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The old Blair Mansion Inn (Dinner Theater) to become The Potter Violin Company Showroom

by Prince Of Petworth August 27, 2015 at 3:45 pm 13 Comments


Thanks to a reader for sending:

“Dalton Potter and Jim Kelly are excited to announce that The Potter Violin Company will be adding an additional location in the summer of 2016. Together, they have purchased the historic landmark, the Blair Mansion, on 7711 Eastern Ave in Silver Spring/Takoma Park. The new store will be over 12,000 square feet and will include expanded showrooms, larger work space for luthiers and a large room for recitals, workshops and meetings. Renovations will start soon and the anticipated grand opening is spring of 2016.”

  • Anon

    It’s refreshing to see you expanding your scope beyond the District borders and into the suburbs. There’s a lot of cool stuff going on out there from which so many DC residents have isolated themselves.

    • HaileUnlikely

      This is within the DC border, albeit not by more than 50 feet.

      • Anon

        False. This is very much Silver Spring. The history of the Blair family in SS is exceptionally interesting; I’d recommend reading about it.

        • HaileUnlikely

          Oh, yeah, duh, you are right, it’s on the north side of Eastern Ave, thus in Silver Spring by about 50 feet. I should know that, given I can see this building out my front window. In any event, not as if it’s way out there in the suburbs, DC is literally right across the street.

          • anon


  • HaileUnlikely

    A violin showroom? WTF?! Not In My Back Yard!
    More seriously now, I live right down the street from here, and I’m glad the building will be put to use, even if I don’t frequent the violin showroom.

    • Trip Throckmorton

      What about the unwanted increase in traffic?!?! Will anyone think of the children?

      • wdc

        Sounds like a front for black market string instruments to me. I saw the Red Violin, don’t tell me that shit doesn’t get violent.

    • jcm

      You know every time a new luthier moves into a neighborhood he winds up beefing with the existing string crews for the territory. Stay alert.

      • HaileUnlikely

        This could quite possibly be the best comment in the history of the internet.

      • textdoc


  • Flutist

    Oh, just great, thanks! Now I want to quit my desk job and become either a luthier or archetier!

  • Randy Boehm

    This site is indeed in Silver Spring, and for a very interesting historical reason.

    I can’t recall the name of the original owner, but it was built on the Maryland side of the Eastern Avenue border so that they could VOTE, a right denied them as DC residents.

    It was designed by the famous (or infamous) high-society architect, Sanford White, architect of Union Station, and numerous mansions along 5th Avenue in NYC, not to mention the Grand Central Station, upon which rooftop he was murdered by the husband of his lover, the beautiful Evelyn Nesbitt.

    The building became the Blair “Tea Room” –a suspected speakeasy–in the 1920 as the original owners collapsed into bankruptcy. For awhile, it housed the Federal Bureau of Entemology (spelling) and by the 1960s passed into the ownership of the man who owned Gusti’s Italian Restaurant on 19th and M (now Bodega and Chipoltle.

    From Mr. Gusti. it passed to the Zender family who ran it as the Blair Mansion In for over 60 years. As I understand it, Mrs. Zender worked as a waitress at one of the sites (Gusti’s or the Blair Mansion). The family was involved in a horrific car crash, killing the father and seriously injuring one or two of the five Zender boys. Mrs. Zender used the life insurance payment to purchase the Inn from Mr. Gusti sometime in the early 1960s and then she and the boys embarked upon a quixotic venture to obtain a liquor license in dry Montgomery County. It was a David versus Goliath scenario, as Montgomery County politics was then dominated by dry Sevent Day Adventists and Mormons. But somehow the Zender’s succeeded and obtained Montgomery liquor license number 1.

    They kept up the operation until now, becoming particularly resourceful to transform the restaurant into a dinner theater (the Murder Mystery Theatre) when the neighborhood started it’s precipitous decline in the 1970s. That move bequeathed the operation another forty years of life. They were/are an amazing, indeed inspirational family. It’s a pity they’ve exhausted their stay just as the South Silver Spring neighborhood is revitalizing.

    BTW I’m pretty sure the Lee family never owned the property. One of their three ancestral homes (the only one that survives) is located in the Jessup Blair Park across Blair Road. J


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