Tucked into the picturesque grounds of Woodlawn Plantation in Alexandria is a structure from a completely different era. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1939, the Pope-Leighey House exemplifies the illustrious architect’s “Usonian” vision: small, single-story dwellings, integrated with nature and affordable for the middle class. After years of deteriorating and fading in the elements, this tiny yet significant abode had its exterior painstakingly restored in late 2015.
Architect Ashley Wilson, AIA, ASID, of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, oversaw the conservation effort, which involved cleaning the Tidewater red cypress exterior, protecting it from biological growth and UV rays and coating it with a wood preservative. Narrow grafts known as wood dutchman were also used to repair parts of the outer structure.
“This project provides further understanding of Frank Lloyd Wright’s intent for exterior wood while offering new solutions for the care and maintenance of wood buildings,” explains Wilson. “The solutions can be used by any homeowner.”
Originally commissioned by journalist Loren Pope in Falls Church in 1939, Pope-Leighey House was moved to Woodlawn Plantation—once part of the historic Mount Vernon estate—when construction of Interstate 66 threatened to demolish it in 1963. The home features the flat, cantilevered roof, corner windows and spacious interiors that typify Wright’s work and continue to influence American architecture today.
“Pope-Leighey House was only 25 years old when the Trust recognized its importance to American culture as a representative example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian houses,” says Wilson. Starting in April, the house is open for tours Friday through Monday; tickets are $15 for adults. woodlawnpopeleighey.org