in and how bad the crime is…blah blah blah.  What does he expect me to do?  Thank him profusely?  Sometimes when people start in on their speeches, you know — to “save” me, I want so bad to emphatically shake their hand and pat them on the back and say “Thank you so much for telling me that!  You know, I have lived here for three years now, but I needed YOU to tell me how bad it is here…you know what, I am going to go pack my bags now and move…thank you so much for your kindness and for telling me about my neighborhood.  Gosh, I just didn’t know!”   How absurd.  They don’t even live here!  It is just as annoying as people who don’t have kids who think it is their job to dole out parenting tips….oxymoron anyone?  I respect my neighbors for the different people that they are and respect that they have a different beat to play on their drum than I.  Their beat might not always make sense to me, but who am I to judge what is good or what is bad, what is right or what is wrong?  It is just different.

Anyway, off my soapbox and in to bed! 


Alexandria’s West End

My family and I have lived in our Monroe Street home for two years now.  During this time I have listened, learned, met with neighbors and tried to figure out exactly what it is I could do that would help make my neighborhood better.  I looked at other’s failed plans and, although they were good, they all seemed to lack the “How to get it done” part.  It seems like everyone was waiting on someone else or, maybe the city, to wave a magic wand over this blighted area and it magically reincarnate into a beautiful thriving community.  Unfortunately, this has not happened yet.  I am sure if it were within their power to do so, Mayor Roy or other city leaders would have waved a magic wand in a heartbeat.  However, I do not believe “Wizardry 101” was a required course during their years of college education. 🙂

So, that left me puzzled and full of questions.  I am not arrogant enough to think that I can conquer where others have failed…but why did they fail?  Part of the conclusion I have drawn is: I believe that many people complain but don’t ever offer a solution or offer any personal involvement to tackle the issue.  Many people complain about nothing getting done, but when someone stands up to do something, they attack them too.  That leads me to conclude that certain people just like to complain and it doesn’t matter what the issue is, they’ll never be happy!  There is a certain lady (she no longer lives here) who was also very passionate about a variety of issues.  But, when she approached city leaders and the council, she told them: “You are of no use, you have never helped us and you never will.”  Well then, she had already help defeat her own argument.  This reminds me of a joke, it goes something like this:

There was a man who ran out of gas and broke down on the side of the road in a rural area.  He knew there was a gas station close by, but he didn’t quite make it.  He got out of his car and looked around to see if there was a house nearby so he could borrow a gas can.  Through the woods he could make out the glow of a porch light.  So he started walking towards the house.  He said to himself: “Hmm, what if they’re not home.  I bet they are all sleeping.  They will probably be really mad at me for waking them up in the middle of the night.  I bet they are going to be mad.  All I need is a gas can.”  He kept walking and as he got closer he kept getting more and more nervous and upset. “Yup, they probably will tell me to go away.  I bet they won’t even have a gas can and if they did, they probably won’t let me use it.”  So, he got to the house and knocked on the door and when the door opened the man shouted “KEEP YOUR OLD GAS CAN, I DIDN’T NEED IT ANYWAY!” and stormed off.

The man in this story borrowed trouble and defeated himself before he could even get out the gate.  Since living on Monroe Street, several people have told me “the city won’t do this, the city won’t do that” so I decided to give their theory a try.  When I saw a code enforcement violation, I called code enforcement.  Surprisingly, code enforcement (most of the time) took care of it.  When I see a street light out, I call or send an email to First Call, the utilities division comes right out and fixes the lamps.  I have reported fighting in the street, the police department promptly shows up and takes care of it.  So far, I have proved all of the “that will never happen” folks wrong.  It seems they defeated themselves in their minds and therefore gave up altogether.

As I told many city leaders and volunteer groups, I stand at the forefront to volunteer my time to do whatever is necessary to make Alexandria’s West End Neighborhoods a better, safer and nice place to live.


Majority Attitude (Bye bye 2401 Monroe Street)

It is so easy to go with the flow and believe what the majority tells you and wants you to believe.  I get so sick and tired of people telling me that revitalization, preservation, etc. is a wasted effort and that it will never happen.  In fact, I have started a list (see my page named: Naysayers) of persons who have told me that my preservation efforts are not worth it and revitalization will never happen in my neighborhood.  Why do that, you ask? Because when it does happen, I am going to remember each and every one of them.  I will find them all (even if they are 100 years old and hobbly) and give them a front row seat to the revitalization and beautification of this charming neighborhood that WILL HAPPEN.

About two weeks ago, I ran into a man who introduced himself to me.  His name was Rob Ratcliff.  He told me that he was going to move a late 1800s Queen Anne Victorian from its original location (down the street from me) to the outskirts of town.  I also own a Queen Anne and his house is similar to mine.  Not only was I shocked, but immediately appalled.  The house of which he spoke was in beautiful condition, well kept and it anchored the spot it was in.  There are only maybe a handful of Queen Anne Victorian’s left in this area and his was one of four that are still in great condition.  If this siginificant house was moved, it would only create a big, empty lot (like a missing tooth) which would attract trash, loitering, drugs, whatever….  To preface this, I live in a part of town that is poised for urban revitalization.  Many people, such as myself, are looking for an older house with charm, close to conveniences, and a mortgage that doesn’t cost a fortune.  I can’t say that my neighborhood is the worst, but it is definitely not the best in the city (right now, that is).  It is not a cookie cutter, poorly planned, urban sprawl neighborhood.  It is an older neighborhood with beautiful architecture and bungalows buried under 20-30 years of absentee landlords, poor preservation ordinances and elderly people who do not have the funds to keep them up.  Several people, such as myself have invested in this neighborhood by buying homes and we are all in the process of fixing our homes up and, in my case, buying a house or two around me, fixing them up and putting them back on the market.  I have a vested interest in seeing this beautiful old neighborhood shine like it once did. 

Anyway, several residents and I got to together and wrote this man a letter pleading with him to leave the house exactly where it is.  This is how our letter went:

“We, the concerned residents of the Garden District area and more particularly the Monroe Street area, understand that you have purchased a property on 2401 Monroe Street and have plans to move it from its original site.

Sir, we are writing this letter to implore you to not move this important piece of Alexandria’s history from its foundation. Moving our beautiful historic homes from their original location not only detracts from the area, but causes further blight. What is to be done with the empty lot?

It is our position that to move this house would only cause more harm and further blight Monroe Street. We wish to improve our neighborhood, not take away from it. Please reconsider moving this vital piece of Monroe Street’s history from its original site.

Borrowing the words of Mr. William Morris:

“…these old buildings do not belong to us only; they have belonged to our forefathers, and they will belong to our descendants unless we play them false. They are not in any sense our property, to do as we like with. We are only trustees for those that come after us.”

~William Morris

Please help preserve what is left of our historic buildings and reconsider your decision to move this beautiful example of a nineteenth century Queen Anne outside of the city limits and from its place of origin. Revitalization and rehabilitation is coming to our older neighborhoods and we are inviting you to be a part of it by leaving this excellent house right where it is.


Yours very truly,

Garden District and Monroe Street Residents”

Shortly after drafting this letter and as we were circulating it for signature, I found out that this man had cut the house in three pieces and was in the process of removing the roof and readying it to be moved.  I quickly delivered the letter to Mr. Ratcliff.  I was heartsick that our letter arrived too late and would probably be ineffective in changing his mind now that he has gone so far.  But, I was compelled to send it anyway, just so he would know how we felt. 

Mr. Ratcliff called me and was very upset that I wrote this letter and copied it to the city administration and the local paper.  I was very polite to him and told him that I have the right of free speech and they have a right to know what is going on.  He was upset because he did not want me to cause any “trouble” for him now that he had invested a lot of money in this project.  I asked him a simple question: Why are you doing this?  This does not help the neighborhood, it causes further blight and harm.  His response was that he was “saving” this house from the area.  I snorted and told him I completely disagree.  He said: That neighborhood will never experience revitalization, it will never happen there.  I told him: Sir, if everyone continued to say that, it never will.  But, someone needs to stand up and say ‘enough is enough’.  I am saying ENOUGH!

I feel that Mr. Ratcliff had a very “thin” excuse for what he did.

To make this story better (or should I say worse!), this man is a Commissioner for the Alexandria Historic Preservation Commission.  He is entrusted with protecting and preserving the buildings we have left in Alexandria.  We have very few of our 19th century historic buildings still standing due to a “tear it down” mentality from previous city administrations.  The Garden District residents were appalled that this man was committing an act contrary to what his title implies.  He is supposed to be saving buildings and bettering neighborhoods, not further blighting them.  After thinking about it, we (The Garden District/Alexandria Residents) got together again and formulated a letter asking him to resign his position. 

This is how that letter went (We addressed it to the Historic Preservation Commission, the Mayor and our area Councilman”:

“Dear Ms. Anderson, Mayor Roy and Mr. Marshall:

As you may now be aware, Mr. Robert Ratcliff has been successful in cutting a late 1800s Queen Anne Victorian into three pieces and is in the process of moving it off of its lot at 2401 Monroe Street. There are less than a handful of these properties left within the city limits. We have written a letter to Mr. Ratcliff requesting that he reconsider, but at the time our letter was delivered, he had already accomplished the feat of cutting the house and was in the process of readying it for its move.

Gentlepersons, this letter stems from much shock and outrage that a man who is entrusted with the duty of advocating for, protecting and preserving Alexandria’s historic buildings and neighborhoods, has perpetrated an act counter to what his title implies. As a Commissioner of the Historic Preservation Commission for the City of Alexandria, Mr. Robert Ratcliff’s actions do not embody the creed of that Commission. The Historic Preservation Commission’s sole purpose is working to preserve our historic buildings, not cut them up and move them. By moving this house Mr. Ratcliff will aid in causing more harm and further blight on Monroe Street. The empty lot that is left will only attract garbage, loitering, drugs, etc. We, the residents of the Garden District, wish to improve our neighborhood, not devastate it further. We are saddened that Mr. Ratcliff has chosen to remove this historic building from where it has successfully reigned for over 100 years.

Borrowing from my letter to Mr. Ratcliff are the words of Mr. William Morris:

“…these old buildings do not belong to us only; they have belonged to our forefathers, and they will belong to our descendants unless we play them false. They are not in any sense our property, to do as we like with. We are only trustees for those that come after us.”

~William Morris


By copy of this letter to Mr. Ratcliff, we are calling upon him to resign due to the conflict of interest he has shown in his actions of failing to protect the historic buildings that he has been commissioned to protect. We do not feel that a person who has committed such an act should be entrusted with the future of our city’s historic buildings.



Residents of the City of Alexandria”

I don’t know if he will consider resigning.  But, I have lost all faith in him as a “preservation” commissioner. 

To the beautiful Queen Anne: Good bye dear lady, we will miss you from your spot at 2401 Monroe Street.  You were a shining star in this neighborhood and we will rue your removal.  I wish we could have saved you sooner.  As you are torn into several pieces, gutted and disfigured, please forgive us for not acting sooner.