November 2007 CHRS News
Beyond the Boundaries on 14th Street, Constitution
Avenue, C Street,
and Ames Place NE
by Beth Purcell
On October 20, 2007, Elizabeth Nelson, Donna Hanousek and Beth Purcell led a walking tour featuring the history and architecture of rowhouses beyond the boundary of the historic district in Northeast. Some of the featured homes included:
1886 Gessford houses in the 1300 block of C Street, NE. Photo: Elizabeth Nelson
The one-story brick rowhouses at 1337-1353 C Street,
NE, designed and built by Charles Gessford in 1886. They are
11 feet wide and 25 feet deep, with a stepped design at the cornice.
Gessford is one of the best known Capitol Hill architect/ builders.
Some of his rowhouses include “Philadelphia Row” (132-144 Eleventh
Street, SE) and Gessford Court, SE.
1910 Beers houses in the 1400 block of C Street, NE. Photo: Elizabeth Nelson
The rowhouse development at 1400-1434 C Street/311-319 Fourteenth Street, NE/ 310-340 Fifteenth Street, NE, was designed by Albert H. Beers in 1910. These rowhouses have Flemish bond brick. The houses also have a twobay front porch, with a projecting cornice in front of the parapet wall, and two alternating designs: an eyebrow raking cornice on center and a stepped pediment with the step in the center. Architect Beers is credited with Harry Wardman’s breakthrough designs for porchfront rowhouses. This design, for another builder, is an example of early porch-front houses.
220 Fourteenth Street, NE, built in 1893, is a square-bay, three story with sandstone lintels and foliate stone carving on the keystone above the front door (a Richardsonian Romanesque feature) and cast-iron stairs (grapevine design). Photo: Elizabeth Nelson
The 200 block of Fourteenth Street, NE, illustrates the transition from nineteenth century rowhouses to the 1920s “daylighter” porch-front rowhouses. 220 Fourteenth Street, NE, built in 1893, is a square-bay, three story with sandstone lintels and foliate stone carving on the keystone above the front door (a Richardsonian Romanesque feature) and cast-iron stairs (grapevine design). Next door, at 216-218 Fourteenth Street, NE, are classic 1920s “daylighter” porchfront rowhouses, in the Colonial Revival style. They feature common bond “tapestry brick” popular in the 1920s (beige brick with vertical lines, said to resemble a tapestry). The porch-front extends over the entire width of the house. The houses have slate mansard roofs with a gable dormer. Unlike many nineteenth century rowhouses, daylighter houses are only two rooms deep, allowing air and sunlight into all the rooms in the house. The front porch encouraged outdoor activities and interaction with neighbors.
All of Square 1056, including the 1400 block of Ames Place, NE, was built by Kennedy & Davis in 1907-1908. Alexander H. Sonneman, who remained active through 1954, designed these Flemish bond brick rowhouses, with two alternating designs: an angled bay (often with a one-bay porch) and flat-front with a porch. Sonneman worked for many Washington developers, including Harry A. Kite. In 1936, Joseph St. Clair wanted a new building for the restaurant he planned to open at 129 Fifteenth Street, NE. He hired Lewis Wentworth Giles to design a onestory brick commercial building. The building has tapestry brick and transom windows across the front. Giles was one of the best known African-American architects in Washington. In addition to many churches, apartments, and office buildings, he designed small projects for many customers, such as this building.
208-216 Fourteenth Street Place, NE. Photo: Elizabeth Nelson
The tour also featured rowhouses built by two wellknown developers, Harry A. Kite and Herman R. Howenstein. Kite and Howenstein each built hundreds of beige brick porchfront daylighter rowhouses, many on Capitol Hill. The rowhouses at 207-261 Fourteenth Place, NE were built by Harry A. Kite in 1914, early in his career, with Flemish bond brick (with iron spot brick headers), and a scalloped pediment on every third house. Howenstein’s 1907 rowhouses at 232-238 Fourteenth Street, NE, also built early in his career, are flat-front brick houses. Examples of his later rowhouses are nearby at 1430-1436 North Carolina Avenue, NE. These beige brick porch-front rowhouses, classic daylighter houses, were built in 1924.
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