Altha Hall was originally built by a gentleman from Fairfax named Andrew Adgate Lipscomb II (born 1854), who later became Assistant District Attorney of the District of Columbia during President Grover Cleveland’s administration.
In 1886, not long after marrying his wife Lamar Rutherford, Lipscomb ordered construction in Arlington for a mansion to be modeled after one that had been long admired by his wife, a resident of Athens, Georgia. Actual Georgia pine was shipped by rail and used for the paneling and also for the forty-foot pillars, while hardware and fixtures from a castle in England were used on the front doors. Fine Italian marble was used to build the fireplaces and crystal chandeliers from Europe were also procured.
The Lipscombs moved into their mansion in 1889, having named it “Ruthcomb” as a composite of their names, Rutherford and Lipscomb.
After the death of Mr. Lipscomb, the property was sold in 1905 to Mr. and Mrs. Thaddeus Matthew Tyssowski of Washington. She was the former Alice Walton Green of Lewinsville, Virginia. Emulating the previous owners, the new occupants renamed the home “Altha Hall”, a combination of their names, Alice and Thaddeus. Mr. Tyssowski was a successful businessman and insurance company executive and his son, Colonel John Tyssowski, married Catherine Woodward. John later became Chairman of the Board of Directors of Woodward & Lothrop.
In 1921, the Tyssowski family sold Altha Hall to Dr. W.S. Benedict, who lived there for 14 years before moving to a country estate near Sterling, Virginia. The hall was then leased by Tyssowski to Miss Anna Payne, who held a nursery school and kindergarten there. The property was then sold in 1957 to a group of real estate investors who had the property rezoned from residential, in hopes of turning it into a potential apartment house site. During this time, the house was occupied by the Lentz family until its destruction in 1959.
Further information about Altha Hall can be found in the excellent book “Arlington Heritage: Vignettes of a Virginia County” by Eleanor Lee Templeman, which is available for checkout here at Central Library. The photograph above is from the booklet “A Brief History of Alexandria County, Virginia,” published under the auspices of the county Board of Supervisors, of which early area activist and official Crandall Mackey was a member.
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