211 Ashby - Cato/Mills House
211 Ashby in November 2016 (Google maps). Due to termite damage and rot it was rebuilt the following year into a two-story house.
This, the first of the Cato houses, is conventional, well-proportioned side gable bungalow. It has a square footprint 26 feet on each side for its main portion, with 1½ stories. Two bedrooms and a bath were fitted on the second floor. The front porch is six feet deep and runs the full width. A large covered patio, 16 feet deep across the full width of the rear was probably added later. Other, cosmetic, changes of the time were the addition of bricktex siding in the 1950s, later covered by aluminum siding in the 1980s, and enclosing of the front porch. Subsequently the porch was unenclosed and new pillars and balustrade added, but structural problems remained. It was essentially rebuilt as a new two-story house in 2017-18.
The house in 1970, showing the enclosed porch, bricktex siding and original dormer.
The Ashby Street house was sold to brother William in 1925. At age 27 he had married Ruth Rowe, 20, in February 1924. Not only did they have a new house, but son William Jr was born in July 1925. Tragically, young William came down with a sore throat that turned into septicemia and despite the best efforts at the hospital he passed away in February 1931, aged 5 ½ years. In November 1932, however, they celebrated the birth of daughter Loretta. It seems as though for every blessing William received, a sorrow had to follow. Ruth passed away in December 1935, age 32.
William moved out to the western part of the state, remarrying and living to 92, passing away in June 1988. He was laid to rest with Ruth and little William in the Pohick Episcopal Church cemetery south of Alexandria.
He had initially rented the house out, to Russell and Anne Foreman, then to Lloyd and Annie Hayes, Lloyd a professional photographer. In April 1939 William sold the house to Wirt and Mary Mills. Wirt had married Mary Irene Butler in 1922, when he was 19 and she 26. He took a job in security at Potomac Yard and they soon had sons Allen (b 1923) and Bernard (b 1926) and daughter Evelyn (b 1932).
Evelyn Mills' High School photo, 1949
Allen was the first out of the house, marrying Loretta Creed in June 1942 and he enlisted in the Army in February 1943. After the war they moved into a house on Taylor Run Parkway. Bernard followed him into the Army in October 1944 and moved back into his parents' house after the war and never married or left. Evelyn also stayed in the house, until her marriage to Robert Smith in May 1959, when they moved to Fairfax county.
Wirt passed away of lung cancer in 1958 at age 55 so that by 1960 only Mary and son Bernard remained in the house. Bernard too succumbed to cancer, at only 42 years of age, in 1969. Alone in the house, she sold it in February 1971 to David and Annie Lou Robinson, ending 32 years of the Mills House.