Washington, DC

Then and Now by the House History Man is a series by Paul K. Williams. Paul has been researching house histories in DC since 1995, having completed more than 1,500 to date. Read Paul’s previous post here.

The triangular lot at the intersection of Connecticut Avenue, R and 19th Streets, NW was once the home to wealthy lumberman and Wisconsin Congressman Philetus Sawyer (1816-1900), who had a Hummelstown (brown) stone mansion build there in 1888, illustrated here. It was designed by William H. Miller, and built at an impressive cost of $80,000 at a time when the typical brick townhouse coast about $3,000.

Sawyer was elected to the House of Representatives in 1864 and served for ten years from 1865 until 1875. He returned to Congress in 1881 as a US Senator, and served two terms from 1881 to 1893. He became notorious for a bribery charge made against him by Congressman Robert La Follette to fix a court case against several former state officials. His estate sold the house for a record $100,000 in 1900.

As Dupont Circle became more commercial along its major corridors, homes were demolished after the turn of the century, or their ground floors converted into retail shops, and upper floors to apartments or offices. Such was the case with the Sawyer mansion, which was razed in 1921, after an existence of just 33 years. It was replaced by the construction beginning in May of 1923 for the George N. Ray building that now serves as the La Tomate Restaurant at 1701 Connecticut Avenue, NW. It was built at a cost of $120,000.

(Sawyer Mansion Picture via Library of Congress, Sawyer Pic via Wikipedia)


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