It was 16th Street in a different time: grand Victorian stone houses with high ceilings and majestic turrets lined the street. Lace curtains draped the windows and shielded a world of socials, afternon teas and debutantes.
Gladys Werlich lived behind the lace curtains in the Victorian house that still stands at 1623 16th ST. N.W. She lived there all her 87 years until she died on Jan. 18 1976 after three youths mugged her as she toted her groceries from the Safeway to her home.
Since the start of April the treasures of her house have been sold at auctions and tag sales that have opened the private, genteel world of Gladys Werlich to antique buyers and the curious.
"You can feel the spirit of the lady (Mrs. Werlich) in the house," said Sheila Jones, the cashier at the tag sales held Sunday. "Apparently she was a very romantic lady, very poetic . . . you can see it in all the little notes she left around the house, the things she cared for."
Jones was one of nine persons who have helped Faye Brooks Purl, who is liquidating the estate, wash the dishes - all in sets of 24 ties - and dust the valuables in the house in preparation for the sale. The crowd entered the house March 1 and plans to complete the sale of house goods by the end of May.
"I've got to get my checking before it gets away," Majorie Wise said Sunday as she dashed down the dark red rug leading from the Bird Room with thousands of books and magazines that came from her travels around the world with her husband.
Wise found an 1891 printing of the "Prince and the Pauper" among the books. "It is only $15," she said excitedly. "The value is in the illustrations. Look at it."
The best sellers at the sale have been Russian icons that Werlich brought home with her from her trips to Russia and Poland, according to Purl. Many of Mrs. Werlich's posessions had been sold by last Sunday. On the first floor, however, beautiful tapestries, hand painted china and mahogany furniture made in Baltimore for sale.
Adorning the walls of the spacious dining rooms are two 15-foot mirrors with gold leaf frames. The dining room had once been a back porch Gladys Werlich, at age 14, designed into an elegant showcase for her parties, her debutante ball and her wedding reception, according to Purl.
The mirrors, tagged at $1,000 each, reflect the next room where the art works of Robert Himeley, Werlich's father, sit and dusty and awaiting a buyer. That pictures are muted portraits of soft-skinned women gazing off and away from earthly concerns.
In the living room are a travelling preacher's organ and chairs that were shipped from the Borghese Palace in Rome. Each chair is priced at $1,000.
In the second floor bedrooms, Werlich's dresses are strewn about.The furniture that held them has been sold. Among the gowns was light brown brocade with black beading that formed sprays of flowers, which Purl pointed out as her favorite.
Gladys Werlich's son, Robert, who is in charge of her estate, said he removed many of the valuables that represented 150 years of his family's past.
"I took the family portraits, some diaries, an invitation to my great-grandfather from Thomas Jefferson," he said. "I would have like to make it (the house) into a museum but the cost was prohibitive."
Robert Werlich said he sold the house three months ago for a sum he declined to disclose. He said it would have cost $250,00 to convert the house into a Victorian museum that would have featured the hand-carved woodwork panelling the walls throughout the house and the gas jets for heat, lighting and cooking that still work.
"The most valuable thing in the house was the wood panelling," Werlich aid.
"Mother wanted to die there. She loved the house," he said. "Why do you love anyone or anything? - she just loved it."
On the wall in the attic someone had written in blue paint:" . . . . Nature I loved and after mature, art, I warmed both hands before the fire of life. It fades and I am ready to depart."