"In the 1700 block of Q Street, the houses are made of red brick, limestone, brownstone and greenstone with red tile roofs. The bays are square, curved, octagonal and oriel, often with their own peaked roof. Stylized Romanesque ornament crops out in the stone above entrance doors, and the house at 1739 Q St. even sports a pair of brownstone winged griffin heads on either side of its front steps," according to Charles Robertson, a Dupont Circle historian.

Eleven houses in the neighborhood will be open today for the annual Dupont Circle house tour.

"From 1889 to 1892," Robertson explains, "Thomas Franklin Schneider designed, financed and built as a speculative venture 62 three-story row houses along both sides of the 1700 block of Q. In 1889, the Washington Evening News said he paid $175,000 for the row of lots on Q Street.

"After eight years with the famous award-winning firm of Cluss & Schultz, he had opened his own practice in 1883 and designed more than 2,000 buildings before he retired in 1915 to collect his rents.

"In 1890, aat age 31, Schneider married and built his own 50-room mansion at the southeast corner of Q and 18th Streets where the Dupont Plaza Apartments now stand. The rusticated granite house in the Romanesque style incorporated a square corner tower, a port cochere and a stained glass interior dome, but its most impressive feature was an enormous ballroom with a 20-foot ceiling, a red sandstone musicians balcony and a mammoth fireplace."

Robertson goes on to say, "Schneider's other great monument in the neighborhood is the Cairo Hotel at 1615 Q St," with a massive arched entrance and Moorish ornamental detail. In 1894 when it was built its 164 feet made it the tallest building in town. As a result of the furor, Congress passed the Building Height Limitation Act in 1899 with stronger amendments in 1910.

The Dupont Circle Historic District was established in 1978 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. All demolition and construction now has to be approved by the Joint Committee on Landmarks of the National Capital.

Tea will be from 3 to 6 p.m. at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1785 Massachusetts Ave. NW, a recent winner in the preservation awards of the American Institute of Architects. Metropolitan Chapter (which has its headquarters nearby). Tickets are $8 and available at all the houses, identified by posters at the door.