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Dear PoP – Proposed Rendering for Old Mansion in Mt. Pleasant

by Prince Of Petworth November 17, 2010 at 11:30 am 29 Comments

“Dear PoP,

The bottom line is that they’re putting an addition on the house, cutting in a couple new entrances, plowing under the garden to create a small parking lot, and cobbling the house itself into ten apartments.

I took an interest in this place because of it was untouched by the ravages of stupid modern-day renovations. Unlike almost any property in Mount Pleasant (or central d.c.) its a house with a yard. This new plan will ruin the place in the same fashion of the big white mansion next door.”

You can see the full proposal below. Do you agree with the reader or think it’ll be a good renovation?

101027 HPRB Mount Pleasant Final

Here’s the Historic Commission’s report on the plan.

Historic Commission’s report

Located at 3324 18th Street, NW, this was a GDoN Post back in March ’10.

  • A

    Hard to say whether the project will turn out well until the renovations are done. I’d think if you were a MtP resident you’d be happy that SOMETHING was being done with the property rather than having it contributing blight to the neighborhood. And with all of the work that the house looks like it needs (maybe $1M just to fix up, plus whatever you pay for the house?) that’s out of the ballpark for most people shopping for a single-family house.

  • The deeds in my name or so I thought ?

    My opinion who ever owns the house can do what the heck they want. Good luck to the owners with ther plans hmp and the hist. com will put them through the proverbial ringer insisting on the their agenda….you are the owners do what you want !!!

  • Too bad

    Its too bad this is happening. However, if there isnt the money or interest in keeping it in tact, I dont see an alternative. Wish more of these grand houses remained. There wont be many in 10-20 years. I’d always dreamed of owning one some day.

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    It’s a once-great house now in great disrepair. Something needs to be done. From the looks of it, the only addition to the facade will be a sunroom on the back of the house, away from the street. I’m not wild about the plan to do the condo conversion, but it’s better than nothing.

    What, exactly, does the OP mean when he writes “I took an interest in this place …”? Like, he just liked the house and was interested, or like he put up $2M to buy the place and had another $1M ready to go in the renovations? Big difference in terms of standing to complain about it.

    • weshla

      thanks! to the people upset about this – look at the plan. it’s mainly a minor addition, plus restoration work to the existing structure (not counting the conversion to condos). why would this be saddening? There is a minor loss of green space, but a major gain for historic preservation, neighborhood beautification, and property value. Plus, a condo in an old house like this (with a yard!) is an amazing to live in for normal people who are not millionaires. I think it’s an awesome plan and a great idea.

  • This was inevitable. Be realistic. How many people say, “I would love to live there, if I could afford it.” I am one of those people. I love its time-worn condition.

    Like it or not, this is exactly what the Historic Preservation Review Board is there for. Without this kind of oversight in historic neighborhoods, the fabric of Mount Pleasant and many other neighborhoods would have long ago been lost to the poor tastes of profit-motivated developers. If anyone has driven the streets of Deanwood, in far northeast, you’d know what I mean. Rows and rows of early 20th century bungalows and working-class federal style houses razed and replaced with vinyl-sided, 3-story giraffe houses. Not pretty. Brookland might be a good example of a neighborhood that has been partially preserved and protected, with some streets still lined with historic homes and others with ugly pop-ups and tear-downs.

    I took some photographs of the 18th Street house when it first hit the market:


    • Jarv

      Would you really want to live in it untouched? I toured it maybe six months ago and it was hardly in livable condition.

      • I would seal up leaks and make basic stabilizing repairs, then enjoy the large, airy rooms and time-worn patina. Wildly unrealistic. Which is my whole point.

        If you looked carefully on your tour 6 months ago, did you notice the genuine glazed barrel tile roof, with contour-matched pink glass tiles for the skylight? UNREAL.

        • Jarv

          Yep, incredible details that NOBODY would have in their budget if a house like this were being built today. I fell in love with the place instantly, but unfortunately a project this huge isn’t even on the radar for me.

          • dc_publius

            Just because in your daydream you feel it is a good idea to live in a dingy old house, it doesn’t mean people in the real world share your delusion.

            Clearly, no one wants this place. It has been on the market for at least 2 years now. Why is that? Because it is too big and too expensive for the area. No one wants to plunk down 3 million to live there.

            As such, it will be changed into something more reasonable and in line with what people actually want and can pay for.

            Part of the reason why housing is so expensive in DC is this “historical preservation” BS. If developers were able to build up and had fewer restrictions, they could build pretty comfortable condos for a lot less than what they are selling now because of all these rules made by people who don’t own anything.

            Rich people can enjoy their aesthetics. Sure, I would love to have a gorgeous house too. But since I don’t have the $$$$$$$, I’ll take ANY house. That is a lot better than no house. I’ll even take any of the more affordable Deanwood houses you find so offensive to your superior aesthetic sense.

  • FD

    I live around the corner and this house have been an eyesore and a source of blight for years. I’m glad this renovation is happening.

  • ah

    Looks from the initial plans that they’re doing a pretty good job of retaining the look of the house, and simply putting it to a different indoor use.

    The parking pad seems like a pretty minor objection. Perhaps they can use permeable pavers so it’s less out of place. Or street parking, but of course other neighbors will object to “their” parking being taken up.

  • Mike

    This house hasn’t always been a single-family dwelling all its life, so what they’re doing to it isn’t a really big deal. But I hope they take the time to preserve some of the original details, of which there are many remaining.

    Like others have said, there aren’t a whole lot of people out there in the market for an enormous, falling-apart mansion at the corner of 18th and Monroe who can afford to restore it and maintain it all by themselves.

  • Jamie

    Except for the parking lot, it doesn’t look like they’re doing too much bad. It’s about as good as one could expect, barring someone with a sack of cash who happens to be in love with the place.

    I hate seeing these gorgeous old houses get chopped up but I don’t see much alternative. This proposal doesn’t look too bad. At least it’s not being razed!

    • That was the ANC’s assessment. Zoning allows as many as 13 dwelling units on that lot, and converting this mansion to numerous condos is the only course that is financially feasible. The developer is accomplishing this with remarkably little effect on the exterior appearance. The principal exterior changes are larger wells to provide light and access to the lowest-level units, and dormers to provide light for top-level units. The ANC endorsed this concept last night (November 16).

  • it looks like a lovely renovation. i don’t see anything modern or visually-jarring like the neighboring house. gosh, i love that house. i can’t wait to see it finished. it looks like a beautiful, mindful plan.

  • Carrie

    I have to say that I think the condo conversion is a good idea. Mt. Pleasant is a great city neighborhood, and I think encouraging density in these neighborhoods is a good goal. More people living closer to work with a smaller carbon footprint can only be a good thing. Big mansions are lovely things, but there is really no reason that 2 (or 3 or 4) people need all that space in a city.

  • Bill

    I read that they might make one of the car spaces for a Zipcar. It’d be nice to have another one of those in the neighborhood.

    • I suggested exactly that to the developer, and he is looking into it. Yes, we want to encourage the residents to get by without owning cars. Public transit is very good in this area.

  • I think the plans look great. Community Three does great work; I wish they’d set their sights on another project near me (like the vacant Sendar properties at 9th and Rhode Island).

  • Bob

    I agree that more people should live closer to work. The owner should be allowed to do whatever he wants with their property, he should build high-rises there if they developer offers more money. People who are against can’t fathom that are just overpaid.

  • Anonymous

    Historic Mount Pleasant has been very enthusiastic about this project—the developer is trying very hard to preserve the beautiful features of the house while creating a multi-unit project that will support the renovation costs. This same developer has done some great work in the Mount Vernon Square area, so hopefully this project will be equally successful.

  • TJ

    The prior owner got this house for a relative steal – I recall about $400,000 in 1997 but can’t confirm – and then let it slowly deteriorate. Then went on to try and sell it for way more than it was worth repeatedly as it continued to fall apart. I don’t know what it sold for this time around, but presume it will be a sizable profit and more than enough to pay the $73,000 in back taxes owed on the property. It’s a pipedream that this property would remain a single-family house and I’m glad the prior owner is finally moving on. Pretty decent renovation plan though that’s a lot of units for the space.

  • CA

    I think it’s a great middle of the road solution.

    I wish LeDroit would take note of this project and stop blocking plans to do similar projects in that neck of town.

  • Ron

    I understand why people want a new owner at this house. But don’t fool yourselves by calling this a middle-of-the-road solution.

    The real solution would have been to sell this mansion to one of the many people who over the years wanted to turn it back into the stately home that it once was. But these were private people, often Moms and Dads with kids, not deep-pocketed developers with the heaps of cash that the guy living there demanded. He bought the place for a song and wanted to make a killing; he listed it for years way above the market, tried to subdivide it and sell it piecemeal and when he was unsuccessful he let it slide into such a state of disrepair that all the neighbors near him became desperate for a solution.

    Today its a testament to just how far he brought the community to its knees that people dismiss the house as a lost cause – and call a condo developer its savior. We all love Mount Pleasant in part because its not Georgetown; but it would be nice if there was a bit more of that locale’s belief in preserving the place. By dribs and by drabs and by hook and by crook history is erased and then re-erased. This mansion should be one of Washington’s great houses – shame on its backers for calling this a historic preservation project. Houses like this cannot be re-created, and this one will never be restored after its cobbled up into condo units.

    • dc_publius

      What are you talking about? Where are all these ‘moms and dads with kids’ that wanted to buy this place over the years?

      This property has been listed on MLS for _at least_ the last two years. If any of these mystical people you refer to exist, they could’ve made an offer. It’s not like the seller cares who buys the place. The seller probably could care less whether a developer buys it or a bunch of catholic nuns. Whoever puts up the money, gets the place.

      I think what you meant to say is that some random people with no money wanted to get the place for waaay under-market value so they can have a big house for cheap.

      • TJ

        I know a couple people who tried to buy this house to keep it a single-family property and renovate it. They were willing to pay an appropriate price but the owner wanted something well above the market. I believe it was listed as high as $2.4 million and more recently it was listed in the mid million range. A frame house of similar size across the street sold for under $1 million in much better condition with presumably lower repair costs to make it viable. What the prior owner did was a shame, letting it fall apart, failing to pay taxes and holding it up for ransom.


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