You are here

Carlyle House

-A A +A
1751–1753. 1976, restoration, J. Everett Fauber, Jr. 121 N. Fairfax St. Open to the public
  • (Photograph by Matthew Aungst)
  • (Virginia Division of Historic Resources)
  • (Richard L. Longstreth)

Perhaps the most ambitious and finest city house for its date in Virginia outside Williamsburg, this would not be out of place in Salisbury Close in England. Constructed by a Scottish tobacco trader, John Carlyle, who married a daughter of Colonel William Fairfax in 1748, the house was placed far back on the lot with dependencies to either side and a garden facing Fairfax Street. Even before the house was completed the town authorities adopted a law requiring all new houses to grip the front property line. Subsequently, a large hotel filled the front garden; it was removed for the 1970s restoration.

The exterior also displays an affinity to William Adam's Craigiehall, Midlothian, Scotland. The rich exterior details draw on a variety of English pattern books, especially the work of James Gibbs. Although John Ariss has been credited with the design, no evidence exists to support the attribution. Originally the house was built of random sandstone rubble covered with scored stucco on three sides and then clad with dressed Aquia sandstone on the primary facade. The 1976 restoration substituted limestone. The same rich quality continues on the interior. The interior organization is conventional: a two-story, double-pile, central-hall plan. Although portions of the restoration are conjectural, especially the east Palladian window on the staircase, it contains much original trim, including an overdoor broken pediment and a fine modillion cornice in the northeast parlor.

Writing Credits

Richard Guy Wilson et al.


What's Nearby


Richard Guy Wilson et al., "Carlyle House", [Alexandria, Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.

SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.