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Sheridan-Kalorama’s Historic Studio House a Direct Link to the 19th & Early 20th Centuries

Accompanying images can be viewed in the current issue PDF

By Paul Kelsey Williams*

The unusual house at 2133 R Street, NW often attracts onlookers, curious about its history with a door that could be straight out of a nursery rhyme illustration. Upon closer inspection one might notice that the massive door hinges have the initials EM — for Edward Lind Morse.

The house was built in 1902 as an art studio for Morse. It was designed by the noted architectural firm of Hornblower & Marshall in the Arts and Crafts style. And if the artist’s last name seems familiar, he was the youngest son of inventor and artist himself, Samuel F.B. Morse.

Samuel Finley Breese Morse (1791-1872) was a graduate of Yale University in 1810, after which he studied art in England under Benjamin West. He returned to America, and for several years was a portrait painter. In 1832 Morse began working on apparatus that eventually resulted in the invention of the telegraph, for which he received a patent in 1840. The first message sent over the wire, from Baltimore to Washington, on March 24, 1844, was “What God hath wrought!”

Edward Lind Morse was the youngest son of Samuel Morse and his second wife, the former Sarah Griswold. He was born on March 28, 1857 in Poughkeepsie, New York. He married Charlotte Dunning Wood on July 24, 1884, and following her death in 1898, married Clara Lounsberry on October 16, 1899.

Morse was both an accomplished painter and writer, and had graduated from Yale University in 1878. He painted the portrait of his famous father, seen here. The interiors of his studio were photographed by Frances Benjamin Johnson.

The studio was converted into a residence in 1910. It was owned by Thomas Raymond Ball, and later by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s oldest son, James Roosevelt; Franklin and Eleanor lived next door at 2131 R Street. The house currently serves as the headquarters of the Delphi Film Foundation.

*The writer, an historic preservation specialist and historian, is the president of Kelsey & Associates in Washington, DC and Baltimore.