ARB likes Mt. Prospect redo, Kramer Building signage

Though it issued none of its coveted certificates of appropriateness Tuesday night (Aug. 19), Washington’s Architectural Review Board (ARB) liked most everything brought before it at its latest monthly meeting at town hall — including what will be an extensive and likely seven-figure renovation of the 19th-century Mount Prospect estate at the town’s southernmost border.

The 41-acre property sold in March for $2.3 million.

Madison Spencer and Richard Arentz, respectively the project’s architect and landscape architect, told ARB chair Ernesto Flores and members Beverly Sullivan and Susan Stoltzman they were not yet ready to submit building plans on behalf of owners Charles and Deanna Akre. But, as they did last month for an information-only presentation, Spencer and Arentz arrived with 18 pages of the latest plans and elevations to, as Spencer put it, “be sure that conceptually, we are on the right track.”

Judged by ARB members’ comments, they are. “Spectacular” was Flores’ word for Spencer’s historically sensitive renovation and Arentz’s landscape plan, which includes re-routing the driveway to curve past an enlarged pond near Main Street with new native plantings, and which will use existing trees and subtle plantings to retain the house’s stately but smallish impression when viewed from the street (which is about 100 yards away).

Spencer asked for, and received, the ARB’s blessing to pursue “investigatory demolition” — primarily of the back two-thirds of the house, a 20th-century, siding-clad addition to the original two-story brick main house, which dates to the 1870s. Though he said the plans are not yet finalized, his drawings show a new, similarly 19th-century-like two-story addition to the back of the house, where the west-facing view is dominated by the Blue Ridge — with two-story “pavilions” on the north and south sides of the main house, each connected by an arcade.

The board approved the request to begin demolition, with Flores saying the ARB looks forward to the next presentation as the plans become more concrete. “To be honest with you, I have to give you the opinion of the board, and that is what’s in the books,” Flores said. “But yes, there is a degree of interpretation here — this house, first of all, is not sitting right on Main Street.”

At the start of its meeting, the board heard Kramer Building owner Ken Thompson’s request to put signs on the front of his building — one each for Tula’s Bar and Restaurant and his second-floor Rapp Office telecommuting center, on existing panels above the first-floor windows that face Gay Street.

Stoltzman and Flores asked Thompson if he was planning to keep the small hanging “Tula’s Off Main” sign at the Main Street entrance to the building’s parking lot, suggesting that it could be  “redundant.” Thompson said it was mostly meant to attract those driving (or walking) along Main Street, from which there’s no indication that there might be a restaurant nearby.

Stoltzman suggested Thompson keep the hanging sign but change it to say Tula’s Bar and Restaurant, citing the frequent Inn at Little Washington customers walking about town who have asked her or her husband “if there’s someplace nearby where we could get a glass of wine.” Sullivan agreed.

Thompson — who eventually promised to return to the ARB next month when the actual designs of the signs will be completed, now that the board had accepted their size and location — said he would consider adding “Bar and Restaurant” to the hanging sign on Main Street.

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Roger Piantadosi
About Roger Piantadosi 538 Articles
Former Rappahannock News editor Roger Piantadosi is a writer and works on web and video projects for Rappahannock Media and his own Synergist Media company. Before joining the News in 2009, he was a staff writer, editor and web developer at The Washington Post for almost 30 years.