We've seen a lot of colonial mansions, so we went out for the Frank Lloyd Wright house - good thing. We walked up to the ticket office in the Woodlawn mansion and laughed when we saw the colonial mansion under renovation - plywood over the windows and doors, the grounds not well kept, etc.
Fortunately, the ticket office clerk was out getting coffee - no heat in the building - and the guide who was babysitting the office greeted us. We talked for a while since the next door wasn't for 35 minutes. She noticed my interest in looking into the mansion through an open door to the mansion and walked us around. There was no furniture and a couple walls were in disrepair, but she told us some of the story and enabled us to see the wonderfully different curving stairway in the Main Hall, unusual for a Federal style home. The rear window shutters were open for light and it's filtering into the 1st floor rooms was reminiscent of my imagining of the 18th century.
The clerk returned and the guide left for the Pope-Leighey house across the grounds. We bought out tickets and made our way across. The guide was excellent with a down-to-earth version of the tour speech, answering questions all through her presentation to the seven of us, offering the canned content along with her own thoughts on points and in response to our questions. Some people will say it's just a house, but the thought that went into the design, the features built into it, the purposes for the decisions, and the results are very interesting and get you to thinking about your own home.
The only downside was that the guide had to restart her show three times for people arriving a few moments late. We suggested they take the proceeds from that one tour group and buy a pair of walkie-talkies to communicate over the quarter mile between the house and the ticket office so she will know when there are others coming.
It's worth the 8 mile, 15 minutes drive south on Route 1 out of Alexandria.
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