Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The old yellow mansion

A few weekends ago I attended a wedding at a beautiful mansion along 15th street here in Washington DC. If you're not familiar with the area - it's right along Meridian Hill park: one of the hidden gems here in DC. Now in a bustling urban residential area above U street in Columbia Heights, for years the park was overrun with drug dealers and prostitutes. Designed in 1914 by George Burnap to copy the city parks in Europe, it soon became lined with grand mansions which now house embassies and beautiful apartment buildings. One of these mansions is now home to the Josephine Butler Parks Center. This 18,000 SF Italian renaissance revival mansion had been home to two embassies, Hungary & Brazil. Designed in 1927 by George Oakley Totten Jr., a prominent local architect who designed numerous embassies, it now it houses a diverse range of community groups and can be rented for private events.What better place for a wedding than a lovely mansion facing a park! The yellow walls with white stone trim are magnificent against the greenery.
The distinctive yellow stucco makes the mansion stand out along a street of imposing buildings. The exterior has been recently renovated and really was well done.The house still features a lot of its original ironwork which is really impressive.A circular drive takes you to the entrance under this grand portico. The roof is a balcony facing the park.
The drive is bordered by this beautiful terra cotta guardrail - amazing details!
I love the figures on the scrolls at the bottom of the drive.Even the backside of the scrolls have this beautiful detailing -only the black eyed susans get to enjoy these though! Lets go inside.The building has been renovated many times but still has really great porportions and beautiful light due to the huge windows. Above is the rather utilitarian entrance which brings you to the grand stair.The home has a piano nobile design (the main floor is what we Americans would call the 2nd story) , a typical Italian renaissance feature; all the better to enjoy views of the park. At the top of the stair is a more grand foyer with entry to the portico's balcony.To the left is a room now used as the dining room. These main public rooms still feature the original fireplaces and mouldings and have huge french doors looking over the park. Behind those doors flanking the fireplace is a corner study which is practically a conservatory because of the amount of glass.Here you see through the foyer into the ballroom from the dining room.
This room has all you could ever want: tall ceilings, huge windows facing a park and beautiful detailing. The distinctive yellow color from the exterior continues all throughout the interior.
The antique chandeliers are a bit under-scaled but still a nice touch. I assume they're not original.In other rooms you can see this has been a busy, functional building, altered over the years. Walls have been moved and details stripped as needed. Here you can see a little bit of former glory above a fireplace.In other areas you can see where new walls have been added - the crown moulding here dies into the new wall.The servants staircase still has these original sconces. I was happy to see they're using energy efficient bulbs but wow, aren't they ugly? It was so exciting for me to explore this old mansion and the dreams of retoring it to its former glamour filled my dreams for nights to come!

20 comments:

Debra Healy said...

I do not know our nations capital very well. Thank you for sharing this hidden gem.

Dagny @ Beautiful Living said...

Wow, stunning! Love the architecture!

Kwana said...

Love that pretty yellow color. Looks perfect for a wedding.

Blue said...

Lovely, detailed and well-illustrated post. I particularly like the water stairs. Great to read in the office as one prepares to begin the day.

Laura Casey Interiors said...

Beautiful. I love all the architectural details.

Mrs. Blandings said...

Beautiful and yellow, yellow, YELLOW! Thanks for the tour.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

It's a lotta yellow, Mrs. B!
The Park is definitely worth a visit if you are ever visiting DC, everyone. Especially on Sundays when famous drumming groups gather there -always a few ice cream & snack vendors around as well!

Karena said...

I love this yellow and it would be a good shade for Meg to use at work for the entry hall.

Prairie Girl Studio said...

thank you for the most wonderful insightful peek at this buttery beauty ... for such intricate and heavy details, it is all very light and airy ...
thanks again,
prairiegirl

pve design said...

Looks like "buttah" - love that shade of happy buttery yellow. Love to see it restored by you.
pve

Pigtown-Design said...

Another great yellow. I am searching for the perfect one.

Are you going to write about Hampton?

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Yellow is everywhere!
Meg, you wrote all there is to say about it! LOL I may post some of my pictures sometime next week though :-)

home before dark said...

I agree, it would be wonderful to see it restored to its glory. Happy dreams of glory. If you get to do that, could we talk about all of the yella?

ArchitectDesign™ said...

HBD -I love the yellow!! What would you prefer?

home before dark said...

More depth. Maybe with glazing, Simple strie perhaps. It doesn't glow for me. But if you got to play here, I'm sure you would make it sing!

Semigloss Chic said...

Stunning! You always find the places in DC I never knew about but couldn't imagine living without.

No pictures of your dapper wedding attire?

Lord Cowell said...

I love the plaster details, the covered porch and the stone balustrading - they are timeless. David.

soodie :: said...

just love the entryway....

Style Court said...

Yellow paradise! I loved this post Stefan. It really shows there is a little more diversity to historic D.C. area architecture than most people realize. I also like how you emphasized all the natural green up against the yellow exterior.

thomas said...

i didn't realize you posted about this! I remember talking to you about it a week or two ago. LOVE this mansion.