Since 1955, teams of draftsmen have sat inside the Patent Reproduction Co.'s small brick building, near the corner of N and Van streets SE, rendering drawings of tables, lamps, stools, drills, garage-door openers and various other gadgets that designers and inventors needed for patent applications.
Then came the Washington Nationals. Then came the plans for the team's new stadium, to be built just across the street. And then came the nearly $3 million offer -- tendered for a piece of property no bigger than the size of a tennis court but advantageously placed in the shadow of the planned baseball field.
To owner Sarah E. Callahan, who began working at the Patent Reproduction Co. in 1967 as a bookkeeper and bought the firm 12 years ago, the deal with Monument Realty LLC means a chance to relocate the business closer to Southern Maryland, where she and her six employees live.
But for Monument, the purchase brings the company a step closer to assembling a package of property that will make it the largest private landowner next to the new stadium -- a perch it plans to use to build a roughly 750,000-square-foot complex of office, retail and residential space it hopes will tap into the energy the new ballpark is expected to create in Southeast.
It also continues an escalation in land prices around the stadium area. The deal between Monument and Callahan is thought to be the most expensive so far in terms of the amount paid per developable square foot -- about $60, compared with a range of $30 to $55. Callahan paid $300,000 for the land and the building, as part of her deal to buy the firm.
Developers envision turning the stadium's surrounding area of trash-strewn lots and abandoned industrial buildings into a mix of housing, office and retail. The area is bounded by the Southwest-Southeast Freeway on the north, the Anacostia River on the south, and South Capitol Street and 11th Street SE on the west and east, respectively.
Monument has spent about $30 million in the past few months to buy roughly three acres on two blocks that abut the proposed stadium site, but the company needed the Callahan property to make their plans work.
"Callahan was the last one of the major pieces that we still needed to get," said F. Russell Hines, an executive vice president of Monument. "We're winding up our assemblage there.
"Now we'll spend more time working with the District and figuring out how we can build the best development there," he said. "It's time to think about what we're going to build there."
As Monument and other developers have discovered, getting the land is not necessarily easy -- or cheap.
The negotiation began in March, when Monument's land broker, Edward K. Wolynec, called Callahan, 67, and her husband, John, 70, a retired pressman from the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
Wolynec offered to meet the couple in person and took them to lunch at Stoney's Kingfishers, a seaside restaurant on Solomons Island. While Wolynec ate fried oysters and coleslaw and the Callahans ate lump crab cakes (iced tea for him; Diet Coke for her), Wolynec threw out his first offer for the land in Southeast: $1.8 million.
"My husband said, 'Okay. We'll talk about it and get back to you,' "Callahan said.
Shortly after they left the restaurant, Callahan said, Wolynec called from his cell phone and upped the bid, telling the couple, "I talked to my client and he said we'll give you $2 million."
Still, the Callahans told him they needed to sleep on it.
"Mr. Wolynec told us at lunch that day, 'If you feel like signing it, sign it,' " Callahan said. "If you don't, we'll talk some more. He's a very, very nice man. He's straightforward."
Weeks passed and Wolynec had not heard from the couple.
Just before the Callahans were to head for a vacation to Disney World with their grandchildren, Wolynec called.
"I said I wanted this wrapped up so they could have lots of Disney dollars to spend on their grandchildren," Wolynec recalled of the conversation with the Callahans.
But they were still reluctant.
They went on their vacation and came back. "He still hadn't made up his mind," Wolynec said.
Two weeks ago, Monument raised the price again, offering the Callahans $2.67 million for the land.
Wolynec then went on his own family vacation to Jacksonville, Fla., in early August and called the Callahans from there to talk about the offer.
"We just didn't sign at first," Callahan said. "They [Monument] really needed it. They already have everything else around us."
Last week, the couple sent back a signed contract to Monument, saying they wanted $3 million.
Monument executives accepted.
"They're salt-of-the-earth people," Wolynec said.
The Callahans said their drafting business is free and clear of debt, and they have four other houses in Florida and parts of Southern Maryland that they own as investments.
So what will they do with their profits? Jewelry for the wife?
"Lord, no," Callahan said, laughing. "I have a gorgeous diamond. I don't need any more." Maybe a few more investment properties in Southern Maryland, she said by cell phone while getting a manicure and pedicure yesterday.
Maybe some will go to their congregation, Trinity United Methodist Church in Prince Frederick. And some will go to a hospice program in Calvert County where she is on the board of directors.
"Any time you have money, people come and jokingly say, 'Oh, I need some money,' " Callahan said. "I laugh back and say, 'So you want to borrow some money? Sure you do.' "