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.


Virtual Tour 514 4th St. SE

Posted on April 19th, 2022 by Elizabeth Nelson

The Churchill

Churchill Condo, 514 4th St. SE

The name of this condominium project is apt – there was a church on this site for a very long time. A small brick church, built here in 1811, was the first Methodist church in Washington City, and was known by various names over time including Fourth Street Station and First Methodist Church. The biracial congregation grew, in spite of losing Black members who, in 1827, formed the Ebenezer United Methodist Church, which is still in its handsome Romanesque Revival Church at Fourth & D streets SE. Built in 1897, it is a stop in the city’s African-American Heritage Trail.

The Fourth Street congregation made plans in the 1850s for a larger building, with classrooms on the ground floor and the sanctuary above. If the light gray paint were to be removed from the Churchill and the present front-door replaced with side-by-side doors set within arched brick surrounds one would see the church much as it was built in 1857 – a dignified brick structure with Italianate and Romanesque Revival elements. The house to the south was erected as a church residence in 1885.

The First Methodist Church sold the building in 1945 to the Mount Joy Baptist Church, a Black congregation that had been worshipping at the old Masonic Hall nearby at Fifth and Virginia Avenue SE. In 1966, an explosion occurred while the building was in use, killing one person and wounding a dozen more. It ripped out almost two stories of the back brick wall. Originally feared to be a bomb, the explosion was later determined to be the result of a faulty water boiler repair. Because of this explosion, DC created its first interagency team to investigate explosions and other disasters.

Repairing the damage from the explosion took almost four years. The building was rededicated in May 1970, in a joyous celebration with about 500 members and guests. The Mount Joy Baptist congregation continued to use the building until 2011, when the buildings – church and residence — were sold to developers and the congregation moved to Oxon Hill, Maryland. The building was renovated by the Altus Realty Group, which also did the conversion of The Maples, the 1795 landmark house at 619 D Street SE. The Churchill opened as residences in 2017 and includes off-street parking behind the building.

Home of Margaret & Ted Gold

Unit #201 (2nd Floor) VIRTUAL TOUR

House Description:

514 4th St. SE #201, interior

This unit was seen by Margaret and Ted before construction was complete and it was love at first sight. Because work was still being done, they were able to choose the lighter floor color to complement their existing furnishings. (All the other units have much darker floors.) They were looking to downsize from a home in McLean and wanted a condominium so they could travel more. Notice the many photo books on the living room shelves documenting their adventures.

The art throughout the unit has been collected from many places over the years. Margaret and Ted are fans of Jiang Tieng, the founder of the Yunnan School of Painting, one of the most important contemporary movements of abstract art in China. The bronze sculpture of the tiger in the living room and the zebra in the bedroom are by him as well as the prints on the left side of the gallery wall. They have additional pieces of art not on display and are the owners of the landscape triptych in the entry hall of the building in the corner opposite the stairwell. The other residents were happy to share the space.

Margaret and Ted made a few modifications to their unit and were very pleased with the work of local cabinet-maker Peter Hackett. One change was to the kitchen cabinets, which were hung too high for them to be able to fully use. The cabinets were lowered, and a lighted display case was added above, with a railing added for the custom aluminum ladder. The headboard and bridge in the primary bedroom was created to connect the two shelving units from the former home and was stained to perfectly match the older mahogany.

On the other side of the unit, the office boasts floor-to-ceiling bookcases and a built-in desk. Mirroring the kitchen detail, the clever railing and lightweight custom ladder have been included to create more usable space and access. The den/spare bedroom also has a built-in desk and shelves and cabinets. The mirrored wall contains a pull-down Murphy bed!

Home of Carol Rabenhorst & Bernard Wood

Unit #301 (3rd Floor) VIRTUAL TOUR

House Description:

514 4th St. SE #301, interior

Apartment 301 is the only unit in The Churchill that has been re-sold since development, and the only one with a second floor. Carol, a retired attorney, was looking to downsize from her traditional home in Kalorama and was delighted with both the spacious feeling of this unit and the light provided by the large, arched windows across the front of the building. She decided to scrap almost all her furnishings, aside from artwork, and start over with contemporary furniture to complement the new modern space.

Carol and Bernard have acted as their own interior designers, to wonderful effect. The unit has recently been repainted to add more warmth to the large volume of space. A few other adjustments were made, such as the built-in bookshelves with ladder in the den (also built by Peter Hackett who was recommended by neighbors in the Churchill) and moving the door to the second bathroom to face into the guest bedroom instead of into the dining area. The new bathroom door was created on the same scale to match the rest of the oversized doors. Extra storage was included in the redesign.

Up the stairs is a large loft area – one of the highest perches in the neighborhood. It is used as a study and home office for Bernard, a professor at George Washington University, and as an entertainment center. A mechanical room with storage area fits under the eaves, and an additional finished storage room was added at the rear of the loft.

The domes of the Capitol and the Library of Congress are clearly visible from the apartment most of the year – only in the summer do leaves on the trees partially block them from view.

This home was featured on WETA’s “If You Lived Here” prior to purchase by the current owners.

— Angie Schmidt

Virtual Tour 725 5th St. SE #21

Posted on April 19th, 2022 by Elizabeth Nelson

Home of Ashley Doherty

725 5th Street, SE VIRTUAL TOUR

House Description:

Lenox Condos, 725 5th St. SE

The Lenox School Lofts are filled with American and DC history. Two of Washington’s traditions regarding schools are part of Lenox’s history: public schools were segregated until the Bolling v. Sharpe Supreme Court decision in 1954 and schools were named for presidents and DC mayors. 

Walter Lenox served on the Washington city council (the lower of its two legislative chambers) from 1842 to 1843, then as an Alderman from 1843 to 1849, serving his last term as President of the Board of Aldermen. At age of 33, he was elected the thirteenth Mayor of Washington, DC (the first to be born in DC) and served only one term, from 1850-1852. He did not accomplish much in such a short time but was a strong proponent of public education. He joined the Confederacy in Richmond when the Civil War began in 1861. When he returned to DC in 1863, he refused to stop publicly promoting the Confederacy, was arrested and spent 20 months in Fort McHenry until the end of the war. He died in 1874 and was interred in Rock Creek Cemetery. 

Lenox School was built in 1887 as a whites-only school and named for former mayor Walter Lenox. By the 1960s, school enrollment in the city decreased and the school system struggled to maintain the surplus buildings, forcing the city to sell many of them for adaptive reuse, including the Lenox School in the 1990s. Row houses were built on the playground and the Lenox Lofts were completed in 2004. The exterior of the building does not hide its original use; note the steps that are uneven from being worn down by many pairs of small feet. 

This unit, one of four on the floor, retains much of the original charm of the building while creating useful modern living space. Past the entry hall and utility closet (washer and dryer inside), the main living space is graced with large windows and exposed brick. The main wall is filled with bookcases divided by a cast-iron gas fireplace. The ceiling fixtures help remind you that this once was a school. 

Downsizing from her single-family house, Ashley kept the things most meaningful to her. In the foyer, hang a photo of Ashley House in Deerfield, MA (built in 1734); a map of southeast Missouri, the frontispiece to one of her father’s books; and paintings she did in high school. The mid-century modern furniture was handed down from her parents and the Victorian sofa from a great-aunt. The Alabama poster in the kitchen recalls her late husband. 

The modern kitchen is tucked on the side – note that the windows are the oversized originals and the ceiling floats away from them, which you will also notice from the bedroom above. A small room, enjoyed by the owner’s granddaughters as a playroom, is tucked round the corner. Another small bedroom and a bathroom also occupy this floor. Steps in unusual places add to the charm of the space.

The main staircase leads up to another bath and a large bedroom tucked under the eaves. This bedroom serves as both guest quarters and sewing room and “shares” the windows from the kitchen below, making it bright and airy. A small “attic” above this room hides the hot water heater and extra storage.

In 2012, Ashley decided to leave her home in Northwest DC and chose Capitol Hill and the Lenox Condo because she wanted a walkable and more diverse neighborhood. Access to public transportation was important to her for both convenience and the environment. And she wanted to get away from the upkeep of a house and yard. She particularly enjoys the light from the tall windows – and her neighbors, whose helpfulness eased the isolation of the pandemic. 

–Angie Schmidt

2022 Photo Contest Winners

Posted on March 17th, 2022 by Elizabeth Nelson

In anticipation of the 65th anniversary of the Capitol Hill House and Garden Tour, the Society sponsored a photo contest – “The Capitol Hill Home”. We are pleased to announce the winners:  Congratulations to David Parkes, Patrick Serfass, and Margit Leiner-Henry. View photos…

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Removing Permastone – 1017 C St. SE

Posted on November 16th, 2021 by Elizabeth Nelson

You may have noticed the work underway at 1017 C St. SE and wondered “what’s up”… The owners are restoring the facade, removing the Permastone that was installed in 1956. Learn more at a virtual Preservation Cafe, Tuesday, May 17, 2022.

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Walking Tour Photos – November 2021

Posted on November 13th, 2021 by Elizabeth Nelson

A few photos of our November 2021 guided walking tours – Parks: Treasures of Capitol Hill, Architecture of Capitol Hill, Capitol Hill Alleys and The Resistance.

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