House of the Week | Georgetown mansion for $8.995 million

April 26, 2013

Few private homes in this area have been featured in as many magazines and books as this Georgetown mansion.

Most often referred to as the Ambassador Bruce House, this home has graced the pages of Architectural Digest, House & Garden and Washington Life Magazine, to name a few. Washington Life said it was “one of the oldest and grandest private residences in the capital and one with a storied past filled with intrigue and culture.”

The more than 11,000-square-foot house also was included in “Splendours of Georgetown: 25 Architectural Masterpieces,” an exhibition by Tudor Place Historic House and Garden for the 250th anniversary of Georgetown. In 2010, it was the site of the Georgetown House Tour Patron’s Party.

The two-bay, side-hall plan residence, typical of its period, was built circa 1815 by Clement and Walter Smith, builders who were most known for Smith Row, one of the finest speculative rows built in the 1800s. The original house was later extended with telescoping 20th-century Colonial Revival additions that stretched along 34th Street.

“It’s very private and understated from the street,” said Eileen McGrath of Washington Fine Properties, who is the listing agent along with Jamie Peva for the property. “But it is a really substantial home with a great Georgetown history.”

The home’s most famous residents were Ambassador David K.E. Bruce and his wife, Evangeline Bell Bruce. One of America’s most popular postwar diplomats, Bruce served every president from Harry S. Truman to Gerald R. Ford. He was the U.S. envoy to France, Germany, Britain, China and NATO.

Evangeline Bruce turned heads with her beauty and fashion. Considered one of the best dressed women in the world, Evangeline had a line of maternity wear created for her by Dior. Although she disdained the term “hostess,” she was a Georgetown socialite without peer. The parties she and her husband held at this home were the highlight of the Washington social scene.

Most of the entertaining was done in the 34-foot ballroom the Bruces added in the 1970s. Now a drawing room, the space has 12-foot ceilings, three Jefferson windows that open to the garden and a large fireplace with a carved wooden mantel.

The kitchen, which spans the entire north side of the house, was renovated three years ago. It has a six-foot-wide Miele refrigerator and freezer, six-burner gas Wolf range and a 102-bottle triple-temperature-controlled wine cooler.

The master suite includes his-and-her walk-in closets, a large sitting room with a fireplace and a luxurious master bathroom. It takes up the entire southern wing of the second level.

There are seven wood-burning fireplaces throughout the house, a guest house, a green house and parking for multiple cars. The original detached smokehouse is one of the oldest structures in Georgetown.

The secluded formal gardens on one-third acre were designed by Rose Greely in 1955. They feature a stone terrace and a sunken lawn with perimeter walks, a fountain, vintage boxwoods and mature specimen plantings. There is also a heated lap pool.

For all its elegance and history, this house has most recently been a family home. The young girls who live here have made it their own.

“Off the family room, there is a small mudroom the children have converted into their quote, unquote, club house,” McGrath said. “While the parents are watching television after dinner [in the family room], the children can be in their clubhouse. It’s stacked with games and easels.”

The eight-bedroom, eight-bath home is on the market for $8.995 million.

Listing: 1405 34th St. NW

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Do you have a home that deserves to be the house of the week? Send an e-mail to ortonk@washpost.com.

Kathy Orton is a reporter and Web editor for the Real Estate section. She covers the Washington metropolitan area housing market.
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