The Architecture That Defines Historic Manassas

As you all know, here at Loveless Porter, we have a passion for historic renovation projects, finding that sweet spot between preserving the original charm and adding modern conveniences and sensibilities. Our latest such project is close to home, as we breathe new life into Meredith House at 9001 Center Street in Historic Downtown Manassas, directly across from our own offices. In preparing for this renovation, we were delighted to find pictures from its heyday as well as a reference to the home in a piece by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, which we’ve shared below. It gives a good overview of the types of architecture that contribute to the character of this bustling main street city that we call home. We are proud to play a role in helping these historic properties remain functional and beautiful so that they can be enjoyed for decades to come. 

As seen on the DHR website: The economic growth of Manassas and increased prosperity of many of its citizens enabled local building contractors such as John Cannon and his sons, Frank and Ira, to construct a number of prestigious houses in the 9100 block of Grant Avenue during the early 1900s. The Cannons built the ca.1903 A. A. Hooff House at 9133 Grant Avenue for the co-owner of a Manassas lumber company. It is a large frame Victorian-gabled Ell structure that has unfortunately lost its original wraparound porch. 

Ira E. Cannon built three other nearby residences: the Howard House at 9137 Grant (ca. 1900); the E. H. Hibbs House at 9139 Grant (ca. 1910); and the builder’s own house at 9138 Grant (1904). All three houses are modified Queen Anne frame dwellings with varying degrees of Colonial Revival influence evidenced by Palladian windows, classical cornices, and columned porches. Other notable Colonial Revival houses that were probably built by the Cannons include the E. E. Meredith House at 9001 Center Street (ca. 1900) with its two-story pedimented portico, the house at 9250 Bennett Drive (ca. 1910) with its similar portico and multi-paned windows, and the small brick gate house originally associated with Annaburg, an 1892 Colonial Revival mansion built for local industrialist Robert Portner. Today the estate is surrounded by modern development and the qate house is separate from the property and serves as a single-family residence at the corner of Portner and North Main streets. 

An important local landmark in the district is the Norfolk-Southern Railway passenger station at the foot of West Street. Anchoring the southern extent of the commercial area and representing a tangible reminder of the importance of the railroad to the history of Manassas, the long brick building is a well-preserved example of a typical early 20th-century railroad station. The present 1914 station is patterned after a 1910 station that burned. It has a high-hipped roof with wide overhanging eaves supported by long brackets and posts, a central octagonal turret, and hipped dormers. The building continues to serve as a passenger depot. 

The late 1910s and 1920s saw the appearance of Bungalows and Craftsman-inspired dwellings, especially in the northern extents of residential streets in the district. The best examples are located at 9306 North Main Street, 9309 Grant Avenue, and 8802 and 8804 Quarry Road. All of these dwellings are 1 1/2-story frame houses with high-pitched gable roofs, wide overhanging eaves, and prominent front porches supported by columns on stone or wood-shingled piers. 

Very little construction took place in Manassas during the 1930s and early 1940s due to the Great Depression and World War II: however, a handsome new post office on Church Street was built by the United States Department of the Interior National Park Service in 1931-32. An excellent example of a Colonial Revival post office of the period, it is a rectangular Flemish-bond brick structure with a central pedimented stone portico, full stone entablature, large multi-paned windows with jack arches and keystones, brick quoins, and a low-hipped tile roof. 

During the last few decades Manassas has lost many historic buildings to neglect, demolition, and rapid modern development as the town continues to attract residents desiring a small-town atmosphere and an easy commute to jobs in nearby Washington, D.C. However, with the formation of the Manassas City Museum and Historic Manassas, Inc., both non-profit organizations devoted to the preservation of Manassas heritage, a local preservation ethic has become an important part of the lives of Manassas residents. The Manassas Historic District designation will undoubtedly inspire continued support for historic preservation in this densely populated Northern Virginia city.