Legacy Architects and Builders

•Albert H. Beers, architect (1859–1911). Originally from Bridgeport, Connecticut, at the time of his death he lived at 757 Park Road, NW, Washington, D.C.; his office was at 1342 New York Avenue, NW. Beers worked extensively with Harry Wardman, and two of their projects appear on the National Register of Historic Places. Beers designed many rowhouses for Wardman and is credited with Wardman’s breakthrough designs for “daylighter” rowhouses. He also worked with other builders, including Harry A. Kite, Chris Cox Dawson, George Barkman, and T. J. McCubbin.

•Clement A. Didden, architect (active 1873–1923). Didden was a talented architect and a member of a distinguished Capitol Hill family. He practiced with his son, George A. Didden, as C. A. Didden & Son from 1905-1918. In addition to the store at 206 Warren Street, NE, Didden also designed a Neoclassical house for Bartholomew Daly at 1312 East Capitol Street (1908).

•Edwin Horatio Fowler, architect, draftsman and Capitol Hill resident.

•Julius J. Germuiller, architect (1882-1925). Little is known about Germuiller.  He  designed many small residential and commercial buildings in Northwest and Northeast for Groff and others.  His rowhouses for Groff in the same square as Groff Court include 516-536 4th Street, NE (1890), 319-337 F Street, NE (1890) and 330-334 E Street, NE (1891), He designed other rowhouses for Groff nearby, at 220-234 E Street, NE  and 510-518 3rd Street, NE (both in 1892).   He designed several buildings for Groff, including the rowhouses at 723-725 2nd Street, NE (1896).  And nearby, a store and residence for Groff at 538 3rd Street, NE (1896?).  Germuiller’s other projects in Northeast included: dwellings on D Street, NE between 8th and 9th streets (1892),  His commercial projects included several stores on H Street, NE, including three two-story buildings between 12th and 13th streets (1892), and commercial buildings at 633-635 H Street, NE for Amour Behrend (1913).

•Charles Gessford, architect/builder (1831-1894). Gessford, who lived at 661 South Carolina Avenue, SE, was one of the best-known builder/ architects on Capitol Hill. His work includes “Philadelphia Row” (132-144 Eleventh Street, SE) and Queen Anne-style brick rowhouses (824-832 D Street, SE; 638-642 East Capitol Street). He also built alley dwellings (Gessford Court). He borrowed to build his houses; when the Depression of 1893 hit, he was left with houses that no one would buy. He died a year later and was buried at Congressional Cemetery.

•Lewis Wentworth Giles, architect (1894-1974). Giles was a wellknown African-American architect who graduated from Armstrong Technical and studied architecture at the University of Illinois. After serving in World War I, he worked in the office of Isaiah Hatton from 1918 to 1921. In 1921, he opened his own office at 1200 U Street, NW. He designed many churches (Rock Creek Baptist Church, 4201 Eighth Street, NW; New Mt. Olive Baptist Church, Fifty-eighth and Grant Streets, NE), offices, apartment buildings and houses in Capitol Hill, Brookland, Eastland Gardens, Capitol View and Deanwood. Later, his home and office was at 4428 Hunt Place, NE, a house that he designed.

•Diller B. Groff, builder (1841-1910). Groff was born and raised in Lancaster County, Penn.  During the Civil War, he served in a unit of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, rising to the rank of captain.  In 1870, he moved to DC, and began building houses.  Eventually hemoved on to larger projects, building out most of a number of squares in Northwest, including Brightwood Park, and also built in Northeast.  In 1904, he and his brother, Samuel A. Groff, were convicted of defrauding the US Postal Service, in connection with its purchase of Samuel Groff”s invention.  The Groffs’ criminal trial was front page news, and the Washington Post even sent an artist sketch the defendants, attorneys, and witnesses.  The Groffs were sentenced to each pay a $10,000 fine, and to serve two years at the federal prison at Moundsville, W.Va.  The “postal fraud prisoners” enjoyed excellent meals prepared by a chef-fellow prisoner (for which they paid extra) and had access to newspapers and magazines.  When the Groffs were released from prison in 1906, the press covered the event.  While in prison, Groff suffered a stroke, and after his release, he said that he wanted to take care of his health.  It appears that he never again engaged in any significant real estate activity.  Groff died in 1910, after suffering another stroke.  He was relatively prosperous, leaving an estate valued at over $96,000 ($2.2 million in 2014 dollars).  He is buried at Rock Creek Cemetery.

•Herman R. Howenstein, builder (1877-1955). Howenstein was a major Washington developer in early twentieth century. He built many “daylighter” porch-front rowhouses including several on Capitol Hill, beginning in the early 1900s. His rowhouses often feature a straight slate mansard roof with a gable dormer. Later, with a partner, he built and owned a number of large apartment buildings, including 1301 and 1321 Massachusetts Avenue, NW; as well as the Wakefield, Potomac Park, Chatham, Highview (2505 Thirteenth Street, NW), and the Embassy (1613 Harvard Street, NW). In 1933 and 1934, lenders foreclosed on Highview and the Embassy. The foreclosure sale proceeds were less than the mortgage balances. Howenstein and his partner had personally guaranteed the mortgages, and were liable for this deficiency, which they could not pay. As a result, they both went bankrupt in 1935. Howenstein had $13.80 in cash plus the stock in H. R. Howenstein Co. (also bankrupt) and owed almost $400,000. He died in 1955, after a long illness.

•Edgar S. Kennedy, builder (1862-1953). Kennedy arrived in Washington in 1884.  After working for builder Isaac N. Davis, Kennedy and his brother William founded Kennedy Brothers in 1909.  He built thousands of rowhouses, including in Mount Pleasant and North Lincoln Park, and 118 houses on E Street, NE (1914).  His best-known project may be the Kennedy-Warren, 3131-3133 Connecticut Avenue, NW (1930).  The rowhouses at 308-312 E Street, NE (1890) were early in his career.  Like many other developers, he went bankrupt in the 1930s.  He is buried at Elmwood Cemetery.

•Harry A. Kite, builder (1882-1931). He was a prominent Washington developer who built many “daylighter” porch-front rowhouses all over Washington including many on Capitol Hill, as well as apartment buildings (Kew Gardens, 2700 Q Street, NW).

•Albert E. Landvoight, architect (1892-1955). He was born in Washington and attended McKinley High School. He began working for Harry Kite in 1913, served in World War I, and afterward continued to work as an architect. He designed residences and apartments for Kite and for Boss & Phelps.

•George T. Santmyers, architect (1889-1960). He studied architecture at the Washington Architecture Club Atelier (1908-1912), worked as a draftsman for Harding & Upman, Washington, DC, and began his own practice in 1914. He designed many apartments and hundreds of rowhouses, including many on Capitol Hill, for Thomas A. Jameson and Harry Kite.

•Alexander H. Sonneman, architect (1872-19??). He was born in Montgomery County, Maryland, and attended high school in Rockville. He studied architecture with his father (who had taught architecture at the University of Giessen, Germany) and began practicing architecture in 1901. He worked extensively for Harry Kite, designing rowhouses and apartment buildings including Kew Gardens, 2700 Q Street, NW. In 1910 he designed two-story Mediterranean Revival rowhouses with front porches and over-hanging red tile roofs for the entire Square 862 (Seventh/Eighth/D/E Streets, NE, including Lexington Place, NE). Sonneman remained active through 1954.

•B. Stanley Simmons, architect (1872-1931). He came to Washington as a child, and later studied architecture at M. I. T. He was one of the most prolific architects in Washington, and worked with every major developer, including Harry Wardman and Lester Barr. He started designing and building houses in the 1890s, before he moved on to bigger commissions. His rowhouses at 1345-1363 Constitution Avenue, NE, date from his early career. Simmons designed more than 60 apartment buildings between 1890 and 1926, including The Wyoming (1810 Wyoming Avenue, NW, considered by some to be his masterpiece), and the Embassy and the Highview for Howenstein. He also designed the National Metropolitan Bank, 15th and G Streets, NW (1905); the Barr Building at Farragut Square (1929); the Elks Club, 919 H Street, NW (1908, demolished); and the Fairfax Hotel, 21st and Massachusetts Avenue, NW (1921).

•George W. Utermehle. Upon the death of George W. Utermehle on April 16, 1889, the Evening Star newspaper noted that Utermehle had “done more to build up the city than any other man, being at the time of his death the largest individual owner of property in the District…

 

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