Popping up and back in Hill East


Thanks to a reader for sending in:

“Saw this old house getting the pop up treatment in Hill East the other day…This is the fourth pop up on the 1700 and 1800 blocks of A ST SE in less than a year.”

Ed. Note: I think this one has good potential!

14 Comment

  • We live across the street and have been watching this go up. It looks like they are doing a good job with it, and are at least trying to match the brick. Just hope they dont convert all of the large side/backyards to parking. More densiity in Hill East will hopefully mean more commercial development. We need a diner and sports bar!

    • Ally

      +1 Agreed. I live a block from here and I’d be very very happy to have a little more retail/restaurants. Note, if you’re the house across the street who just started the new little free library, +1000 and it looks awesome 🙂

  • Emmaleigh504

    So far so good!

  • justinbc

    Definitely looks like it’s off to a good start.

  • Looking really nice. ERB does really good work (full disclosure I live in one of their homes).

    • I just moved into an ERB home. So far so good. Nate, glad to hear you think they do good work. I would love to chat sometime – derekwmoore AT gmail DOT com.

  • If only they could all look like this. The proportion looks good, and its clear already they they are making a nice effort to respect the original character of the home and neighborhood.

  • I am less sanguine than others on this one (although I suppose with pop-ups, that’s to be expected). The mansard roof idea isn’t bad in concept, but somehow the way it’s executed looks off to me here — it’s too tall, and the proportions of the dormer windows don’t look right.

    • I would say this one is being completed with some attention to detail. I would say this one would make the list of decent pop-ups. Let’s wait until the final product though before passing judgement.

  • That is a good looking pop-up – they did a nice job with the design aesthetics.

  • So this is a perfect example of the problems that can occur with “one size fits all” rules.

    This is an R-4 neighborhood, and this property is the end unit at 1801 A St. SE, so both the building footprint (22 x 37.5) and the lot dimension (wider but all are 70+ feet long) are larger than the interior units (20 x37.5 or 18 x 37.5).

    Once you apply a standard 1.8 FAR rule, what is feasible (pop-back, pop-up) for the 1801 property, may not be feasible for the interior properties. That introduces all kinds of architectural/visual issues.

    1801 is being converted from sfd, approximately 1600 sq. ft, to a two family (basement and first floor, 2nd and pop-up floor). With the pop-back, each floor will have just under 1000 sq. ft. The basement doesn’t count in the FAR analysis, so the total combined square footage of floors 1,2,3 is roughly equivalent to the maximum allowable: 2800+…..

    1803 (1500, 1479) and 1805 (1318, 1306) are smaller buildings and lots, and would not be able to copy the 1801 (1662, 1561) pattern, meaning that either the pop-back or the pop-up would have to be phased smaller.

    One can follow along with DCRA’s issue identification by looking at the permit status comments:


    You’ll notice a discussion of easements and how the two units are accessed. These are important discussions if you’re a neighbor.

    • Accountering

      I see that as being a problem with the zoning. If one house can do it, the rest should be able too.
      Overall this one looks great to me. I have driven by many times, and it looks like quality construction with some attention to detail. I am optimistic about this one.

  • It is hard to argue with a classic addition of a Mansard roof, and the addition of brick walls. It is a very classic architectural detail. Granted, I’ll be shocked if that add real slate. Still, to be frank, this is NOT a pop-up. It is an addition. There is clear attention to architecture history and detail.

    “Little History — Most ‘pop-up proponents really don’t understand the history of architecture, let alone the history of Victorians or rowhouse Colonials. We had massive fires in the 1800’s , New York City, Seattle, St. Louis, Boston, Chicago. Building codes were adjusted to ‘eliminate’ cheaply constructed housing — i.e, houses made out of cheap ,green wood, basically fire traps. (like the crap that pop-ups are and out off.). The reason we have all of this brick houses, and not a bunch of cheap crap is because we outlawed for decades….

    In D.C., the fire code required that it take an hour for the fire to burn from one house to the next. The only way to do that in the 1800’s was brick. Again, in D.C., the wall had to be 13 inches thick. In parts of St. Louis, the code required the wall to be 18 inches thick. Old growth timber was required. We have never built better. Everything was done for a reason, the A-frames and turrets helped vent the houses and keep the houses both cooler in the summer and warming in the winter. They didn’t have insulation because IT WASN”T INVENTED YET, and they did not need it. They heated they’re house with ‘fire” and later radiators off wood, coal and oil based furnaces and pipes were completely gravity based (i.e. they had no circulation pumps because they had no electricity!). In the past, they were smarter enough to leave the windows, cracked to keep from dying from carbon monoxide poisoning. They understood that if they could see their breathe, they wouldn’t freeze to death and that fresh air was good for them!!

    Now, we are rushing to gut house that were build to last for hundreds of years, for generations of families. We are ripping off 100-year old slate turrets, or slate and tera cotta A-frames that are pristine to tack up an uninspiring floor. These roofs with minor repairs could last or hundreds and hundreds of years. There is a reason by church roofs are terra cotta, slate and copper! These houses were build before the advent of AC and the mass us of electricity, architects were forced to take into account the density of materials and calculate inside and outside temperatures, then add windows of varying sizes to circulate air and vent the building to specific temperatures. Modern practices are troubling! That is why is they are not hailed or largely followed on the in Georgetown, Capitol Hill, Mt Pleasant, or Adams Morgan or generally the west side of D.C.

    Pop-up proponents are generally ignorant, uneducated, the unaware or worst, just greedy. Again, we banned this stuff a hundred ago, because it was cheap. (Too be fair — the reason that houses were not build bigger in the past was because we required all four wall to be 13-inches of brick!! ) Sometimes proponents are relators, contractors, or bankers, whose interest is economic profit, not on quality construction. Most — in truth — have no understanding of older construction or architecture — most focus on the amenities and cost of the appliances, and the marble countertops, trite bull crap. Their framing walls up with green 20-year old wood, cheap-ass particle board wall or, cheap plywood and vinyl siding — not real wood and brick walls. They’ve come to disdain old, because of the labor involved in saving it, because greater profit lies in its destruction — They enticed us by ‘newness,’ but not with good materials or even good construction, like that of the past which employed principles based on physics and not electrically-supported mechanical systems.

    In short, Pop-ups are ignorant, cheap ass-construction, generally not-tolerated west of 16th Street in D.C., and in historic neighborhoods. Historic neighborhoods have construction projects, they just don’t permit bullshit.

    This does not appear to be a pop-up!


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