House of the Day


Let me take this opportunity to ask why some of these houses are built back from the sidewalk like this. Well, first let me say, I think it looks awesome. But I frequently see a whole strip of houses closer to the curb with only one set back a bit like this. Anyone know why it was set up like this? To fit in an “extra” house?

14 Comment

  • my guess is that if you look this up, you’ll see that the houses were not built at the same time. the one that’s set back was probably built earlier, and the one set closer to the property line was built 20-30 years down the road.

    • Prince Of Petworth

      But then why would there only be only one set back. And it’s nearly always only one set back.

      • perhaps it was the first one built on the block?

        what’s the address? we can look it up on the historical real-estate maps at the library.

  • This rowhouse looks like it was originally part of a duplex. When the other half was demolished, it was replaced with a larger rowhouse built closer to the sidewalk. Here is a great book on rowhouses (although unfortunately about Baltimore and not DC) –

  • It isn’t that the house was set back, it was that the rest of the city was rebuilt further forward.

  • I think Sophie is right. This little house lost its twin. It’s probably one of the oldest houses on the block. Look how the windows have settled and I bet it had a lot more land around it.

  • That is so sad. Can you imagine being the jerk neighbor who comes in and builds a huge brick behemoth next to this little guy?

    \hey, you weren’t using that sun light were you?\

  • Yeah, I want addresses sometimes too, PoP. I could offer an occasional explanation if you’d offer the occasional address. It’s a 99% good guess that this one was built earlier.

    • brian: brian, i looked a little more closely at the picture and realized i could read the address. it’s 463 M Street NW.

      • Thanks. I still don’t see “M (Street)”. The house on the left was built in 1892. This one was obviously built earlier, but when? Look at the very plain second floor windows. I think this was renovated in the 1870s to get that Second Empire look, including the third floor addition. It couldn’t have been very old then, however, because the 1850s Boschke map shows no development on the west half of that linear block.

        • brian: i didn’t see M Street here, but i saw the number, then deduced that the were few 400 blocks in the city that would have houses that look like this.

          once i had that, it only took a minute of looking at google street view to find the house.

  • This isn’t, but it looks like the group of Second Empire and Italianate duplexes on the north side of Que Street, between 14th and 15th, that all set far back from the street. I’ve always wondered why they were built further back from the sidewalk. My guess is that it was the fashion of the time, and then later, builders wanted to maximize lot usage…

  • This happened to my grampa’s cabin in Lake Tahoe. Not long after he sold it the people who had the lot next to his cute little handbuilt A frame built a friggin’ motel next door and cast the front yard in permanent shadow. Then the guy next door started an informal auto repair shop in his front yard, complete with rsuting cars, parts strewn everywhere and weird plywood sheds with blankets drapped over them for doors. Sometimes you just can’t go home again.

  • The Sanborn maps can be of assistance. There is a subscription database but the Library of Congress has digitized some (not all for DC)

    If you look at some of the old maps at DC Public you can see they street plan and that there are houses in places where streets were to go.

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