Residents at the Brandywine need not go far for fresh herbs. Landscaping in front of the 283-unit, 10-story Northwest Washington building includes a full assortment of cooking and tea herbs amongst the purple and white flowers and hosta.
Resident Eleanor Pile ventured out on a recent weekday afternoon to pick basil for a salad. "It's great, she said of the garden. "I love herbs."
Pile may be the Brandywine's longest-term resident. She is the only person to have lived in her unit on the eighth floor, which faces north over Rock Creek Park. When she moved there in 1954, workers were still laying carpet. At that time, much of the land surrounding the building was vacant.
"Where we are, on Connecticut Avenue, there were only about two [buildings] nearby," she recalled. It took her car pool 20 minutes to get to work at the Navy Annex on Columbia Pike in Arlington.
The size of the units is generous, compared with newer buildings. The one-bedroom apartments are about 800 to 1,000 square feet, while even the smallest two-bedrooms start at nearly 1,100 square feet. None of the units has a balcony, but first-floor units have large patios that open onto the grassy central courtyard, and all floor plans have windows stretching nearly the width of the unit.
The Brandywine has undergone extensive renovations over the past two years, including mechanical overhaul of the elevators, new double-paned windows and the addition of business and fitness centers. In addition, kitchen and bathroom renovations are under way, with units receiving white cabinets and appliances, white ceramic tile floors, gray counters and vented, built-in microwaves.
Other work in the common areas included improved lighting, a redecorated entertainment room that residents can reserve for parties, a lounge/breakfast area and new carpeting and landscaping.
Anna Gordon and her roommate recently renewed their one-year lease at the Brandywine. After scouring upper Connecticut Avenue, Adams Morgan and downtown for apartments, Gordon and her roommate decided on the tree-shaded, beige brick building. "We wound up finding everything we wanted in the Brandywine," she said.
Gordon's criteria when looking for an apartment included new appliances, a peaceful neighborhood and the ability to walk to the Metro. "We wanted a nice, safe neighborhood . . . a place where we'd be comfortable walking to the Metro any time," she said. It's a five-minute walk to the Van Ness Metro station from the building.
Compared with the other areas where she looked, the Brandywine offered value, Gordon said. "It's a lot more for a much better price," she said. Gordon likes the size of her two-bedroom, one-bath unit, which was renovated before she and her roommate moved in.
One of her favorite things about the building is the rooftop deck, which became a natural gathering spot on the Fourth of July. "It's really nice. We went up there for the fireworks," she said.
There is no pool on the roof, unlike at some other high-rises, but there is sturdy, cushionless deck furniture for lounging. There are also four planter pots in which herbs grow for residents' use. These are holdovers from last summer, before management planted the herbs in the front flower bed.
Milton Clapp and his wife live on the first floor and rave about their new double-paned windows facing their patio. They had lived at a neighboring building for about 11/2 years before a steep rent increase prompted them to look at the Brandywine. Now they grow tomatoes on their ample patio, where they also have room for a table, four chairs and an exercise machine.
Clapp thinks the building is a great place for young people because there are so many places for them to go in the neighborhood. He also noted that there are a number of longtime retired residents who maintain a tenants association that meets regularly.
Clapp also praised the building staff.
"Whoever chose this staff has wound up with really nice people," he said of the group headed by property manager Tony Greenberg.
"They seem happy -- they don't seem like they're under pressure to put on airs," Clapp said. "These people are treated with respect [by their managers] -- that makes them happy and makes the residents happy."
The building's renovated kitchens feature white appliances and cabinets with ceramic tile floors.