Our Man in Arlington – Falls Church News-Press Online


The two-decade-old saga of what in my neighborhood was called “The Monster House” has a new wrinkle.

The looming, family-friendly structure at 27 and N. Sycamore Streets — whose owners have long struggled to keep the place busy — on May 9 sold for $1.6 million, per Zillow.

The buyer is Pathway Homes Inc., based in Fairfax. The nonprofit plans to convert the three-story, seven-bedroom home (zoned R-6 in a single-family residence) to a 15-resident home (with professional staff present) for a program for Arlingtonians suffering from mental illness, addictions and other disabilities.

There is nervousness within the civic associations of Williamsburg and East Falls Church. Members participated in a “courteous” Zoom Q&A on May 3 with Pathway agents. County planning officer Cedric Southerland had contacted the associations in late April as he prepared a decision on a special assisted living permit, which the county council had planned to consider in June before it is postponed.

I stopped to visit the current occupants of 6430 N. 27th St.: four James Madison University alumni awaiting their move schedule. The young men, who paid $4,000 a month, showed me the gym downstairs and pointed out a dozen recent visits from real estate agents. They know that the cavernous place “is not suitable for a family”.

I told a little about the history of the controversial site. The land containing a conventional house was purchased in 1998 for $159,000 by Paul Kingery, a professor at George Washington University who specializes in youth violence prevention. He stunned neighbors by building in 2001 – without an architect – a nondescript pale blue box that dwarfed neighboring houses.

Rumors spread that he was planning a dormitory for troubled youth, about which Kingery remained vague. But he got in trouble with the Board of Zoning Appeals, who begged him to hire a design firm to improve his appearance. Kingery moved in for a while (I talked to him) but eventually filed for bankruptcy and moved to Hawaii. In August 2004, NP Investment Co. purchased “the Monster House” for $993,600. A year later, it was purchased by Falls Church architect Sam Yoon for just $455,000. He used it to showcase his high end art (he also showed me around).

Yoon improved the look of the house by adding attractive brown siding, design patterns and shrubbery, and a multi-car stone driveway.

But when Yoon wanted to leave, even the luxury real estate agents had a hard time (I always thought he had to be bought by a rock band). In 2017, he sold it to Shafik Aasef, who rented it out and put it up for sale that year. When Arlington County announced a proposal from service contractors considering the home, Pathways used the donated money to purchase it.

The Williamsburg association is weighing several concerns, according to a May 6 memo. They include: adequate parking, whether residents would have private rooms to facilitate therapy, and lack of space in the yard, which could mean outdoor gatherings of smokers. But on the whole, I am told, the neighbors are supportive.

Spring walks on the W&OD Trail reveal that the trails leading to the historic site near Madison Manor, known as Brandymore Castle, no longer appear threatened by erosion from ATV recreators.
Following damage to the site’s often muddy nature trails (shown on 1649 British maps), county natural resource managers, Arlington Trails volunteers and members of Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts cooperated in the signage and education to protect plant life.

Appreciation for the Marked Mound grew this winter after amateur historian Luke Burke published archaeological evidence with the Friends of Brandymore Castle suggesting a Civil War connection. “The Brandymore trench and embankment resemble Civil War earthworks, but there is no documentation that positively identifies earthworks at the project site,” Burke warns. “A battery on the hill might have provided defense against Union forces advancing up the road now known as Roosevelt Street.”

It includes maps that list landowners in the area from the 19th century. Further research may produce signs of a Native American presence.


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