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Monday, March 22, 2010

Fishing for Flounder Houses in Alexandria, Virginia

I recently visited Alexandria, Virginia and was delighted by that city's bustling streets and historic ambiance.

I was keeping my eyes peeled while walking around historic Old Town because I have heard Alexandria is one of the only other cities besides St. Louis to feature "flounder houses". These homes (and commercial buildings) are called flounders because their roof lines steeply lean to one side, resembling the head of the fish of the same name. (As far as a reference to the fact that St. Louis and Alexandria share this unique housing type, take a look at this article about one such flounder house in Virginia).

Sure enough, I found several. Here is one of my favorite Alexandrian flounders, located the corner of King and Lee Streets. The image is courtesy of Google Streetview.

The above example reminded me of this home in Soulard, on S. 10th Street at Emmett.

The interesting thing about the Soulard example, though, is that it was built in the late 2000s!

While there are plenty of historic flounder houses in St. Louis remaining, it's nice to see new construction reference this rare housing type, nationally speaking. I also love the little local folklore surrounding them: that the St. Louis flounders took their shape to trick tax assessors into thinking the house was only half of an apparently under-construction twin unit. I don't know how much I believe this, but the story is all part of the local culture of a unique, understated place loaded with surprises.

On a related note, I look forward to the handful of Old North St. Louis flounder homes, under construction now thanks to Habitat for Humanity! Click here for a rendering.


STLgasm said...

I was in New Orleans this past weekend, and I saw at least two flounder houses. Not sure what neighborhood they were in, but I saw 'em with my own eyes. Matt, surely you've spotted these during your time in Nola?

Matt M. said...

Did you see them in the French Quarter? New Orleans has many side-galleried servants' quarters with flounder roofs. I think the difference here is that the flounder facade is the front one. That said, I'm pretty sure I've seen one or two of those in New Orleans as well...

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