Architect, author, painter and bon vivant Arthur Cotton Moore and his wife, Patricia, who manages his business ventures and social life, stunned Washington society when they decamped six years ago from Georgetown to an undulating stainless steel mansion he designed and built in Talbot County on Maryland's Eastern Shore.
It turned out, though, that the 4,000-square-foot house, which sits on the Tred Avon about 50 miles from Washington, was a bit too remote, Patricia Moore said in an interview. The house went on the market just after Thanksgiving for $3.85 million. The couple have moved to a big apartment in the Watergate complex, where they entertain sans furniture until they sell their shore property.
"We're coming back to D.C. because what happened is that for the last two years, we've had to come into Washington every damn Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for business, and then you've got to drive back, and pick up the groceries and laundry on the way," Patricia Moore said. "It's 85 and sunny out and the place is just beautiful . . . you can see all the boats passing by . . . but Arthur and I are inside doing the work that we need to do, so we can come back the next week to Washington."
It seems that life hasn't slowed much as the architect celebrates his 70th birthday this year. The force behind projects including the $81 million renovation of the Library of Congress, the Washington Harbour complex, Canal Square in Georgetown, the Portals Project, the Old Post Office and the Foundry continues to head up Arthur Cotton Moore/Associates. He's at work on Washington Harbourside, a 140,000-square-foot office and residential building next to Washington Harbour.
Moore, the winner of more than 70 design awards, also continues to champion his personal "Industrial Baroque" style and an urban vision that celebrates postmodernism, energy and sculptural elements.
He doesn't have time to write, lecture or paint much anymore, he said this week: "The architecture world is very busy right now."
With all that happening, it just made sense to move back to the city, he said. "We thought at one point that it could be done electronically," he said, "but it just doesn't work that way. . . . . You have to view things, you have to go to sites. . . . It turns out we're spending all this time commuting back to Washington. And it's just too far."
The house he built, he said, would be great for "somebody who can spend time there relaxing, or who wants to retire . . . or who can electronically commute. . . . But you can't do that in architecture."
Listing agent Cliff Meredith, of Meredith Real Estate Co. on the Eastern Shore, said several people have toured the property, but there have been no offers. "It takes a particular kind of buyer," Meredith said.
The house received plenty of attention after the Moores moved there. In an article in The Washington Post in 2000, staff writer Ken Ringle described a "stunning new house, which looks like a giant, wind-whipped wave of stainless steel breaking on nine acres of piney marsh where the Tred Avon River meets the Choptank. James Bond's arch-villain Ernst Blofeld would feel right at home among its sinuous curves, corrugations and antennas."
New York Times staff writer Fred A. Bernstein that year wrote that Moore's house was "almost his undoing." Putting together the 77 steel girders, many of which were curved and "usable only if correctly formed to within one-sixteenth of an inch" required "more than nails," Bernstein said. "As Mr. Moore's wife, Patricia, observed: 'Other people have a family doctor; we have a family welder.' "
The house is fully handicapped-accessible and includes a whirlpool tub, powered awning, plasma television and stainless-steel kitchen appliances. A two-car garage was added in 2001.
The property on Benoni Point also includes an island a few hundred yards from the house and half of another island. The Moores built a 530-foot stone causeway to connect the house to the bigger island. The road is wide enough for a pickup truck, but disappears at high tide, Meredith said. To get to the second island, "you have to go by boat or swim."
He said, "It's not a traditional home for this area, but it does fit the property quite well, curving around the point. And it has a panoramic view. It's ideal for entertaining."