Commentary, Guest Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

  Mansion on a hill for sale. With a storied history.

   The old M.T. Broyhill Place, looming at 2561 N. Vermont overlooking the Washington Golf and Country Club, is empty and on the market for $3.6 million. When owner Helena Metzger died this February at 88, her beneficiary—the Catholic Prelature of Opus Dei —wasted no time seeking a residential buyer for a private home that for decades doubled as a meeting place for religious retreats and cotillion dances. Ending those activities was not what Metzger’s daughter Mary Rhoads had hoped for.

  Built in 1950, the white brick manse (originally red) with triple gables, a splayed front staircase and circular portico, was the residence of Northern Virginia home builder Marvin T. Broyhill Sr. He came to Arlington in the late 1930s, soon to capitalize on what would be a post-World War II housing boom. By 1952, the Broyhills were building 3,000 brick homes a year.

   The neighborhood off N. 26th St. was characterized as the Broyhill “enclave.” M.T.’s was a 10-bedroom, 13-bathroom, 9,775 square-foot structure on 1.71 acres with a ballroom and indoor pool. His son Joel set up in a spacious home next door, and son Marvin on the other side of Joel. Cousin Tom was round the corner, and the company’s engineer across the street. Joel Broyhill’s daughter Jeanne recalls her grandparents’ house as “truly a fairy tale castle for kids with a willing grandmother. It was my second home from when I could walk to when we moved in 1966” to her family’s later home on Old Dominion Dr. “It had a huge dungeon-y basement with plenty of hiding places and fort-building acreage. I can’t forget the fun of playing in the top floor ballroom with a stage to `act on,’ a bar for bartending. Let’s not forget one of the best sledding hills and backyard forests. And the sight of my first urinal in the men’s room!” 

    When the patriarch died in 1966, his house was sold to Dr. Walter Wood. In 1974, it was considered to become the designated home for the U.S. vice president, according to Rhoads. (That ended up downtown at Number One Observatory Circle.) In 1975, her parents, attorney Eugene Metzger and Helena T. Metzger, sold their modest home in Annandale and bought the Broyhill manse for $285,000. (She showed me the deed and renovation plans). “The house was not really us, since we weren’t yet living the country club life,” recalls Rhoads. They were later approached by a Hollywood scout for its use in a movie.

  Helena Metzger, who founded the Catholic Information Center downtown, had a home chapel, inviting church contacts home for meetings. A member of the luncheon group called the Neighbors’ Club, she was famous for giving out donuts on Halloween attracting kids to go the long intimidating driveway, a practice Rhoads continued from the sidewalk this year with signs in her mother’s honor. In 2017, Metzger turned over the property to the Woodlawn Foundation of Opus Dei.

  Rhoads was surprised last winter when, just six days after her mother died, the organization called and asked, “When can you be out?”

      Agent Pat Kilner of RLAH Real Estate has posted color photos of the lavish interior, winding staircase and ballroom. The current price would mean an estimated payment of $23,000 per month. 

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It’s been six decades since I played Little League baseball on diamond No. 2 at Bluemont Park, and Arlington has changed a tad. But I was surprised during a recent bike ride to note that the field on a Sunday was occupied by a half-dozen kids playing cricket.

Those roughly 7-10-year-old boys wielding those British bats against an overhand pitcher were Pakistani Americans, one of the dads told me. No, there’s no organized league, he said laughing, just occasional fun in the park on non-school days.

At one time, the rarity of such a “foreign” sport in our home parish was true for soccer.