A Building On the A-List

By Beth Gilbert
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, May 19, 2007

It can be difficult knowing where to start describing the Wyoming, a condominium in Northwest Washington's Kalorama Triangle neighborhood.

The 105-unit, early 20th-century building at 2022 Columbia Rd. NW is on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1997, its ornate beaux-arts lobby appeared in "Absolute Power," a movie starring and directed by Clint Eastwood.

Betty Friedan, author of "The Feminine Mystique," once lived there. So did George Stephanopoulos, the White House staffer turned television correspondent. Six pages of other notable residents, including Dwight D. Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie, as well as senators and House members, were included in the building's application for historic status.

There's one unit now for sale, a two-bedroom-two-bath-plus-den apartment with almost 2,200 square feet of living space, for $1 million. It's on the second floor, with southern, western and eastern exposures. "Coming home to this lobby makes me feel like I've entered an opulent oasis," said seller Evelyn Petschek, who recently retired from the Treasury Department.

The building was constructed in three stages from 1905 to 1911 by developer Lester A. Barr and designed by architect B. Stanley Simmons. The current T-shaped entrance hall and lobby were part of the final stage. It has a mosaic floor composed of one-inch colored marble tiles, still in impeccable condition. The 15-foot ceilings are graced with high- and low-relief detailed plasterwork reminiscent of the most elegant of wedding cakes -- layered with garlands, festoons, swags, rosettes, tassels, acanthus leaves and more.

The walls have nine-foot-high panels of oyster-colored marble, along with 22 marble Ionic columns. Adjoining the lobby through two arched doorways is a reception room that's available, along with the catering kitchen, for parties or events. Along the back wall are two sets of French casement windows and French doors that open to the private rear garden.

Petschek has lived in the Wyoming for six years and in the neighborhood for 15. Her apartment has the third-highest asking price any unit in the building has had. The other two units were larger and sold for slightly more than $1 million.

"I chose this building for many reasons -- aside from the aesthetics and the location, it has a reputation for being well maintained."

The condo has lots of light and a 30-foot-long entry foyer that feels like a gallery, which gives her plenty of space for displaying artwork. "It's going to be hard to imagine coming home to any place else," she said.

That five-foot-wide foyer continues to the living and dining rooms. Across the hall is the spacious 20-by-22-foot living room. Two windows look out to the former Lothrop Mansion, now the Russian Trade Representation. The dining room can accommodate a party of 10 or more.

The renovated kitchen runs parallel to the foyer. A swinging door from the eating area opens to the butler's panty. The table-space kitchen has Carrara marble-tiled floors, raised white panel cabinets and a south-facing window.

Another hall leads to the two bedrooms and two baths. The master bedroom is in the southeast corner and has a double window facing east, a walk-in cedar closet and a double closet with sliding doors.

The condo fees are $857 per month and include heat, hot water and the building's master insurance policy. A private parking spot about a block away rents for $250 per month but is prepaid until March 2008.

The apartment is being listed by agent Joseph Himali of Best Address Real Estate in Georgetown.

Today, it's hard to believe that the Wyoming, along with two of its neighbors also built by Barr, was almost razed in 1979, when it was a rental apartment building. The neighborhood and tenant groups lobbied against expansion of the nearby Washington Hilton, and the D.C. government ultimately rejected the hotel's plans.

In 1980, the Kalorama Citizens Association applied to list the building on the National Register of Historic Places. That status was granted in 1983, after both the building and, separately, the lobby interior received local historic-preservation protection.

In 1982, Barr's grandson sold the building for $6.3 million to developers who wanted to turn it into condominiums, with approval from tenants. Two-thirds of the residents bought their apartments. The building was renovated and outfitted with central air conditioning. Many of the apartments also underwent renovations, which mainly included adding closet space and putting kitchens in units that had none.

The remaining third of the units were offered for sale. An advertisement at the time listed prices from $50,000 to $300,000, along with "great rates" of 12.5 percent for a 30-year, fixed-rate loan.

House.gossip is an occasional look at interesting places owned by interesting people. To let us know about houses worth covering, e-mail us at realestate@washpost.com.

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