House Expo 2022

Posted on May 10th, 2022 by Elizabeth Nelson

On October 29, 2022, CHRS will hold a free House Expo at the Eastern Market North Hall, featuring a wide variety of home service exhibitors and representatives of city agencies.

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Hollywood on the Potomac – Membership Meeting

Posted on April 25th, 2022 by Elizabeth Nelson

Our summer Membership Meeting (members only) will be on June 22, 2022 at 6:30 pm.  As part of the meeting Mike Canning will again offer his popular outdoor walking tour, “Hollywood on the Potomac.”  

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Virtual Tour 224 8th St. SE

Posted on April 19th, 2022 by Elizabeth Nelson

Home of Kara & Christopher McGuinn

224 8th Street, SE VIRTUAL TOUR

House Description:

224 8th St. SE

House Captain: Heather Schoell, Berkshire Hathaway HS PenFed Realty

In 1897 Julia Wilson married Benjamin Burch Earnshaw, a clerk. They had three children and lived at 1220 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, later relocating to 440 Seward Square. In 1904 Julia engaged architect C.E. Webb to design this three-story (plus basement) brick house, built by Samuel Maddox, for her parents, Samuel A. and Juliana Wilson. Julia, her parents, and her daughters lived there with three boarders. Julia and Benjamin are buried at Congressional Cemetery.

In 1923, Ralph DeSimone bought this house and lived here with his wife Rosa and nine children. DeSimone, Frank Cicero, and Samuel Brocato operated the Columbia Fruit Company at 909 Louisiana Avenue, NW. His heirs sold 224 Eighth Street in 1991. 

Chris and Kara have lived on the Hill since 2009 and purchased this house in 2021. Many of its fine original features can still be seen, including several fireplaces with detailed surrounds. It has 4 bedrooms and 3 full baths, offering abundant living space for the family. Chris comes from a family of collectors. Placed prominently throughout the house, you’ll find fine examples of modern/contemporary art, with an emphasis on graffiti, and artifacts from various countries’ manned space programs.

In the vestibule, a mixed group of mirrors, notably a recently purchased, circa 1800 federal parcel-gilt example from the Peter A. Pfaffenroth collection, reflect the art in the living room. A recent addition is a diorama titled “Art Fair” by Abigail Goldman @tinylittlelives. A gift to Chris from Kara, it depicts the crowd at an art gallery, oblivious to a grisly murder that has just taken place – a commentary on the obsessive nature of the collector and the absurdity of the art world. 

Down the hall, is a 110- pound oak door from a jail in England. The date ‘1630’ and other carvings appear on the door – a sample of seventeenth- century graffiti. Chris found this on a trip to England, had to have it, and moved “heaven and earth” to get it safely to Capitol Hill. 

Across the hallway is the dining room, home to several pieces from the originators of the graffiti style in New York City in the 1970s and 1980s through modern masters. One of the first pictures that Chris bought is over the sideboard. Entitled MOPAC, the artwork is by DC-born graffiti artist, Tim Conlon. His work was featured in the first Smithsonian show focused on graffiti as a unique artform. A scroll, “Face Girl/Ass Girl”, by Leah Schrager, Glamour  magazine’s Artist in Residence for 2019, “ is over 100 feet long. Addressing the way women are commoditized to suit a male gaze, it contrasts the comments received on her more sexualized social media approach, with a much shorter list from an account with a more modest profile. 

 In the kitchen, is a signed Andy Warhol print from his ”Space Fruit” series, purchased by Chris’s mother, who served on the Board of the Andy Warhol Museum for 25 years.

On the second floor you’ll find the office, featuring collected pieces of spaceflight history. At the top you will see a NASA brochure from 1967 signed by an astronaut from Apollo 8, 11-14, and 16. One of the highlights of Chris and Kara’s collection is the early model of the Lunar Lander Research Vehicle (LLRV) No. 2 prototype that was likely provided by Bell Aerosystems for the NASA Apollo program, 1964-1966.  It was purchased from the estate of Col. Emil “Jack” Klueva, the only pilot to fly LLRV, No. 2. The nursery is  graced with three original Matisse drawings – and three “fakes” (can you guess which?). The guest room features photographs of large-scale flypaste installations by the French artist JR, who uses his works to bring social awareness. He recently completed a piece in Lviv, Ukraine which was featured on the cover of Time magazine.

A suite with a large bedroom and full bath occupies the third floor.  Note the spectacular views – and the set of stairs that allows the family’s little dog, Tilly, to access the bed.

–Fynnette Eaton

panorama of backyard at 224 8th St. SE

Virtual Tour 504 6th St. SE

Posted on April 19th, 2022 by Elizabeth Nelson

Home of Elissa Preheim

504 6th Street, SE VIRTUAL TOUR

House Description:

504 6th St. SE

At the first glance this brick bayfront might appear to be a typical nineteenth-century row house, yet on closer examination it is rather exceptional due to its generous side yard and side porches.

As with many nineteenth-century houses the history of this house remains somewhat hazy. Earlier research for house tours in 1975 and 1999(?) found indications of one or two buildings on this lot dating back to before 1877 when building permit records began,  perhaps as early as 1864 or 1872. Further research into deed and tax records will be needed to answer those questions. However, in1886 owner Charles E. Nelson received a repair and alteration permit “for brick addition bay windows”, 30’x18’, 2 story, indicating a major addition to an earlier structure.  The Nelson family appears to have owned the property on the corner of E and 6th streets and developed it over time into four houses, including this one.  The corner house at 601 E Street appears on the 1874 Faetz and Pratt map.  Rowhouses at 603 and 605 E Street were built in 1889, also for Nelson, who lived and died at 504 Sixth Street where his funeral services were held, according to the Evening Star September 1911 obituary that refers to him as a “Southeast Washington merchant.”  

As is the case with many Capitol Hill houses this house has been repaired, modified and restored over possibly 150 years.  Owners Charles A. Nichols in 1971 and Terry and Geoffrey Lewis in 1995 undertook major projects to repair termite and other damage and to renovate the house. Through all the changes, the house retains its nineteenth-century flavor while offering modern conveniences.     

In 2012 Ms. Preheim moved in and made the house her own. The house, generously lit by south-facing windows and French doors, is full of color. Walls are sparkling with art works collected by Elissa on her foreign travels. Some are connected to her growing up in a family on foreign assignments including time in Haiti.  Particularly interesting are works by Haitian artist, G. Clerge, stylistically reminiscent of Jacob Lawrence.   

As with the house itself, old and modern furnishings coexist side by side.  Grandfather’s side-by-side, cabinet/secretary sits across the dining table from a contemporary Japanese silk screen.  Other modern Japanese prints Elissa found in Kyoto on a trip to Japan.  A modern, abstract collage, found closer to home at an Alexandria arts festival, faces the living room fireplace.    

Bright interiors make even dark winter days pleasant.  In warmer weather, pleasures of the garden are just outside the door.  The current garden was designed and built by Gary Hallewell of Garden Arts at the time of the 1995 renovations. As with the house, new complements the old.  Valuable mature trees were preserved.  Two crepe myrtles, a spruce, a hemlock, and a photinia are spaced around the garden and a magnificent magnolia sits just outside the dining room.  From the street, the wood gate admits visitors into this quiet garden with a brick path leading to various glass doors and on to the back gate opening to the alley, passing under a wisteria-draped trellis.  There are places here for outdoor socializing or quiet reading and the upstairs porch outside the sitting room is perfect for gazing into the tree canopy with a cup of coffee in hand. 

— Joanna Kendig

Virtual Tour 528 6th St. SE

Posted on April 19th, 2022 by Elizabeth Nelson

Home of Bettilou Taylor and Domenic Ruscio

528 6th Street, SE VIRTUAL TOUR

House Description:

528 6th St. SE

Occupations of the residents of 528 Sixth Street, SE, often reflected their proximity to the Navy Yard. According to city directories (i.e., the Facebook of the nineteenth century) machinist George F. Cunningham lived there in 1877 and in 1881 a brass finisher and blacksmith in the McCathran family was a resident. The Guest family lived there in 1903; Francis was a clerk and George a purser. The basement was rented in the 1920s to a housekeeper and in the 1930s, the second floor, then three rooms and a bathroom, were advertised for rent. For the second half of the 20th century, the Leggett family owned the home. The house underwent a major transformation in 2007, including adding a two-story atrium at the center of the house, a rear and side addition, and a new staircase. Bettilou and Dom purchased the house in 2012 and, after stripping several layers of paint, found the date “1858” penciled on the cornice.

The house’s interior includes sculptures, family heirlooms, and whimsy. Bettilou could host the BBC show ”The Repair Shop”  given her knack for repairing and rehabilitating forgotten pieces. The house features examples of Bettilou’s creative and meticulous eye. She refinishes furniture and antiques, like the table by the front door that displays a collection of vessels: Boston felted wool, brass with turquoise, Hawaiian glass, and La Jolla pottery. She also made the side table by stacking antique mercantile books and painting their pages silver and gold. The owners designed the wood and marble mantels for the gas fireplaces.

Bettilou and Dom’s careers include working in the Senate and government affairs. Bettilou worked for Alaska’s Senator Ted Stevens, hence the many pieces of Native Alaskan craft in the living room, like the baleen basket on the piano and stone bear sculptures.

As you go upstairs, Baldrick the Bear greets you with a display of rock concert tickets and lanyards. Notice Dom’s Italian family portraits on the left and Bettilou’s Scottish family on the right.

In the master suite, sits a 1940s vanity and an early twentieth-century gold-framed mirror—both family heirlooms. Here, Bettilou also has her collection of dolls, including a Revlon Doll and custom-made motorcyclist dolls. (They ride their Harley trike on weekends!)

Moving to the middle of the house you will find the media room off the two-story atrium. Using poster board, Bettilou built a fake wall under the stand to hide the TV cables.

Dom is a Patriots fan, as evident from the signed Tom Brady jersey in the right rear bedroom. Dom’s mom’s art deco dresser needed some repairs, so Bettilou covered some of the panels with grass cloth. The bedroom on the left features more of Dom’s mom’s furniture and Bettilou’s hand-made muppet, a replica of their friend Kevin, who greets guests with a smile.

Downstairs, look up into the two-story atrium featuring three men scaling the wall as well as a giant icicle suspended on braided, 200-lb. wire below the pyramid skylight.

The kitchen island, actually Bettilou’s grandmother’s dresser refinished and topped with granite,  features a natural wood bowl with a terrarium inside. The clock in the breakfast nook is from the owner of Aatish on the Hill restaurant. Over the mantel is a landscape scene, embroidered on a 1954 Singer sewing machine.

The garden stays beautiful all year – it is landscaped with artificial turf and stamped concrete. The basement apartment is not on the tour.