I'm sure we've all heard the old real estate adage that "The three most important factors in determining the desirability of a home are location, location, location." And when you combine a home in a desireable location with one that has water views, you truly have something special.

Old Town's existence as a port town and its stone's throw proximity to the Potomac make it a destination where frequently home buyers are searching for "river views." However, since the majority of the land closest to the river was occupied by abandoned factories and shipping warehouses in the mid 20th century, most of the homes with river views were built in the 1990's - 2000's after the 20th century steel box buildings were torn down. The end result are over 100 residences with river views, but very few of these are historic homes with views of the Potomac.

The home we toured this weekend happens to be one of the lucky few historic homes with river views from the front of the home. The home sits atop a slight hill across from the Lee Street park, in a block that can boast river views unobstructed by other buildings. Here, a row of historic homes was built by ship captains and ship owners from the late 1700's to the early 1800's to ensure they would have a clear view of the waterway and their prized possessions. Today the result is a stunning view of a public park and the waterfront. 

The home was built around 1800 and sits slightly recessed from the homes on either side of it. This provides the house with a charming picket fence and a small front yard (which is quite large by Old Town standards). It is a solidly constructed brick home and is officially listed as two bedrooms and three bathrooms. I say officially because it could really be considered four bedrooms if arranged properly.

Beyond the entry way, the home's first floor has a living room with fireplace, built ins, and a lot of light.

There is also a dining room as the second room of the home, a sitting room with a full bathroom attached at the back of the first floor, and a well appointed kitchen with commercial style gas range, farmhouse sink, slate floor, honed granite counters, and irregular subway tile backsplash.

Climbing the stairs in the center of the home, you enter the second floor to more natural light. The number of windows in this home, coupled with the lack of homes across the street, lets the sunlight easily flow through the house. 

The master bedroom is at the front of the home, and its windows perfectly frame the views of the Potomac.  

Imagine waking up every morning to this gorgeous view.

I realize there is a lot between the house and the water, and it isn't sitting right on the banks of the Potomac, but this is pretty much as good as it gets for river views when you want a house build prior to 1950.

Next to the master bathroom, there is an en suite bathroom that was tastefully renovated roughly 15-20 years ago. 

Unfortunately, I'm not entirely sure how one might shower in there. There is no curtain or shower head, so you would need to shower in the other bathroom on the floor. But this bathroom does have the most unique decorative element of the home, the light fixture above the toilet.

Attached to this bathroom is a rather large sitting room.

This sitting room is one of the rooms I believe could be used as another bedroom. I guess they are including it at part of the master bedroom since it is attached to the master bath? 

If this were our house, we would probably take out the wall between the bathroom and the sitting room, open up the master bedroom by taking out the closet that is situated behind the photo above, and reconfigure the large bathroom open space to be a more usable master bathroom (with shower) and a walk in closet. The plumbing is already in place for a fairly straight forward transition. This would give you a larger and more useful master suite.

At the back of the second floor is the second official bedroom. Part of an addition, this room has high vaulted ceilings, a fireplace, and built-in bookshelves.

The room is oddly staged with an over sized bed at the moment, but the comfort of the room would make it a perfect place to relax in front of a fire.

There is also a rather tight full bathroom just off of this back bedroom. Alex was standing in the shower when he took this photo.

This home also has a third floor that you access through a very cool little stairway.

Once you reach the top, you are surrounded by unpainted wood paneling throughout.

Once again, the best thing that the third floor has going for it are its two dormers and the views of the Potomac. (And boy, this third floor sure beats the one in the horrible flip we blogged about previously.)

Looking out of the side window from the third floor, you can get a sense of what many of the 3rd floor views in Old Town are like. Views of neighbors roof lines are far more common that views of the Potomac.

As I'm writing this entry, I'm realizing just how much our photos (and lack of a wide angle lens) really don't do this home any justice. While it is online, take a look at the home's virtual tour to get a real sense of the rooms and their space and layout. You can also see some of the items we weren't able to effectively photograph.

All in all, the home itself has great potential. The rooms are fairly spacious, the back yard/patio area is actually quite large and nicely kept, and there are options to make better use of the space for more sleeping areas. With a fair amount of renovation, a bit of reconfiguring, and some attention to period details, you've got a great home on your hands with all of the comforts you could hope for in Old Town. But the main thing this house has going for it is its location and plethora of river views.

The house has been on the market for several months, and the price of the home has fallen approximately 30% since it was initially listed. Alex and I are actually quite surprised that it hasn't sold yet given how infrequently houses in this block come on the market. Initially, it was listed a bit higher than it should have been, but the current price is just about right.

Now for our game of...

Would You Trade?

This game is when we throw reason to the wind and imagine that if we wanted to, regardless of price, we could trade our home for the open house, straight up.

Wendy: Although the house doesn't have parking or a first floor family room, the potential within the house and the views of the river are enough to convince me. The house does have a more quirky floor plan than our current house, so we would definitely need to both reconfigure and get used to the limitations. But I think I could do it.

Also, this home is pretty much right where Alex proposed to me on a horse drawn carriage ride back in 2001, so it has that going for it too.

Alex: Too many original elements of the home are gone to make it a go for Alex to trade. The age of the house is right, but the details are missing. It feels like it was renovated too heavily over the years. It does have views of the river, but no basement to speak of means no wood shop or area to work on projects. But he does think the third floor would make a really great home office.

While the house itself doesn't knock either of us off of our feet, we would both absolutely consider it due to the simple fact that the house's potential is there and it possesses the ever important three locations of:

  1. Close to D.C. 
  2. In Historic Old Town
  3. River Views

We'll leave you with one final photo taken from the park during the February 2010 "Snowmaggedon" storm. You can see our subject house second from the left.

As far as the qualifications go, you can't get much more location, location, location than this house has.

Would you be willing to sacrifice some major items in your home in exchange for ideal location? What items are typically must haves that you could begrudgingly let go of to get that perfect view?

Interested in reading about other interesting homes for sale? Want to offer your take on "would you trade"? Check out the Open Housing section of Old Town Home.

If you'd like, you can see the house's full listing.

Comments 5


Susan Aster Sawyer
6/2/2011 at 12:04 PM
How much is this one?
6/2/2011 at 12:39 PM
Good taste Wendy. It is very cute, but the downstairs bathroom seemed out of place. It has great outdoor spaces.
I agree with you Courtney. The downstairs bath doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the home. If it were ours, I would take out the mirrored wall and replace the vanity. I think that would make a huge difference.
6/2/2011 at 1:04 PM
Very charming house - I think my favorite shot was the quirky second bedroom with the fireplace, high ceiling, and quaint built-ins...looks very cozy.
It's a great room in person too, Donna. It would make a fantastic library/family room. It must have been the perfect place to curl up with a mug of tea/glass of wine during the big snowstorms last year.
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