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What Once Was

Tanglebank : Childhood Home of Architect Arthur Cotton Moore

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By Stephen A. Hansen*

A stately house known as “Tanglebank” once stood on the site of the former and future Chinese Embassy Chancellery at the northwest corner of Connecticut Avenue and Kalorama Road. It was built by landscape painter Parker Mann in 1887 and was the early childhood home of prominent Washington architect Arthur Cotton Moore.

:  Tanglebank circa 1920.  photo--Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Tanglebank circa 1920. photo–Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Parker Mann was an artist of some note and a member of the Hudson River School movement of painters, who favored landscapes and coastal views. He was born in 1852 in Rochester, New York and attended the University of Rochester and the École des Beaux Arts in Paris. He then spent several years painting in Europe and came to Washington DC in 1887 to further pursue landscape painting. It may well be that he was of independent means, as it is otherwise surprising that a landscape painter could afford to build such a sizeable house for himself upon arriving in Washington.

The living room at Tanglebank, showing the walls hung with works of Mann’s fellow artists. photo--Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

The living room at Tanglebank, showing the walls hung with works of Mann’s fellow artists. photo–Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Mann immediately became an active member of the artistic community in Washington and was instrumental in the establishment of the Washington Society of Artists and the DC Art Students’ League, serving as its president. He was also a patron of the arts, collecting his fellow artists’ modern landscapes to hang in his Tanglebank home. In 1898, Mann left Washington and moved to New York City and stayed there until 1906 to work in studios in Princeton, New Jersey and Arkville, a small village in the Catskills of New York, until his death in 1918. Today, his works can be found in private collections and various museums nationwide.

In 1902, Tanglebank was bought by Ross Thompson, the son of wealthy real estate magnate John W. Thompson, and lived there with his family for the next 18 years. The construction of a large apartment building immediately to the north of Tanglebank at 2310 Connecticut Avenue in 1922, obstructing the view of Rock Creek valley, perhaps provided the incentive for Thompson to finally sell the house.

The then-new apartment building as it appeared in 2012, with a portion of what had been the Windsor Park Hotel which eventually replaced Tanglebank in the 1940s. photo--Phil Carney--The InTowner

The then-new apartment building as it appeared in 2012, with a portion of what had been the Windsor Park Hotel which eventually replaced Tanglebank in the 1940s. photo–Phil Carney–The InTowner

In 1923, Thompson sold Tanglebank to Captain Ridley McLean. McLean had served on board the gunboat Marietta during the Reyes Rebellion in Nicaragua, on the ammunition ship America during the Spanish-American War, on the staff of Rear Admiral Kempff during the 1900 Boxer Rebellion in China, and the Philippine insurrection during 1901 and 1902.

Parker Mann’s art studio at Tanglebank.  photo--Lib. of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Parker Mann’s art studio at Tanglebank. photo–Lib. of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

In 1896, he married Olive Gale in Washington, adopting her two children from a previous marriage, Olive Beatrice and Gale. The Gales were no strangers to the Sheridan-Kalorama neighborhood. Olive’s father, Thomas Monroe Gale, had built his large house at 2300 S Street (now the Myanmar Embassy) in 1902.

When he purchased Tanglebank in 1923, McLean had been stationed on the USS Arkansas and newly ordered to serve as a budget officer at the Navy Department in Washington. In 1927, he was promoted to Rear Admiral and as Commander of Battle Force Submarines, requiring a two-year posting away from Washington.

The McLeans rented Tanglebank to Mr. and Mrs. Hugh D. Auchincloss. Hugh Auchincloss, a scion of the Auchincloss family dynasty, was a stockbroker and lawyer who had come to Washington to serve at the Department of Commerce. Upon his third marriage, he became the second husband of Janet Lee Bouvier, and stepfather to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, giving her away at her wedding to John F. Kennedy.

Ridley McLean. photo--Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Ridley McLean. photo–Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Divisi

The first Mrs. Auchincloss was born Maya de Chrapovitski, a member of a family of the Russian nobility that had fled to the U.S. during the Russian revolution. She was prominent in social relief work for Russia and the Far East, and was socially prominent in Washington, New York, Newport, Palm Beach, as well as in the European capitals.

While living at Tanglebank in 1928, the 26-year-old Mrs. Auchincloss walked into a whirling airplane propeller at the Naval Air Station in Anacostia. Emerging from the passenger cabin after a sightseeing flight over Washington, Mrs. Auchincloss excitedly tried to run around to the other side of the airplane to thank the pilot for the wonderful flight, slamming into a spinning propeller and splitting open her skull. The Washington Post understatedly reported that “her hat was cut in two by the force of the blow.” The doctors declared that she had only a small chance of recovery, but after over a month in a coma, she slowly began to recover.

On November 12, 1933 at the age of 61, Ridley McLean died suddenly from a heart attack aboard the USS Nevada while at anchor in San Francisco bay. After the death of her father, the McLean’s daughter Beatrice and her husband Captain Charles Godwin Moore returned from a posting in China, as Beatrice wanted to return home and they joined her widowed mother at Tanglebank.

They had three children, Thomas Gale, Olive Gale, and Arthur Cotton. Arthur Cotton Moore became a prominent Washington architect, known today for the “industrial baroque” style, the Washington Harbour development in Georgetown, the new addition to the Phillips Collection, and the renovation of the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. He also led the restoration of the city’s tallest residential building, the Cairo, in 1974.

Arthur Cotton Moore was recently asked about his early years growing up in his grandmother’s house. He recalled “it was a lovely house –- Victorian on the exterior but classical on the interior. There was a garden and a glassed-in conservatory on the side. And there was the original barn, with oats and grain still in it. It was used as the garage. I remember liking to be in the conservatory and the barn. And I remember a lot of wisteria. There was a central hall with rooms on each side and an elegant staircase.” (Source: Views from Sheridan-Kalorama newsletter, winter 2012.)

Postcard advertisement for the Windsor Park Hotel.  photo--courtesy John de Farrari

Postcard advertisement for the Windsor Park Hotel. photo–courtesy John de Farrari

Olive McLean died at Tanglebank in 1941 at the age of 59. In 1946, developer Louis Mantague acquired Tanglebank and announced his plans to construct an eight-story hotel on the site. In 1948, the Windsor Park Hotel opened for business. (Note: In 1962, Mantague also “gifted” the neighborhood with construction of the Rock Creek Motel at 2401 20th Street.)

The Chinese government acquired the Windsor Park Hotel in 1973 for use as its embassy. Arthur Cotton Moore once attended an event at the Chinese Embassy but could never bring himself to tell his mother that, approximately where the dining room at Tanglebank had been located, there was now a portrait of Chairman Mao.

*Stephen A. Hansen is an historic preservation specialist, Washington DC historian, author of several books and of the Virtual Architectural Archaeology blog.

© 2013 InTowner Publishing Corp. & Stephen A. Hansen. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part, including for commercial purposes, without permission is prohibited.