The Knight House (15 E Alexandria Ave)

An early purchaser of land in the North West Alexandria development was Eliza Barton, widow of Benjamin Barton a prominent jeweler and leading citizen of the Alexandria area. Although Benjamin had died in January 1887 the Barton women proved strong on their own. Daughter Mary had gone to New York and graduated from medical school, returning home to be the only female physician in the area. Eliza continued to buy and sell land in Virginia, Maryland and the District; indeed the federal government had taken 3.6 acres of her land as a part of the new Rock Creek Park in 1891. She purchased two lots in the new development here in July 1897, while Mary bought a third lot.

 Eliza died just a month after buying the two lots (and Mary in 1901) and the courts ordered her assets sold in order to pay out bequests. After some bickering a court-appointed commissioner sold all three lots on Alexandria Avenue to Julius Pelton in October 1905, a justice of the peace and fire insurance executive. He only held onto our lot of interest for less than two years, selling it in May 1907 to CE Dove, it then being acquired by his son Levi in March 1908. Julian Williams got it in June 1910 and added the half-lot to the west in July 1914.

Turning a Lot into a Home - The Williams'
 Julian Young Williams had been born on 4 May 1878 in Alexandria and started out with clerical positions. He was an inveterate joiner, booster and networker, beginning with the Alexandria Light Infantry in 1901. By that time he was already manager of the Havenner Baking Co, which also employed his sister Daisy. The two of them, along with their widowed mother Fannie and their brother Smith, lived together in rented apartments until buying 206 North Royal around 1905. By 1906 he had won election as a council member from the second ward of Alexandria and and four years later bought Levi Dove's lot. On 3 December 1911 he married Eleanor Ruth Sullivan (known as Ruth) from Cincinnati and the following year he had built the large house now standing, using concrete-block that almost certainly came from his father-in-law and would probably have pleased prior owner Julius Pelton, with his fire insurance company.

 In 1913 Ruth gave birth to a daughter, Eleanor and in 1920 a second daughter, Ruth. In the meantime he had been moving up, socially and in his career. He had been elected colonel of the Alexandria Light Infantry (and used the title “colonel” intermittently thereafter), supervised innumerable parade committees, served as an officer of the Kiwanis club, was a trustee of the Alexandria Hospital Foundation, was vice-president and president of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, helped found the Virginia branch of the Traveler's Protection Association (a mutual insurance company) rising to be chairman of the national legislative committee for ten years and national president for the year 1923-24, and, in the mid-1920s, president of the Northern Virginia Hotel Corporation , while serving part-time on the staff of Governor Westmoreland Davis. And all this while he continued to work his full time job with the Alexandria Fertilizer & Chemical Co, first as sales manager from 1915, then secretary-treasurer from 1918, and then president from July 1919.

 In 1923 his firm was bought by the much larger American Agricultural Chemical Co and Julian found himself reduced to local manager. The new firm must have liked him, however, for they sent him to their Atlanta office in 1924, and then in the 1930s back up to Virginia in Petersburg, where he was paid well enough to afford live-in help: a maid, a butler and a cook. Indeed, for his move back to Virginia he and Ruth took a cross-country trip and returned from California via the SS Pennsylvania to New York, arriving in December 1933. Ruth passed away only 60 years old in 1948 of a heart attack, while Julian follows in March 1955 age 77 of a stroke.

 Ending a rewarding and productive term in the house they built Julian and Ruth sold it in April 1925 to Leonard and Charlotte Knight. It would be the Knight House for the next six decades.

Enter the Knights
 Leonard Marbry Knight was born in February 1893 in Alexandria, the eldest of four sons to Robert E Knight and the former Elizabeth Soper. Leonard and his brothers attended the George Washington School in Alexandria and the University of Virginia.

Robert E Knight ran a stationary and book store on King Street, but initially Leonard chose to go into civil engineering, the trade for which he had been educated. He served in the Army in World War I, presumably in the Corps of Engineers, and on return moved back into his parents' house at 207 Prince and joined the family business. By that time brothers Clinton and Robert Jr had already started there and the firm was now called RE Knight & Sons.

In the meantime Leonard had fallen in love. He presumably persuaded his girlfriend to take a sales job at his father's store in 1924 and the following year he married 25-year-old Charlotte Longerbeam and bought the Williams' imposing house in April of that year. They would stay together in that house for the next fifty years. Charlotte left the store and gave birth to Leonard S in July 1927, followed by daughter Charlotte M in March 1929, both being more commonly known by their middle names, Sherwood and Marian.

Leonard's brother Robert Jr had gone into teaching on his graduation from UVA in 1919, including a stint at George Mason HS on Mt Vernon Avenue, but left in 1932 to join the family business, this bringing all the brothers together at the store. Through the 1920 and 30s the store moved from books 

and stationary towards hardware and athletic gear and this had just about completed by the time Robert Sr passed away in 1939.Leonard continued to manage the store, which had essentially transformed itself into a hardware and appliance store by 1950. Marian moved out to get married, but Sherwood never married and remained in the large house on Alexandria. Leonard busied himself with the store and on the Alexandria school board from his first appointment in 1934 to his decision to step down in July 1961. Leonard finally passed away of a heart attack in May 1975, age 82, married 50 years and in the house the same length of time. Unfortunately, he had to witness the passing of his son Sherwood, who had long been sickly and living at the house on Alexandria, a year earlier of bronchial pneumonia, only 46 years old.

With her husband and son gone Charlotte remained in the house until it simply got too much for her. She finally sold it in September 1988. She was now 88 years old and the Knight family had called the house home for no less than 63 years.


The House
 The house itself is remarkably unchanged from its original construction. The fact that the exterior walls are made of concrete block, an unusual construction method in this area, undoubtedly contributed to that by rendering exterior changes difficult. The interior walls were plaster and the heat by hot-water radiator.

 The main body of the house is actually square, 30x30 feet, excluding the front porch and extension to the east side. It had an unfinished basement with a concrete floor; living room with fireplace, dining room and kitchen on the first floor, and three bedrooms and a bathroom on the second. The floors were hardwood, except for tiling in the bath and vinyl in the kitchen.

 We are exceptionally lucky to have this beautiful example of an unusual style preserved in our neighborhood.

The house during the Knight era in 1971.