House of the Week | D.C. condo for $1.195M

October 11, 2013

Washington has a dearth of architecturally interesting condominiums. When you do come across one, it usually is because it has been converted from another use.

That’s the case of this Bishop’s Gate condo along 15th Street NW, which in a previous life was the chapel for a nunnery. Built in the 1920s, the convent was once part of St. Augustine Catholic Church, one of the nation’s oldest black parishes.

“They were supposed to build the first African American cathedral in Washington, D.C., on that site,” said Michael Schaeffer of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. Schaeffer and Claudine Chetrit are the condo’s co-listing agents. “The story goes that there was a fundraiser on the grounds of the White House while Abraham Lincoln was president. . . . What I’ve been told is that the garage was basically going to be the structural support for the cathedral but they were never able to raise enough money.”

St. Augustine’s merged with St. Paul Catholic Church in 1961, but the Oblate Sisters of Providence, an order of African American Catholic nuns founded in Baltimore — along with a school attached to the parish — remained at the site until the early 1980s.

A shrinking congregation, along with booming real estate values, prompted the archdiocese to sell the land to a developer.

Hit hard by the condominium market collapse in 1982, the building went into foreclosure before it was eventually converted into condos.

Among the heavenly features of this three-level unit are soaring stained-glass windows, 30- to 45-foot vaulted ceilings, marble wainscoting and a choir loft. A spiral staircase curves past the windows to the loft. The modern kitchen opens to the living room on the main level.

The 2,117-square-foot condo’s previous incarnation seems to have an effect on its owners. Schaeffer said a single man who bought the condo as a bachelor pad met his wife soon after he completed the purchase. The couple who bought it from him had decided to live in the city after finding out they wouldn’t be able to have children. Not long after moving in, the wife became pregnant and they now have three kids.

Calling it divine intervention would perhaps be too strong, but life-changing events seem to occur here.

“It’s a very whimsical, magical place,” Schaeffer said.

The two-bedroom, two-bath condo, which has been featured on HGTV, is listed at $1.195 million.

Listing: 1715 15th St. NW

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@KathyOrtonWP, @postrealestate

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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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