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Annual Dupont Circle House Tour to Feature Neighborhood’s Quiet Streets; Indonesian Embassy to Host Tea Event

Accompanying images can be viewed in the October 2014 issue PDF

By Robin Diener*

While micro units and conversions infiltrate our historic district, the grand row houses of the late 19th and early 20th centuries still provide the abiding charm of Dupont Circle. Single family homes remain as neatly packed into blocks as the day they went up, only now the sidewalks are tree-shaded and dense with cafés, making Dupont the city’s most livable and walkable neighborhood.

This year’s 47th annual tour, set for Sunday October 19th, between 12 noon and 5 p.m., will feature these homes. They are all surprisingly different, but tour participants will find that an uncommon thread of eclectic artwork runs through them.

Most of this year’s sites are tucked away on the small streets like Church, Swann, Hillyer, Seaton and Willard. One marvelous home, however, is within view of the Circle itself, situated on one of the busiest and most prominent corners in Dupont, a stone’s throw from Firehook Bakery and Kramerbooks. This house served much of its long career as a boarding house (hence a bathroom in every room on the upper floors). It has since been purposefully restored, maintaining many features such as the original pocket door (now out of pocket and on display), elaborate crown molding, and eight-over-eight windows. Although the house is landlocked in the rear, its front garden is big enough for the owner — a landscape designer — to putter and pot with lovely results. Visitors will note the ivy that grows across the gate. This house is also home to a varied display of artworks collected by the owners over the years from Amsterdam to Montana to Cabin John, Maryland. One of our favorites is the still-life of tomatoes that hangs in the kitchen (of course) by an artist of the Color Pencil Society of America.

Stretching the boundaries of Dupont is Seaton Street, close to boisterous Adams Morgan but nicely sequestered under the protection of the V Street Police Station on the east and a small retail strip along Florida Avenue to the north and west. Here one has within a block or two a gym, Japanese grocery, art gallery and home decor store as well as restaurants like Popville, LKW, and popular standby El Tamarindo.

The house that will be open in this corner of the neighborhood is an uncommonly quaint home that the owner found too common when she bought it. She removed part of the second floor in the 1960’s before lofts were in vogue and flipped the kitchen to the front. The heavy central staircase was dismissed in favor of a lighter, open-tread version against the newly exposed brick wall. Where the second floor overlooks the first there is now room for a small office brilliantly lit by the tall rear windows. A nursery completes the second floor, surmounted by two bedrooms on the third.

Two blocks away is narrow, leafy Willard Street. It holds a slice of cutting-edge modern that passerby would never suspect. When the owners purchased it nearly 10 years ago, they found so much damage that only four of the original joists could be saved. They gutted the entire building, had the basement dug out, and while they were at it reversed the floor plan to ensconce the sleeping quarters on the first floor beyond a front room office and new central staircase. A spectacular architectural feature, the staircase is a cocoon of soft teak from which one emerges to the light-filled second floor living space. Long slender light wells, 17-foot ceilings and a north-facing turret wash the owners’ singular collection of artwork with gentle light. On the other side of the staircase, a vast gleaming open plan kitchen leads to a larger than imagined dining room beyond. Above, a stunning roof deck beckons.

Many other houses and former houses are on the tour, including the Jane Haslem Gallery and the Swann House Bed and Breakfast. This year’s tea will be served at the Embassy of Indonesia at 2020 Massachusetts Avenue, between 2 and 5 p.m. This magnificent edifice was once the home to the legendary Hope diamond and its owner. Indeed, this year’s tour participants will find treasures abound at the 47th Annual Dupont Circle House Tour.

*The writer is a past president of the tour’s sponsor, the Dupont Circle Citizens Association (DCCA), and now serving as a member of its board.


How to Obtain Tickets & Self-Guide Booklets

Tickets are available in advance for $40 ($45 on day of the tour). To purchase online and for more information, visit On the day of the tour, starting at 11 a.m., both tickets and booklets will be available at the Dupont Circle Resource Center located in the small brick building immediately west of the Circle at Mass. Ave. & 20th St.

Copyright © 2014 InTowner Publishing Corp. & Dupont Circle Citizens Ass’n. All rights reserved.