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July 11, 2019

Faces of Fauquier: He fell instantly for architecture

Photo/Don Del Rosso
Warrenton architect James Hricko calls Fauquier “one of the most beautiful counties I’ve ever been in.”
I just love building. I love seeing the process go from conceptual stage, through design, through construction.
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Staff Journalist
Taken by surprise, the Warrenton architect discovered at age 12 or 13 that he wanted to design buildings for the rest of his life.

James Hricko, a Connecticut native, credits a relative for his fortuitous exposure to the profession more than six decades ago.

“My Uncle Mike was an architect in Torrington,” recalled Mr. Hricko, 76. “We were going somewhere to do something. He said, ‘Jimmy, I have to stop by the office. Do you mind’?”

Not at all, the youngster told him.

“The instant I walked in the door, I knew,” Mr. Hricko said during an interview in his home office on Waterloo Street. “It was like walking in here — the smell of the tracing paper, the drawings on the walls.

“In those days, everybody was drafting with T-squares and triangles. All that stuff was laying around.”

He got accepted by three colleges with architectural programs. He enrolled in the University of Notre Dame because, “I liked the whole feel of it — the atmosphere,” Mr. Hricko said. “And, they had a good architectural school.”

After graduating in 1965, he moved to Washington to share a Georgetown apartment with a friend who had earned a bachelor’s in architecture from the university a year earlier.

Mr. Hricko’s roommate had joined Perkins & Will Architects in Washington, D.C., and urged him to apply for a job there.

“They interviewed and hired me,” he said, smiling. “I just stuck around, worked my way up a little bit,” later landing positions with other firms and the Department of the Navy, before starting his own shop — James Hricko Architect LLC — in 1975.

In 2001, Mr. Hricko and his second wife Joya bought a quarter-acre lot along Waterloo Street.

That year, the couple moved from Northern Virginia to Warrenton, where they lived in an apartment over a Culpeper Street office until a contractor completed their new home in 2003.

Mr. Hricko designed the stucco- and cedar-shingle-clad two-story, 3,600-square-foot home.

“It’s kind of a gumbo of Arts and Crafts, maybe some Prairie thrown in,” the sole practitioner said of the home’s design. “But, the thing that really motivated me, I think, to go in that direction is if you walk down Waterloo Street, you’ll see these ‘four-squares’ — basically square buildings. It’s the most efficient use of space there is.”

Mr. Hricko’s Warrenton and Fauquier residential projects include the expansion or redesign of existing space, some in the town’s historic district.

Across the street from him, he designed an addition to a Sears Roebuck & Co. bungalow and a cottage that stands behind it.

Mr. Hricko also designed Fauquier Habitat for Humanity’s seven-duplex community on Warrenton’s Sterling Court at no cost to the nonprofit.

“I kind of believe everyone deserves a beautiful home,” added the architect, who served on Habitat’s board from 2008 to 2014, including three years as its president.

His commercial projects include the design/remodeling of two Vint Hill structures — Old Bust Head Brewing Co. and a large, adjacent building that houses a private school, church and catering company. Then, he designed the Wort Hog Brewing Co. in Old Town Warrenton.

Mr. Hricko’s work also includes the interior of the PATH Foundation’s 20,000-square-foot headquarters along Walker Drive in Warrenton.

His current projects include the planned Herren Wellness Retreat at Twin Oaks along Route 17 north of Warrenton — another PATH project. Using an existing structure, the residential addiction recovery center will serve up to 24 clients.

To view Mr. Hricko’s projects, click here.

• Age

• Home 

• Work
Owner, James Hricko Architect LLC, 1975-present.

• Experience
Designer/project manager, Gwathmey-Duke Architects, Springfield, 1972-75; project coordinator/draftsman, Charles Goodman Architects, Washington, D.C., 1970-72; architect/planner, Department of Navy, 1968-70; project coordinator, Perkins & Will Architects, Washington, D.C., 1966-68.

• Why do you do the job?
I just love building. I love seeing the process go from conceptual stage, through design, through construction. And, I love seeing people occupy the buildings. I love the part of listening to people — what their fancies are, what their needs are. When you design custom residential, it’s all about fantasy.

• Family
Wife, Joya; stepdaughter and grandson.

• Education
Bachelor’s degree, architecture, University of Notre Dame, 1965; Torrington (Conn.) High School, 1960.

• How long have you lived in Fauquier?
18 years.

• Why do you live here? 
What brought me here was a (residential) project on Springs Road outside of Warrenton. During construction, I was coming out here repeatedly to observe. And a light bulb went off: “I love it out here.”

• How do you describe this county? 
I think it’s probably one of the most beautiful counties I’ve ever been in. I love to ride my motorcycle outside of town, taking these back roads. It’s just unbelievably gorgeous.

It just seems to have a nice mix of open space and forested areas. The topography reminds me of Connecticut, where I’m from — stone fences everywhere, the rolling hills. It’s very, very appealing to me.

• What would you change about Fauquier?
In terms of Warrenton, somewhat more of a little revitalization — maybe that’s the wrong word — of the downtown. You see a lot of empty storefronts; bring a little more life into Old Town. I’d like to see more of that.

In terms of the county in general, I don’t know if I’d change much of anything.

• What do you do for fun? 
Fun is my 1979 Triumph motorcycle. I’ve got a couple of friends with vintage bikes. So we like to take them out into the country.

Joya and I are big hikers. We like Sky Meadows (State Park near Paris) and Skyline Drive — getting up in all those trails.

• What’s your favorite place in Fauquier?
Town of Warrenton.

• What will Fauquier be like in 10 years? 
Some of the residential building — some of the subdivisions that I think may have gotten approved that are not yet underway — may change the complexion of the town somewhat.

We have a traditional pattern of development. And subdivisions, to me, always kind of throw a monkey wrench into that because they don’t follow the rules of the old way of building.

There’s a movement going on — not here, unfortunately — of traditional town design. You have a (street) grid of some sort, walkways, alleys — stuff like that.

• Favorite TV show?

• Favorite book?
“The Black Echo” by Michael Connelly.

• Favorite vacation spot? 

• Favorite food? 

• What is the best advice you have ever received? From whom? 
A former colleague. He said don’t get good at something you don’t like. That means you can get trapped in a job or position that you hate and don’t go there. You’ll be terribly unhappy, if don’t like what you’re doing.

• Who’s your hero and why?
Frank Lloyd Wright is one of my architectural heroes. He broke so much ground. He basically started modern architecture in this country when he started doing his thing. I know he had a lot of flaws as a human being; I think we all do.

But, I don’t think I’ve seen a building of his that I don’t love.

• What would you do if you won $5 million in the lottery? 
I’d like to attempt to maybe put a dent in the affordable housing crisis we have in this country — maybe creating some traditional type, walkable communities where people could afford to own their own home. I’d also like to bring in the idea of sustainability and green architecture.

I’d save a little bit for myself in my golden years — maybe do a little bit more travelling; go to Italy a few more times. We just can’t get enough it.

Have a suggestion?
Do you know someone who lives in Fauquier County you would like to see in Faces of Fauquier? E-mail Don Del Rosso at or Editor Lou Emerson at
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