Friday, January 16, 2009

Belmont Mansion

The Belmont mansion, now home to the Order of the Eastern Star's International Temple, is located on an unusual triangular piece of land at 1618 New Hampshire Avenue here in the Dupont circle neighborhood of DC. I've always been fascinated by this building because of it's unusual footprint. a photograph from when the mansion was completed in 1909the mansion seen in the 1920s, behind an old firebell
The mansion was built in the Beaux arts style for Perry Belmont by the French architect Ernest Sanson who did the most grand mansions in France of the time period. Horace Trumbauer was the state side representative who was also the architect of the Elms in Newport, RI that I blogged about last year (you can read the post HERE, it is my favorite mansion in Newport).
the gated entry todaya side view along 18th streetone of the rear rounded corners
The odd shaped lot was $90,000 (a lot for land alone back then!) and the house cost $1.5 MILLION to build and was completed in 1909. The interiors are extremely ornate to this day, so I'm not really surprised at the cost. The home was the headquarters for this past year's Dupont Circle house tour so I was able to see some of the interiors.
the ground floor entrythe grand stairway to the piano nobile
Belmont was a congressman from New York and later became the ambassador to Spain. The house was used to entertain while he was in DC for the winter season. In 1925 Belmont sold the house to the Masons for just $100,000 as he was a member. What a deal as it barely covers the cost of the land!
The plans are fascinating in the way that Sanson dealt with the odd shaped lot. The entry is at the tip of the triangle, making for a very grand entry (a true beaux-arts ideal). Much of the front of the interior is open creating a grand hall and staircase, leading up to the piano nobile and public rooms (technically the '2nd floor'). What is unusual in this plan though, is that the bedrooms for the family are all located on the ground floor - unheard of in those days! The servants rooms are all up in the mansard roof (hidden by a parapet) on the 3rd floor. The main floor
The ground floor plan which has the family and guest bedrooms.
Pics courtesy of NCinDC on flickr


Tavarua said...

Excellent blog - Brilliant!!!!

DC David said...

I will have to get that book. I love looking at old floor plans. They are so telling how the wealthy lived and entertained back in the day - so much circulation space (halls, galleries grand stairs) and how they sneak in the "service stair" always intrigues me.

pve design said...

Reminds me of PIE a la mode! What a glorious shape and stunning layout.

Renee Finberg said...

i love when you put the plans in the post !

Athenaeus said...

It seems like the most challenging sites often result in the most interesting and beautiful buildings. I agree with Renee the floorplans make the posts that much more interesting.

That's Just Me said...

Did you take those esterior and interior photos? Wow- they are the best!

ArchitectDesign said...

Tavarua, Thanks for stopping by!

David & Renee, The book is fabulous, but as i'll talk about next week, there aren't very good floroplans of the house the book is based on, just other precidents! ODD! I was so happy to see this local building though included!

PVE, it is a piece of big fancy pie!

Athenaeus, I think you're right. Odd conditions are where architects SHINE!

TJM, I didn't take any of the photos, they're all either scanned from the book I mention or from flickr.

Bart Boehlert said...

Very interesting post and beautiful building -- Have a good time at the Inauguration!

Zelda said...

what a research !!
good inauguration

My Notting Hill said...

So interesting and pretty mind boggling to think it cost 1.5 million to build.

marina said...

Hi there - I love your blog - stumbled across it researching the belmont mansion. I'm writing a paper for my historic preservation class. Any chance you can share with me the source of the floor plans? I see you say you mentioned a book but I'm unable to find that...

I would really appreciate it! Hunting down in depth info on the mansion hasn't been easy. I did take a tour - it's stunning! My email is