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Corner House Anchoring Early 20th Century Mt. Pleasant Row Rehabbed; Integrity of Row Re-established

By Anthony L. Harvey

Accompanying images can be viewed in the current issue PDF

With bravura flourishes both inside and out, all of which reflect an extraordinary sensitivity to historic preservation; sound construction practices; state-of-the art insulation, paints, sealants, and adhesives; adaptive reuse of building materials; energy-efficient appliances and intensive resource conservation; rooftop solar panels and four individual air conditioning condensers; a 30-square-foot planting box with three inches of soil on an energy-conserving white roof and a 300 square-foot roof deck with stunning views of the National Cathedral and community church spires, developer and project manager Jimmy Edgerton has presented Historic Mount Pleasant with a large and handsome turn of the 19th century corner row house in the 1700 block of Park Road.

As characterized by the neighborhood’s preservation organization, Historic Mount Pleasant, Edgerton literally created a 100-year-old historic building’s 21st century rebirth. (This is not Edgerton’s first project of this nature; see, “Columbia Heights Homeowner Proves Slashing Pepco Bills Doable Without Sacrifice,” InTowner, January 2009, issue PDF page 1.)

Working closely with the professional staff of the District’s Historic Preservation Office and consulting with Fay Armstrong of Historic Mount Pleasant, Edgerton has taken a burned-out shell of a house of three floors and a full English basement and completely restored the exterior of the building as well as adapting its interior to a set of four, light and airy and quite elegant condominium apartments of approximately 1,250 square feet each, complete with 10-foot ceilings and large and light-filled windows on three exposed sides of each floor.

The house, which is at 1724 Park Road, is a semi-detached duplex; in its current resurrection, its four apartments separately occupy each of the four individual levels, with unique features in each level of the building’s custom-designed rooms and areaways. Deeply recessed window sills augment the luxuriousness of the room’s high ceilings as do the ceramic and glass Listello accent tiles used throughout the apartments. Bamboo floors are contrasted with a natural red oak staircase and a slate foyer. And exposed brick and room dividing arches are coupled with detailed and painted finished surfaces with natural and introduced lighting serving to enlarge a sense of spacious openness. Gleaming stone countertops, stainless steel appliances, ingeniously designed chrome fixtures abound throughout each apartment.

These century-old rooms sparkle with newness and with a neutral freshness awaiting individual furnishings and personalized decoration — a modernist tabula rasa interior within the extensively detailed exterior. Individual features range from double pocket doors and preserved historic window casing trim 1n the main level’s apartment, to a symmetric bay window in the second floor apartment, and a pair of full-size, dormer-like windows in the top level apartment. The deeply recessed window sills and enhanced interior lighting for the English basement level apartment are especially dramatic when viewed from inside.

Exterior restoration work is especially noteworthy. The reconstruction of the Spanish clay roof tiles that cover the third floor Mansard-like roof; the repair and restoration of the filigree of corbel and cornice worked tin framing the 20 over-one-windows on the second floor’s wide, projecting bay window; and the large, formal 20 over-one-windows on the first floor that open onto the wrap-around front porch have been tastefully painted in the Victorian-style made famous by the example of San Francisco’s “painted ladies.” An extension to the rear of the house, replacing a burned-out, demolished back porch, provided additional bedroom space and small outdoor decks for the apartments, enhancing the prospective use and value of the building.

It could not be more appropriate that Historic Mount Pleasant’s afternoon gala celebrating this “re-birth” of 1724 is being held in the house next door, the attached, complementing structure that completes this pair of semi-detached duplex houses. At 1726 Park Road, it has also been converted into individual apartments and is affectionately known in the neighborhood for its exuberant and decorative exterior painting and its front yard sculpture as the “Tricycle House.”

This wonderful pair of houses, designed by prominent Washington architect Nicholas R. Grimm, were built in 1909 by one of the District’s best known builders and mortgage bankers of the period, Lewis E. Breuninger, whose philanthropic efforts included serving as a trustee of Foundry United Methodist Church, Central Union Mission, and American University. In addition to Mount Pleasant, Breuninger helped develop Park View — his Otis Place houses are especially noteworthy — Colonial Village, Shepherd Park, and the rows of houses in Columbia Heights with large front porches that were an innovation back then.

Over time the house at 1724 Park Road was not well treated, shifting from multiple owners with a variety of uses, from residential to commercial and back, and suffering fires and malign neglect — including having its roof removed on the strength of a building permit authorizing the removal of a badly charred back porch and fire-damaged interior walls after the dramatic fire in the house during the summer of 2007 — this following a $1.5 million sale of the property among members of the Vietnamese community, whose ten-year (1999-2009) ownership of the property led to a foreclosure sale in June of 2010.

At that sale, Jimmy Edgerton, acting as jWest Solutions, Inc., purchased the property, building interior sight unseen, for $500,000 and was startled to be informed shortly thereafter by the District’s Chief Building Inspector that he had until September 30, 2010, to secure the building’s façades and fenestration. Should that not occur, Edgerton was told, a demolition order for the structure would be issued. The inspector feared that unless such remedial action was quickly taken, the next bad storm would fatally damage the building, adversely affecting the adjoining structure.

Edgerton met his deadlines and subsequent schedules, and together with his contractors, structural engineer, and the project architect, David Bloom of DB Architecture, PLLC, moved the project to its observable successful conclusion. All four apartment units that had been listed at competitive prices sold quickly. The restoration of the exterior and the adaptive reuse of the interior at 1724 Park Road is, by all accounts, a successful example of the District’s historic restoration and adaptive reuse program. It can serve as an historic preservation model both for Mount Pleasant and for historic districts throughout Washington. Applications are currently pending for LEED Silver Certification and Energy Star Certification and are expected forthwith.

Historic Mount Pleasant’s gala celebrating the rebirth of 1724 Park Road is scheduled for Sunday, September 18th, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Tricycle House next door. The Public is invited.