EVERYBODY WHO walks along New Hampshire at S Street admires the Dove House -- one of those great big pink elephants stuffed on a peanut size lot.
The soft pink of the brick is even softer now after being cleaned. The bricks are laid with an almost invisible grout, a technique that today is almost lost. Its turrets and arrangements of round brick chimneys point to the sky. Its octagonal rooms and big windows imply lavish living. The stone carving is splendid -- great double arches over the front door and a window, a carved stone wreath around the date 1898 (of its construction) on the facade, and around the street number, 1740. The design is in the great Henry Hobson Richardson tradition of the Neo-Romanesque.
The house was built as a single-family mansion of 15,000 square feet, bigger than most people's lots. The owner, Maury Dove, sold coal and wood, ran the Lanston Monotype Co., owned the Shoreham Hotel, and part of the Raleigh and Willard hotels, according to Suzanne Warren, who has researched the history of the house. A brother of Dove built several of the other handsome houses in the area.
But the age of mansions passed. Not many people needed a ballroom and double octagonal drawing rooms anymore. In the last decade or so, the basement was used as a podiatrist's office, though the main floors were empty. For a while, Dove house was only inhabited by pigeons, who proved untidy tenants.
Three years ago, a developer hired Design Environment Collaborative to design the remodeling of the house into condominiums, one of the first instances here of a single family mansions being remodled into condominiums. Before work began, the developer lost entusiasm, sold his properties and moved to St. Thomas. Several other developers looked at the properties, but had less grandiose ideas for its rehabilitation.
So architect Royce LaNier, head of the architecture firm, who by that time was devoted to his design, bought the house.He paid a bargain $200,000 (and his architect's fee) for the property. Some $1 million of remodeling later, he still thinks it was a bargain.
In the Dove House Condominiums, Lanier and architect Roberty Mabry took all sorts of funny bits of space and made them into something unusual, to say the least. Of the 14 apartmeants, carved out of the original 15,000 square foot house, no two are alike. The house boasts 11 multi-level apartments and what may well be the only one-bedroom, three-story apartment in town.
Dove House also has lofts, balconies, one 30-foot hight room, pigeion perches, octagonal rooms, curving walls, tiny many-angled halls, a sunken bathroom (not just the tub), and split-level washer/dryers. An elaborately carved stone fireplace in the old ball room and several heavily ornamented wood fire-place fronts have been saved.
At least six of the apartments have their own entrances, some have two bathrooms, most have powder rooms. Two have their own elevators. The steep roof is now divided into two spectacular apartments. Two apartments are in the ground floor, formerly the basement. The grand staircase and hall is now a three-story apartment. If there had been a beehive attached, the architects would have made two efficencies out of it.
All of this has earned a citation for extended use of a historic building from the American Institute of Architects, Washington Metropolitan Chaper for the architects of Design & Environment Collaborative; the owner, LaNier; and the builder, Chris Theoharis of C&P Construction Co. (See story on Page 1 for the other award winners).
Edward Reardon, an accountant with the Department of Labor, was one of the first to but an apartment and move in. You come into his apartment through the side of the house, an entrance added in the remodeling. His apartment is in the space originally filled by the main staircase.
On the lower floor he has a fair-sizsed living room, with a place for the bird cage he plans to build in. A powder room is tucked under the stairs. On the second floor is a U-shaped kitchen and just room for a table. On the top floor is the bedroom and bath, and room for books. The second and third levels are actually balconies overlooking the main room -- works fine for a bachelor. Since the walls are half height, the small upper rooms borrow space from the upper volume.
Probably the most interesting apartments are the penthouse on the third floor, built into the attic. One has a 27- by 19-foot octogonal living room, with all the original beams showing through in a tent pattern; an 11- by 10-foot dining area, a fair-sized kitchen (but don't stand up suddendly or you'll bump your head), and a powder room. The second floor has two bedrooms, a dressing room, a compartmented bath and a small balcony. The apartment access it through an elevator on the firt floor.
The other penthouse has a separate dining room, a den, two bedrooms and two baths. One bedroom has a platform built under a low eaves, just big enough for a matress. The answer to what you do about making up the bed, is that you don't.
It's a sad not on how things have changed that where there was once the ballroom, is now an 18- by 14 1/2-foot living room, a 12 1/2- by 13-foot dining room, kitchen, powder rrom, bedroom, and a sleeping loft/study tucked in over the kitchen.
The architect's use of the loft is particularly clever. Since the ceilings are 12 foot, 7 inches on the first floor, in several places, they've added a loft area for a study, with a full stair. In tighter areas, there's only a ladder and space on top for storage or a bed for a nimble guest.
The architects and builder were fortunate to find craftspeople who were able to reporduce the old skills. Mario Flores, the carpenter took banisters from one stair to make another. The old roof beams were so thick, it was possible to add six inches of insulation and leave six inches of beam showing. Peter Togas repaird the splendid leaded glass windows.
The double-hung windows had such thick cherry frames, that they were albe to regroove them to accommodate double insulating glass. Richard Jackson, the sign painter, did numbers on the door in a style appropriate to the period, filled in with gold leaf. Tom Theoharis, the painting contractor, burned the old paint off the outside trim, and then used marine varnish over it for a neat dark finish that looks good against the brick.
All except two apartments have already been sold, though the house is just being finished with prices from $125,000 to $165,000 (for the penthouse) -- proving once again the dollars and sense value of historic preservation.