Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Posh Pockets of DC

While wandering around the city this past weekend I visited one of my favorite little pockets of the city, hidden in plain sight. You know what I mean when I say pocket of course;  A small separate but unexpected area set within a different neighborhood.

This pocket in particular has retained an aire of exclusivity despite being nestled into a neighborhood recently known more for prostitution and drugs than affluent housing; the epicenter of such a crime zone in fact. Not one but two houses (mansions really) designed by my favorite architect, John Russell Pope, reside cheek to jowl across from one of the most beautiful Coop buildings in the city.

At the time these residences were built of course, the early 1910s till mid 1920s, this area of the city was one of the most exclusive residential neighborhoods in the city. Many of these fine houses still exist although in somewhat dire circumstances as embassies and apartment houses in shabby condition. However this one hidden pocket along a one way street has remained the lair of wealth. 

Pope designed the first house seen here in 1925 for Irwin Laughlin in the Louis XVI style. Oddly enough, Laughlin was from my hometown of Pittsburgh and the grandson of one of the founders of the Jones and Laughlin Steel Company (you may remember I wrote about the Jones mansions in Pittsburgh at an earlier date). The neighboring house was built earlier in 1912 for Henry White - both houses now function as headquarters for the same organization.
At the same time as the Laughlin residence was being completed in 1925, a grand apartment building was being designed directly across the street by Joseph Younger in Georgian Revival style. City living, where else could your mansion be directly located across the street from apartments (admittedly the poshest apartments of their kind). 
This glorious buildings features many of my favorite apartments in the city and rarely come up for sale: wood burning fireplaces, up to 4 bedrooms and grand entertaining spaces are not easy to find in Washington real estate.
The building is detailed as finely as the Pope mansions across the street: important as these apartments originally sold for higher square footage costs than those very houses!
The original elevator has been lovingly retained (albeit with new mechanical systems) and is identical to the one in my own building built at the same time period. However, they have cleverly stripped the paint from the metal -allowing the classical design of industrial materials to shine through.
Photos taken with my iphone, select and click to enlarge.


Francine Gardner said...

A fascinating post. How grand are theses houses and the apartments sound fabulous.The area will most probably return to its grand style and status, once the drug dealers are kicked out (if that is ever possible in DC) and the building are restored. I lived in DC and did not even know of this enclave.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Francine - the area is very trendy again (after 50 years)and technically safe but still near some unsavory places. This is just off Meridian Hill Park along 16th street.

Mark D. Ruffner said...

I can see why you like this pocket, and I imagine it must feel like a breathe of fresh air. The stone facade of the apartment building reminds me a little of the front of Sir John Soane's house.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Mark, I really need to go to London, I'm dying to go to the Soane museum!

The Devoted Classicist said...

Both the house and the apartment building are fantasic!

Stephan, be sure to schedule your visit to Sir John's house to coincide with a day that the annex house is also open to the public.

Thomas at My Porch said...

John and I lived in Beekman Place the gated community that forms the southern edge of your pocket and was once the site of a Richardsonian Romanesque mansion. When the condos were built in the 1970s a gated community probably the only way folks could be convinced to buy in that neighborhood. By the time we moved there in 2005 the gated aspect wasn't quite the selling point it had once been and units (I think) underperformed in the housing market given their size and quality compared to other options. I kind of loved living there especially when that hidden Harris Teeter opened up in the old roller rink.

lostpastremembered said...

Your iphone is doing a great job with pics. It makes me want to get those new lens attachments for mine to do great outside pics like yours –– I can't carry the big camera around all the time! The iphone means I never miss snapping something delightful like your finds. What great old places! Would love to live in one of those walled houses.

Terry said...

Just what I needed today. Thanks again for the boost up.

ChipSF said...

Great to see these pics. I have only seen these two houses in books before, nice to see that they still look so good!

I have always thought that the Laughlin house was one of my favorite Pope houses and that is saying a lot with so many great choices.

Thanks for highlighting this "pcoket". There are a few more interesting houses in the area - No?

greg6833 said...

I really love these grand homes from the past. I used to live near the District and loved the Kalarama neighborhood, Bancroft Place etc., near Embassy Row. The homes there are some of the best in Washington. The 16th Street corridor really improved during the years 1998-2009 when I was there. Thanks for your post, I miss Washington!