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Prolific Architect Arthur B. Heaton (1875-1951)

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By Paul Kelsey Williams*

Arthur B. Heaton designed over a 1,000 commissions that included lavish apartment buildings, commercial buildings, theaters, and lavish private mansions and homes in the metropolitan Washington area throughout his career, which lasted from 1897 to 1947.

He was born on November 12, 1875 in Washington, DC, the son of Frank M. and Mabel (Berthrong) Heaton. Following his 1892 graduation from Central High School, he was employed as a draftsman for the local architectural firms of Frederick B. Pyle, Paul J. Peltz, and Marsh and Peter, and continued his own education in Europe, touring the great cathedrals and attending the Sorbonne for a year. He partnered with architect George A. Dessez for the seven houses located between 1712 and 1720 22nd Street, and 2206-2208 Decatur Street, NW. Heaton then opened his own office in 1898.

Immediately successful, Heaton designed four important apartment houses in the first two years of his own practice, an impressive feat for any aspiring architect. They included the Augusta (1900), the Marlborough (1901), the Montgomery (1901), and the Highlands (1902). In all, Heaton would go on to design 28 apartment houses during the period from 1900 to 1940, including the Altamont in 1917, located at 1901 Wyoming Avenue, perhaps his best example. He also served as the first supervising architect on the construction of the Washington Cathedral from 1908 to 1928.

Heaton also designed a number of homes for private individuals of means, including William S. Corby, David Lawrence, Rudolph Kauffmann, George Judd, and Gilbert Grosvenor’s country house in Rockville, Maryland. He provided the plans for the stone-clad house at 1500 Farragut Street, NW in 1915 for coal business owner William E. Barker; designed the house at 2122 Bancroft Place, NW for lawyer Frederick Eichelberger in 1911; and the house at 1848 Biltmore Street, NW for owner R.V. Belt, which was featured in the February 22, 1911 issue of American Architect.

Heaton provided plans for more than 500 more modest homes in the Burleith neighborhood of Washington just north of Georgetown for the Shannon and Luchs development company between 1917 and 1932. He is also noted for an unusual section of homes along a cul-de-sac at Rittenhouse Street and Broad Branch Road in the Chevy Chase DC neighborhood, designed and built in 1931. An early preservationist, Heaton incorporated salvaged architectural elements from the H.H. Richardson-designed mansion, built in 1884 for Henry Adams at 16th and H Streets, NW and razed in 1926, into two individual houses he designed that same year at 3014 Woodland Drive, NW and 2618 31st Street, NW.

Heaton’s commercial designs include the National Geographic Society at 16th and M Streets, NW in 1911; the John Dickson Home for Aged Men at 14th and Gallatin Streets, NW in 1912; the Equitable Building Association; the Washington Loan and Trust Company at 17th and G Streets, NW in 1924; the Capitol Garage on New York Avenue between 14th and 13th Streets, NW; the Embassy building of 1932 at Connecticut Avenue and N Streets, NW; and what is considered the first planned neighborhood shopping center in the country, the 1930 design for the Park and Shop complex in the Cleveland Park neighborhood at Connecticut Avenue and Porter Street, NW.

Heaton married Mabel Williams in 1902, and together, they had two children, Doris (b. 1906), and James (b. 1911). The family first resided at 3320 Highland Avenue, NW, but moved into his own designed house at 4861 Indian Lane, NW, in 1928. Heaton maintained an office at 1211 Connecticut Avenue for much of his career, and a later colleague, Leon Chatelain III, donated nearly 10,000 of Heaton’s drawings and plans to the Library of Congress.

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