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Dupont Circle House Tour to Show Victorian, Beaux Arts, Contemporary & More

By Robin Diener*

[Note: Photographs accompanying this news story in the print edition can be viewed in the full PDF copy in the Current & Back Issues Archive.]

“What do they have in common: a former White House, a floating staircase, and a secret garden? They’re all sites on this year’s Dupont Circle House Tour!” That’s the refrain from the promotional campaign for the Dupont Circle Citizens Association (DCCA) 42nd Annual House Tour to be held Sunday, October 18, from 12noon to 5 pm.

The riddle is meant to highlight the range of offerings on the tour — historic to modern to whimsical. A total of 14 sites and afternoon tea will be available for ticket holders. In addition, this year, a reception at the Historical Society of Washington at Mt. Vernon Square will launch the tour weekend on Friday, October 16, at 6 pm. The program, entitled “Why I love Dupont Circle,” will be open to all tour ticket holders, tour volunteers, and DCCA members.

The former White House of the riddle is the Patterson House at 15 Dupont Circle, also site of the Tea. The elegant white marble edifice served as a temporary residence for President and Mrs. Coolidge during a period of renovations in the 1920s. Currently, it is home to the Washington Club, which will welcome tour participants to Afternoon Tea from 2 to 5 pm, when some of the rooms will also be open to view.

Designed by noted New York architect Stanford White and built in 1902, the Patterson House is one of several buildings on this year’s tour that aren’t that close to 16th Street, the spine of the tour. But the bulk of the featured houses sit on or near the street, also known as the Avenue of Presidents, that runs from Lafayette Square to Meridian Hill Park and beyond. 16th Street also boasts many extraordinary residences that don’t belong to heads of state, ambassadors, or other dignitaries.

There are 10 houses on the self-guided walking tour as well as three buildings that don’t serve as residences, and one industrial structure that has been adapted into a spectacular modernist home.

In addition to the Patterson House, the non-residential buildings include the Denman-Werlich House, built in the Richardson Romanesque style and now home to the Green Door and Ross School, a fine example of the red-brick box design used for the city’s school buildings in the late 19th century.

Also on this year’s route is the recently renovated lobby of the Camden Roosevelt apartment building, formerly the Roosevelt Hotel and the northern-most stop on the tour. The imposing Roosevelt is far from commonplace, but it does typify a style that’s central to Dupont Circle’s rich architectural heritage. Today, many of the neighborhood’s mansions are gone. Aside from the sheer opulence of the Patterson House, one reason to celebrate the Beaux Arts edifice is that it’s the only survivor of the many “palaces” that once ringed Dupont Circle.

Somewhat smaller but just as grand is a Parisian-style home built a few blocks away and just eight years later. This New Hampshire Avenue house, also featured on this year’s tour, was designed by architect Clarke Waggaman. After serving as an embassy and a law office for decades, the building was restored to residential use in 1993. Remarkably, many of the original interior features had not been destroyed, so a faithful renovation could be executed.

A very different approach was taken with the former glass factory that yielded the most contemporary home on this year’s tour. By adding a floating staircase and a glassed-in, open-air courtyard, the architect-owner created loft home with a sense of space worthy of a great palazzo.

The result has nothing to do with Victorian style that defines Dupont Circle, but great neighborhoods always incorporate the new as well as the old. Such surprises are what keep Dupont Circle, and this year’s Dupont Circle House Tour, fascinating.

As for a secret garden, there are several: an interior court complete with fountain, a sunken garden, and a pumpkin patch over a former streetcar station entrance.

How and Where to Obtain Tickets

Tickets are $25 in advance/$30 day of tour and may be purchased on line through the DCCA website,, or at the following local outlets: Axis Salon (1519 Conn. Ave.), Design Within Reach (1838 Columbia Rd.), Goodwood (1428 U St.), Greater Goods (1626 U St.), Home Rule (1807 14th St.), Java House (1645 Q St.), Trio Restaurant (1537 17th St.), True Value Hardware (1623 17th St.), and Urban Essentials (1330 U St.). Tickets on the day of tour will be available at the Dupont Circle Freshfarm Market (9am-1pm; 20th St., bet. Mass. Ave. & Q St.) and at the Patterson House (11:30am-4pm; 15 Dupont Cir.). For information, call 202-431-9254.

*The writer serves as president of the tour’s sponsor, the Dupont Circle Citizens Association (DCCA).

Copyright (c) 2009 InTowner Publishing Corp. & Dupont Circle Citizens Ass’n. All rights reserved.