Round House Nominated for a DC landmark status in Brookland

Photo by PoPville flickr user Lalaroo

Some interesting info from the Brookland listserv on this oft nominated House of the Day:

Working with John Feeley, I have researched the history of the Round House (1001 Irving) and nominated it as a DC landmark building. The nomination was filed by the DC Preservation League. The building is protected from major changes (to the exterior only — the nomination is only for the exterior of the building) until the city’s Historic Preservation Review Board actually hears the case, and at that time the protection becomes permanent or disappears. Some cases are heard fairly soon and some wait for years. The owner, a local developer who has begun a good restoration of the building anyway, and the ANC, all are consulted before the hearing, naturally, but the Board will base its decision largely on the historical and artistic aspects of the building itself. The building permits already issued to the owner remain in force, because they were validly issued. Visiting the place recently, the developer seems to be maintaining not only the exterior as it was but also the interior. (There were three rooms surrounding a central spiral staircase that goes to the second floor. A skylight tops the house.

The house was built in 1901 by a prominent Brookland builder, John C. Louthan, who lived in another house he himself built at 12th and Irving (now gone). His architect was a very busy designer of modest houses in the city, Edward Woltz. This was one of only a handful of larger buildings Woltz designed. Over its life the house has seen only four owners; Mrs. McKinney, who died last year, had lived there since about 1950. There is no information about why Woltz and Louthan chose the odd shape for their house — octagon and round houses were a short fad in the US in the 1850s but had stopped being built by the Civil War and revivals of this style are rare. Nonetheless, that is what Woltz seems to have done. There are no other round houses in Washington.

15 Comment

  • Let me see if I understand this: someone can nominate your house for historical preservation, and basically, while you are consulted, the status could inflicted upon you whether you like it or not? Wow. If I owned that house, I’d like to be consulted before anyone forced that kind of restriction on me.

    • Yeah, that about sums it up. It is the height of self obsessedness. It has been wrecking havoc on commercial real estate owners in the town for a couple decades as just about anyone can nominate any property for inclusion at no cost to themselves and even it is ultimately rejected, it has kept more than a fair share of real estate attorneys and land-use consultants all charging obscene hourly rates busy fighting it.

      You want to register my property for preservation? Fine, you buy it from me and have at it.

      All this does is cost the owner a fortune and reduces its market value moving forward because no one is going to pay for a house they can’t do anything with, or make any changes to.

      • Well, it also preserves historic properties. As far as the effect on property values, I know of several studies that have found the designation actually raises the property value.

        • Then please link them here.

          I could point you to 3 or 4 homes on the Hill that sold significantly less than the comps (as in 12-15% less) in the past 24 months specifically because it was historically designated. Who wants to spend 6 months and thousands of dollars petitioning a Preservation Organization every time you want to paint your shutters, or “gasp” replace a leaky or broken window? Call any realtor you like and ask them if historic preservation weighs or buoys the sell price.

          Historic Preservation is a deathnell to commercial real estate development which is why it has become the local weapon of choice for Nimby’s to attempt to kill a project. The Wisconsin Ave Giant and the 3rd Church of Christ downtown are two top of the mind examples.

          • How about the Ontario Theatre that Adams Morgan NIMBYs are trying to heavily associate with Latino history in order to keep the abomination of a building intact… It’s embarrassing.

          • Most studies discuss districts rather than individual houses, but here’s one for individual properties. It’s from California, where the historic designation reduces the property tax rate by 1%. It found that the housing values increased more than the cost of the capitalized property taxes.

            Now do you have any data showing that it decreases the market value of houses? You are, after all, the one who made the original assertion.

            By the way, I agree that the designation process is sometimes abused by NIMBYs. That doesn’t make the entire process counterproductive.

          • You are misinformed. Paint colors are NOT reviewed in DC. Maintenance in kind is also not reviewed. The majority of historic homeowners in DC are all ready withing historic districts, making them eligible for both facade easements and significant tax relief for major renovations. Most buyers want the protection, as it saves them from having to worry about a tear down or large apartment building of neon, glass block and chrome being built right next door…See the studies done by the National Trust for HP to verify that HD’s actually increase property values, revive commercial districts, and create a safe and stable neighborhood.

  • I love this house, but noticed lately that it has become a bit shabby. It used to have a well-kept yard that seems run-down now. We used to take our visiting friends by here all the time because it’s so sweet. However, I think it’s at 10th and Kearney, not Irving, no?

  • The Historic Preservation Review Board in DC wields WAY too much power.

    I hate reservation just for the sake of preservation. And then on top of it it seems any old building or house these days gets slapped with historical significance in this town.

  • Seems like a good way to get back at your enemies!

  • house is on 10th and Irving… although it is a bit strange somebody else can nominate a property, for reasons like this house is why you can. A developer picked up the house and from my knowledge was gonna flip it and build a large addition on the back. Probably cheap. But because of this person the developer now has to actually keep the integrity of this extremely unique home. Only one in the city. I think it is wonderful and DC needs more of this. If you live in Brookland take a look at tghe home at the corner of 15th and Kearney. This house was bought by a developer, property was split in half to squeeze in another home and the house itself was givin a rather unfortunate cheap reno. Go two blocks south on 15th and find the same exact same reno by the same developer. These ruin the integrity of Brookland. The Round house was gutted and stripped for a quick reno, but because of this it is now boarded up and getting run down. I hope the developer, who has the money, resposibly restores the hope and it will sell to whomever is looking for a uniqe home. More historic buidlings like this make them, themselves more valuable and then in turn all the homes around them worth more to, and most importly keep Brookland as well as other parts of the city the gems that they are.

    • to add.. restoring an old or lets say in this case a historic home, is a labor of love, not always just to make money. I think there is major difference between single family homes and commercial real estate as some are bringing up.

    • The two houses you are talking about were not done by the same developer as the one who bought the round house. Those “cheap reno[s]” you refer to were Menkiti projects. Word on the street is Ditto purchased the round house. He just updated a foreclosed crumbling bungalow on 15th, not the farm house at the corner, and did a great job. A deteriorating foreclosed bungalow was replaced with an expanded bungalow that looks good, has solid modern amenities, and sold for over 600K. That’s the kind of development my neighborhood needs.

  • I remember passing this house everyday walking to school when I was a little kid. It was always my favorite. I would love to see how it looks inside.

  • Dear Prince, I was googling ‘Edward Woltz’ when I came upon your blog. Can you give me some internet leads on Woltz?
    There is a historic (circa 1894) Victorian manor in Kensington, MD which one source thinks might have been designed by Woltz. It was built for Brainard Warner, a prominant Washington DC citizen who developed the Kensington Park Subdivision around the turn of the century. He was associated with Washington Star editor Albert Noyes. The House and a number of Victorian beauties in the neighborhood are part of the Kensington Historic District. The house and grounds (4.5 acres), including a large carriage house, were bought by the County in 2005 and are now being preserved as the Warner Circle Special Park.
    We would love to be able to establish who the architect was. Would appreciate any leads anyone can offer on Woltz and Warner.

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