Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mary E. Stewart mansion

Directly across the street from The Lindens is my favorite house in DC still in private hands, the Mary E. Stewart mansion, designed by Paul Cret.
Cret started work on the house for Stewart, the daughter of a lumber baron, in 1938 and it was completed the next year in 1939. Stewart's sister, Devore Chase, lived next door in a (slightly smaller) grand Louis XV style mansion designed by William Bottomley in 1931. The design was meant to compliment that house but transition to the more sedate Georgian style house (the Lindens) on the other side of the property. Above -Stewart's sister's house, the Devore Chase mansion. photo courtesy of robinsoneditions It currently is the dc residence of the Sultan of Oman and looks only slightly different these days - lucky man!
I think this house sums up all of the charms we Americans have with French style. All of the romance is there: creamy limestone, a tall slate roof, charming balconies and the seemingly random placement of decorative round windows and other sculptural elements. Stewart probably went to Cret with this grocery list as he was an architect born in Lyon who studied at the Ecole de Beaux Arts before moving to America.
The house is large at nearly 12,000 SF and nearly fills the lot entirely except for a small brick entry drive and the planting bed you see here along with a small side yard. As she built the house after her sister, I can't help but wonder if she wanted to slightly out-do her: nothing wrong with some sibling rivalry! Kalorama is a tight neighborhood against Rock Creek Park with very few roomy lots for yards: The grand houses tend to max out the property here in the heart of the city.
One nice feature is that the house contains 2 garages off the side street by the service entrance. While the house might look a bit odd slid up against its neighbor like this, I assure you most of the grand residences in this part of the city do the same. The house would look lovely on a large piece of land but with this much style and a primo location, you take what you can get!
I first was made aware of the property years ago when it was featured in the AIADC magazine in the summer issue of 2004 as a home of note, and it became a part of my clipping files -the article is scanned in below.

The complete drawing set for the Stewart house by Paul Cret is located at the Athenaeum library in Philedelphia along with hundreds of other drawings from his estate. As you have to pay $40 to access them online (sorry, but no thanks!!!) I'll have to make a trip up to Philly to view the documents in person someday soon!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Lindens

The oldest house in DC is not the White House, and interestingly enough, did not start life out in 'the district' but rather north of Boston! The Lindens (also known as the King Hooper House) was originally built in 1754 as a Georgian styled country retreat in Danvers, Massachusetts. The house was dismantled and moved to Kalorama in 1934 by George and Miriam Morris who bought the house for $14,000 and had it moved to showcase their collection of early American furniture.
The key architect from Colonial Williamsburg's restoration, Walter Macomber, was hired to oversee the rebuilding with some revisions: noteably a concrete and steel foundation and a small addition to accomodate modern plumbing. The house retains its' original name, based on the Linden trees that lined the driveway back in Massachusetts. I love the colonial fence which surrounds the large property and the lush plantings: but where are the linden trees!
Read more about the property's history at the Washington Post or the NPS.
Photos taken with my new camera which I will review later this week -not too shabby!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Congratulations EEE!

The inestimatable Emily Evans Eerdmans of the eponymous blog, has recently been married and the bloggers on her blog roll have decided to throw her a wedding shower! As she is an Art Historian, I thought she would appreciate the history (as well as craftsmanship) of commissioning fine works of art from jewelers, a royal tradition.
Cartier has been accepting comissions from European royalty, maharajas and jetsetters for generations. As Emily is so entirely fabulous, she and her hubby are definitely worth of 'Le Flamboyant', a tableclock made by Cartier,Paris. The round clock is perfect for the center of a library table, so Emily won't forget a date with her husband while busy researching for one of her well-known books! The clock is formed of gold and silver and set with 1,540 diamonds, 1 ruby, 12 emeralds, 230 green tourmalines, 230 iolites, 140 pink tourmalines, 160 citrines, and much mother -of-pearl, lapis lazuli and onyx. As the name suggests, the clock is certainly bold and ornate!
Congratulations to the happy couple as they make their way home from a honeymoon in Hawaii to start married life!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A cozy retreat

We have a long holiday weekend (in reverence of Martin Luther King) and the weather here in DC is decidely cozy: Cold and rainy. One of my favorite past-times is taking an evening walk. Everything looks so beautiful in the dark and you catch private glimpses into houses (nothing voyeuristic, I just want to see the house!). While in Paris one evening , we caught a glimpse into this cozy retreat in St. Germaine. I love the very rustic interior (those old beams!) paired with the very refined exterior of the building (that balcony and carved head!).