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From P St. Salon to a Candidate's Makeover

By Daniela Deane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 7, 2005

Former senator and vice presidential candidate John Edwards (D-N.C.) and his family are returning home to North Carolina this summer after the children wrap up school and wife Elizabeth completes breast cancer treatment.

The Edwardses put their detached yellow brick Georgetown home on P Street on the market last week for $6.5 million. The Federal-style four-story house, built in 1830, is listed with real estate brokerage Washington Fine Properties, although there's no sign out front.

The Edwardses bought the house in December 2002 for $3.8 million from the estate of famed Washington hostess Polly Wisner Fritchey. Fritchey, who raised her children in the house, was first married to spymaster and deputy CIA director Frank Wisner, who died in 1965, and then to syndicated columnist Clayton Fritchey.

The elegant home, still known among Georgetown insiders as the "Fritchey house," was once the scene of high-powered cocktail parties and dinners where the world's issues were debated by leading politicians, journalists and intellectuals. More recently, during the 2004 presidential campaign, the home was known more for the black Secret Service SUVs parked outside.

After the Edwardses bought the house, which has seven bedrooms, six full baths and two half-baths, they renovated it to suit their family's needs, Elizabeth Edwards said. The couple lived in the home with their two young children, Emma Claire, 7, and Jack, 4. Their oldest daughter, Cate, who recently graduated from Princeton University and now works as an editorial assistant at Vanity Fair magazine, visited on holidays and school vacations .

"We pretty much gutted it," said Elizabeth Edwards, "but we wanted to keep the character of the house, since so many people knew it. But it needed to be more family-friendly for us."

Edwards said the couple changed the ground-floor layout, connecting the renovated kitchen to a family room, put in central air conditioning, enclosed a porch, added a study upstairs, rewired the house for computer use, added a room in the carriage house above the garage, replaced part of the flooring with heart pine from an old mill in South Carolina, and redid several bathrooms. They added almost 2,000 square feet to the house, then painted the exterior "buttermilk yellow with sage-green" shutters, she said.

"The pastel colors give the house a very southern feel," said Georgetown real estate agent Nancy Taylor Bubes of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, who recently showed the house to a potential buyer. Bubes said the fact that Edwards owned the house, already a well-known property in the neighborhood, "added a certain cachet to it."

She said, however, that at that price range, Georgetown buyers usually prefer a location east of Wisconsin Avenue and farther from Georgetown University.

Recently, to get the house ready for sale, the Edwardses shipped hundreds of books to their home in Raleigh and cleared out clutter.

"I'm sitting at the desk in the study now and there's nothing on top of it," Edwards said, laughing. "It doesn't look like anybody lives here anymore."

The Edwards home is listed with agent W. Ted Gossett, a fellow former North Carolinian, who is also marketing Hickory Hill, Robert F. Kennedy's old family home in McLean, for $20 million.

Edwards said the couple will move to their white clapboard family home in Raleigh while they build a house on a 100-acre parcel of land in Chapel Hill. After the new house is done sometime next year, the Edwardses plan to sell their Raleigh house, which they custom built in the early 1980s. They will retain their family beach house on the North Carolina coast near Wilmington, she said.

John Edwards, who gave up his Senate seat to be the running mate of Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) in the 2004 election, is heading up a new Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina, a nonpartisan entity that studies the divisions between the nation's rich and poor.

He is also writing a book on childhood homes, tentatively called "Blueprints: The Architecture of our Lives," said D.C. power lawyer and agent Robert Barnett. And many Democrats anticipate that Edwards may make a bid for the White House in 2008.

Elizabeth Edwards said her husband will be back and forth to Washington after the family moves this summer. She said they plan to move after the children finish the school year at St. Patrick's in the District and when she winds up radiation treatment at Sibley Memorial Hospital. Elizabeth Edwards was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after the election last year.

When John Edwards is in town, he will stay in a one-bedroom condominium in Alexandria that his wife inherited from her parents, she said. Elizabeth Edwards, daughter of a Navy pilot, attended high school for a time in Alexandria.

Edwards said she hopes another family will buy the Georgetown house, which her own family liked more than any other place where they lived in Washington. Before buying the house in Georgetown, the couple owned another, larger house in Massachusetts Avenue Heights. They also rented a house in Spring Valley for a short time.

"We loved the neighborhood, we loved walking to places," Edwards said. "We loved having Volta Park so close by. The other night Cate was asking us if we really needed to sell it. There's really no point in us keeping it, though."

It's a "great family house," she said. "The Wisners raised their four children here. They were happy when we bought it, because we were a family, too. And we feel the same way. We'd like to think of a family living here after us."

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