Potomac, Virginia is an extinct town formerly located in Arlington County. A planned community, its proximity to Washington D.C. made it a popular place for employees of the U.S. government to live. Potomac was located adjacent to the massive Potomac Yard of the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad. See the map of the Town of Potomac on today’s street pattern.
The area was developed beginning in 1894 as the communities of Del Ray, St. Elmo, Mt. Ida, and Hume, following a grid plan independent of that of Old Town Alexandria. Potomac was incorporated as a town in 1908. In 1928, the town had 2,355 residents. The Town of Potomac was annexed by the independent city of Alexandria in 1930. Today, in Alexandria, the Town of Potomac Historic District designates this historic portion of the city, and includes 1,840 acres and 690 buildings. The Town of Potomac was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. Read our final nomination packet — this is a very large pdf file maintained by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
Del Ray’s Town of Potomac Plaque Program
Owners of buildings that are designated historically significant within the Town of Potomac National Register Historic District have the opportunity to purchase a bronze plaque in recognition of their building’s historic value. The purpose of the plaque program is to raise awareness of the historic buildings in Del Ray for residents and visitors to illustrate the architectural history of the Town of Potomac. We strive to promote stewardship and encourage the maintenance and restoration of historic properties, and to preserve the uniqueness of Del Ray.
The centerpiece of the plaque is Potomac’s former Town Hall and fire station. The Town Hall was built in 1926, and served as a meeting place for Potomac’s mayor and five-member council, a venue for dances and other social events above with the volunteer fire station below. The building also housed the town’s single jail cell.
To date, 115 property owners have purchased plaques, though many more are eligible.
What is the Town of Potomac historic district?
The Town of Potomac historic district was listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places in 1992 in recognition of the neighborhood’s early history. The area was developed beginning in 1894 as the communities of Del Ray, St. Elmo, Mt. Ida, and Hume, following a grid plan independent of that of Old Town Alexandria. The Town of Potomac was incorporated in 1908. In 1928, the town had 2,355 residents. The Town of Potomac was annexed by the independent city of Alexandria in 1930. At the time of designation, 690 buildings were identified as contributing (historic).
See the Town of Potomac National Register nomination here: http://www.dhr.virginia.gov/registers/Cities/Alexandria/100-0136_TownofPotomac_HD_1992_Final_Nomination.pdf
What are the boundaries of the Town of Potomac?
The Town of Potomac district boundaries can be seen here:
Is my house historic?
Not all buildings within the district are considered historic (contributing). You can check the nomination form (http://www.dhr.virginia.gov/registers/Cities/Alexandria/100-0136_TownofPotomac_HD_1992_Final_Nomination.pdf) pages 13-39 to see if your house was a contributing building in 1992 when the district was created. As a general rule, all house constructed after 1941 are considered non-contributing (not historic) because they fall outside of the period of significance for the historic district (1896-1941). Most – but not all – buildings constructed during the period of significance are considered contributing.
Who determines if I am eligible for a plaque?
Members of the Town of Potomac Historical Association will determine whether the house still has the qualities it did in 1992 to make it a contributing building within the historic district. The building does not need to look exactly like it did in 1992, though the structure must possess an overall integrity of design that makes an architectural contribution to the streetscape. The association recognizes that building’s evolve over time; sensitive changes and additions are recognized as such. As an example, prominent features such as front porches, dormers or full second story additions affect the appearance of a building. If they have been added or removed in an insensitive manner, the structure may not qualify. The association reserves the right to request a plaque be removed from display should the structure be altered and its architectural integrity compromised.
How much does a plaque cost?
If your house is eligible, the cost of the plaque is currently $200.
What if my house is not located in the Town of Potomac Historic District?
Unfortunately, you are not eligible for a plaque. While there are many historic and well-preserved buildings in the Del Ray neighborhood, many are not located in the Town of Potomac (for example, south of the center line of E. Bellefonte Ave and west of the center line of Commonwealth Ave). In the future, these areas could be researched and other historic districts could potentially be created. Other options are available; you can pursue an individual listing for your building on the National Register of Historic Places. Or, if your house is 100 years old you can apply to Historic Alexandria Foundation to see if your house meets the criteria for their plaque progam: http://www.historicalexandriafoundation.org/plaques/default.aspx
If I have a plaque, will someone tell me what I can and cannot do with my property?
No. The use or maintenance of your property is in no way restricted by displaying the plaque, although you should continue to be a good steward of your historic property. One resource for appropriate repairs, maintenance and new construction (additions) can be found in the Del Ray Pattern Book, which will be release at the Residential Architecture Conference on September 19. 2015.
Are there financial benefits to having a plaque?
If your house qualifies for a plaque it may also qualify for State tax credits (http://www.dhr.virginia.gov/tax_credits/tax_credit_faq.htm). Presently, up to 25%of eligible expenses can be claimed in your state income tax. Income producing (commercial) properties may also be eligible for federal tax credits.
Anecdotally, some people believe that a plaque may add value to the property.
Where does the money go?
All proceeds from the program will be used to enhance the historic Town of Potomac neighborhood in some way. Some ideas for these enhancements include decorative street signs that will identify Del Ray’s historic district and other signs that demarcate the entrance into the historic area. Long-term projects could be development of a book on the town of Potomac, seminars on preservation, or creation of additional historic districts to include adjacent historic areas.