Francis & Edith Warner Houses (107-115 West Mason)

Francis Keen and Edith Warner
The north side of the 100-block of West Mason Avenue is dominated by the handiwork of carpenter and contractor Francis Keen Warner. Warner was born in November 1882 to wealthy Loudon County farmers Isaac V and Annie Warner. Shortly after the turn of the century he and his older brother Isaac C caught the eyes of two daughters of the Davis family of Middleburg. In December 1905 a double wedding ceremony was held, with Isaac marrying Susan Emsie (known by her middle name) and Francis K marrying her sister Edith.

Francis Keen Warner and Edith Warner in 1906, shortly after their marriage

Initially they stayed on the Warner family farm, but in 1910 Francis and Edith moved to Alexandria and in November 1911 they purchased five contiguous empty lots of the North West Alexandria development from the heirs of Mary Carlin on the north side of Lloyd (now West Mason) Avenue. In 1913 they put up the handsome four-square at 111 West Mason. There they would raise their family: daughters Frances Alverda (born 1907) and Zelma Lee (1909) and sons Marvin (1916) and Lynwood (1920). Finally, in what was probably a surprise, Edith gave birth to Jean Louise in April 1928.

The Family House (111 W Mason)
 Starting as Frank Warner he worked as an agent for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company until 1920. The paperwork life apparently did not agree with the former farmer and in that year he reinvented himself as Keen Warner, carpenter and builder. In 1914 he put up a classic American four-square that was to be the family house for the next three decades and there they raised their sizeable family. 

On the westernmost lot of their land he put up a 1 ½ story bungalow in 1927 and sold it a few years later to Henry Cannaday and his wife Eleanor.

The 1914 FK Warner family house at 111 West Mason, preserved in its original dignity, with an addition to the back

He presumably kept himself busy doing work other people for about a decade and the, in 1934, he put up a pair of very distinctive, highly-stylized Tudor revival homes, one each side of his house. One he sold to Thomas and Margaret Rowland and the other he rented out to a succession of tennants.

 He returned full circle in his house designs a few years later. He started out with a four-square in 1913, then put up a bungalow in 1922, then two tudor-revivals in 1934, and finally came back to the conservative four-square in 1938, this time faced in brick, now 109 West Mason.

 That was to be his last house. Edith had not been well, and in September 1938 had undergone a radical mastectomy in a futile attempt to halt the spread of breast cancer. It was too late and the disease spread to her brain, and finally, worn out and emaciated, she passed away in April 1941 at age 55.

 With that Keen abandoned Virginia and followed his brother Isaac down to Florida. There he married Hazel Alva Lincoln in 1942. In the meantime the children had largely moved on. Alverda married Charles R Mangum Jr in 1929 and they moved to Kearney NJ. She made frequent trips to Alexandria and, indeed, their son Charles R Mangum III was born in Alexandria in August 1933. The family was living in Tarrytown NY in April 1940, but it seems likely that they were divorced shortly thereafter. She remarried to Virginia farmer Warren Woolf.

 Zelma married William Morgan in December 1934 and moved to North Carolina, where they had two children. Marvin and wife Ruth intended to move to New York City, but wound up in Tarrytown with new son Thomas and remained there.

 Lynwood had a military streak and in January 1936 he enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in Alexandria, then in May 1938 he decided to go full-time and enlisted in the Army. Apparently the Army was not terribly impressed with his Marine training, for in April 1940 he was still a private, serving at Ft Clayton in the Canal Zone. He switched over to the Army Army Corps, then to the USAF and finally retired in May 1968 as a command master sergeant. He had managed to get assigned to Bolling Air Force Base for 1947-53 and during that time lived in the old family home on West Mason with wife Cecilia. The rest of the family sold the house to him in May 1952 and he, through an intermediary, sold it to Al Baker & Son, a realty and insurance firm. Lynwood and Cecelia retired to Florida and he passed away in 1994.

 From 1954 the house was home to Harold Baker, the “son” in Al Baker & Son but starting in 1957 it was rented to Robert F Kenney, a commercial pilot, and his wife Marian. It then sat vacant until it was sold to Clyde and Cordella Krueger in March 1960. Clyde having passed away, Cordella and her daughters sold it to a partnership in June 1972, who resold it a year later.

The FK Warner-built bunaglow at 115 W Mason, extended to the rear but still showing its classic bungalow lines at the front.

The Second House - The Bungalow (115 W Mason)
 The Warners took out a mortgage on L8 in January 1927 to secure the Potomac Savings Bank of Georgetown $3,750 borrowed. With that they put up their first investment house, the nice 1 ½ story bungalow we see now. In October of that year they sold the house the Cannadays, Henry and Elinor.

 Henry was a trainman born in February 1895 from East Radford, Va who had served in WW I. In April 1925 he married 32-year-old Elinor Ballenger and moved to her home town of Alexandria. They had no children and made their home in Warner's bungalow, Henry based at Potomac Yard and Elinor staying at home.

 Unfortunately, Henry died suddenly of a coronary thrombosis in July 1944, aged only 49 years. Elinor took a job as a retail sales clerk and continued to live in the house until finally it proved too much, memories notwithstanding, and she sold it in February 1963 and moved to an apartment on South Washington Street. The new owners were Jack and Charlotte Kodrich, who owned it for 17 years.

If they held a contest for coolest house in Del Ray, this would certainlybe in the running.  The classic tudor-revival rental house clad in shingles at 113 W Mason, in pristine condition in 2015

The Rental Tudor Revival at 113 W Mason
 This is one of two identical houses Keen put up 1934 that feature highly-stylized tudor revival forms. They are memorable for their exaggerated front gable, almost chalet style, and long dormers on both sides that make the second floor a usable space. The Warners took out a $3,000 mortgage with an additional $3,000 line of credit on the property from the Prudential Building Assn in July 1933 and put the house up the next year.

 This was a rental property from its construction in 1934 until 1962. For most of that time it was passed along from one electric company employee to another as a rental, presumably by word of mouth. Initially it was Esca H and Marie Crews through WW II, then Charles and Florence Elliott to 1947, then Dabney and Catherine Hardy to 1949, then Robert and Mabel McKay to 1952, then Anderson and Mary Cosby. All were engineers are Virginia Public Service and its successor Virginia Electric and Power. The chain was broken when Anderson Cosby managed to hand the rental off to his son Clifton, a patent examiner at the PTO, in 1954.

 Finally, in April 1962 the Warner heirs sold the property to Zelma and William Morgan, who then turned around and sold it Ralph and Josephine Graham in November. If the house passed through many renters until then, the Grahams made up for it. They held onto this treasure, and kept it beautifully, until it was passed by inheritance in 2007.

The white tudor-revival at 107 W Mason.

The Rowland House (107 W Mason)
 Although slightly more understated, this is an identical companion to number 113 just up the street and was built at the same time. In August 1934 the Warners sold it to Maguerite Rowland, who took out a $4,000 mortgage to pay for it.

 Marguerite had graduated from the nursing school of the Alexandria Hospital in 1919 and worked in private practice and at Columbia Hospital in DC before joining the Alexandria Health Department in 1926. There she worked as a public health nurse, finally heading up the department's chest, immunization and well-baby clinics.

 Thomas was born in North Carolina in 1901, five years after Marguerite, and became a driver with the AB&W bus company after moving to Alexandria. It would seem that Thomas had a long-standing problem with drink. In the early 1930s he was switched from driver to clerk by the bus company, and then in the 1940s he became an auto inspector for the DC DMV.

 Marguerite had known about her high blood pressure since 1938 and it finally caught up with her in August 1951 when she passed away of a heart attack. That seems to have accelerated Thomas' downward spiral. In January 1959 he sold the house and moved to the Bellehaven area. He died in January 1963 at age 61.

 He had sold the house to Maurice and Marwyn Byrd, who were followed by Ernest and Audrey Berry, and then, in 1965 Harold and Dorothy Pitta. The Pitta's had found their home and they lived there until Harold passed away in 2006 and Dorothy in 2013. It then passed to their children, who sold it in 2014, a remarkable and wonderful run of 49 years and a great turn-around for a beautiful house.

The last of the FK Warner houses, still showing its classc lines at 109 W Mason

The Lancaster House (109 W Mason)
 This was the last of houses built by Keen, with the building permit being issued in 1938. He built it as a four-square variant of the colonial revival style, in brick face construction.  In August of that year it was sold to Ellis and Evelyn Lancaster, who took out two mortgages, a first of $5,650 and a second of $1,000.

 Ellis had enlisted in the Virginia National Guard and was called up, along with other members of the 116thInfantry of the 29th Division in 1917. Promoted to corporal he was transferred to the division's supply trains and presumably accompanied the division to France in 1918.

 On discharge he moved to Alexandria and by the late 1920s was a bus driver for AB&W Transit. In the early 1930s he married Evelyn Layne, 12 years his junior and in January 1934 she gave birth to daughter Shirley. In August 1938 they purchased the house from the Warners, probably emboldened by Ellis' hiring as a fireman on the Southern Railway. Shortly thereafter they were briefly joined by Ellis' son from a prior marriage, Ellis Jr, himself a bus driver.

 The house appears to have been emptied of children by the mid-1950s, with Ellis Jr moving out and Shirley getting married. The parents continued to live in the house together for the next twenty years, although Ellis' heart disease worsed near the end. Finally, in February 1975 he suffered a heart attack and was taken to Alexandria Hospital, where he passed away at age 73.

 Evelyn remained in the house a while longer, but sold it in March 1977 and remarried the next year at 63, moving to Annandale.