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A Pope-Leighey House tour connects visitors with Frank Lloyd Wright’s principles for middle-class living in tune with nature, in a Usonian gem in Northern Virginia. Wright was recognized by the American Institute of Architects as “the greatest American architect of all time.” His principles of organic architecture encouraged living in connection to, and harmony with, nature, and he pioneered home design concepts we enjoy today.
We are lucky to have a wonderful example of Wright’s work here in Fairfax County. It is one of only three Frank Lloyd Wright homes in Virginia, and the only one open to the public. We were fascinated and inspired by our Pope-Leighey House tour, and wondered why it took us so long to visit.
Pope-Leighey House Tour in Alexandria Virginia
Your Pope-Leighey House tour begins outside, where you’ll learn about the exterior design and how the construction fostered Wright’s goals for middle-class family life.
The house follows all of the core tenets of a Usonian Home, including an L-shaped design open to nature, and construction with natural materials. The roof’s cantilevered overhangs encourage passive solar heating and natural cooling, while decorative clerestory windows bring natural light into the home.
Inside, you’ll see how Wright created popular design concepts like the open floor plan. He wanted family members to spend time together in the main living areas and outdoors, so bedrooms are small and simple, with large windows.
Wright believed that garages, attics, and basements were unneeded structures that encourage excessive consumption and cluttered living. Minimal storage spaces and an open carport could be a challenge for many families today. (No Costco room!)
All interior photos courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation
In the center of the house, extensive windows connect the family with the outdoors, while the fireplace and radiant floor heating keep the interior cozy in cold weather.
Wright was committed to his vision; so committed that residents of his homes were expected to live with his design details as is. They were not allowed to bring in their own furniture, add window treatments he didn’t approve, or modify the exterior of their homes. Fortunately for the occupants, his designs were both livable and beautiful.
Pope-Leighey House Tour Tips
Arrive early for your tour so you have time to explore the exterior of the house. While photography is not permitted inside, you can take as many exterior pictures as you like.
Hourly tours are $15 for adults, $7.50 for students K to 12, and $12 for seniors and active duty military. Kids 5 and under are free. You can also purchase combined tickets for both a Woodlawn and Pope-Leighey House Tour ($20/$11/$18).
Purchase your tickets at Woodlawn or buy tickets online to avoid lines and guarantee your entry time. Parking and ticket pick-up is at Woodlawn, which also has a gift shop and restrooms.
Our guide did a wonderful job explaining how the home reflected Wright’s principles during our Pope-Leighey House tour. Our small group included an 11-year-old with a strong interest in architecture (along with his Mom and younger brother) who added even more depth to our guide’s information.
This is a slow-moving, in-depth tour, so may not be a good fit for young or active kids. Learn more about the Pope-Leighey House in this video featuring one of the expert tour guides:
Pope-Leighey House is part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and is located at 9000 Richmond Hwy in Alexandria, Virginia. Visit the Woodlawn Pope-Leighey website for more information or call 703.780.4000.
Once you’ve taken a Pope-Leighey House tour you’ll likely be left wanting more. Happily, one of Wright’s most famous works is a fun road trip away in Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania. A road trip to Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob should be on every architecture-lovers travel list. Both homes are located in the same beautiful area of western Pennsylvania, about a three-and-a-half hour drive from Northern Virginia and Washington DC.