President Clinton and his senator-elect wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, have agreed to pay $2.85 million for a six-bedroom brick Georgian off Embassy Row, on a secluded and stately block that is home to diplomats, the wealthy and the well-connected.
The Clintons, whose purchase was announced yesterday by the White House, will buy from a couple who are registered Republicans. They will make a 30 percent down payment and take out a $1.995 million loan from Citibank. According to Citibank official Sally Cates, the loan carries "typical terms and conditions for a high-end residential mortgage" and the Clintons are the only parties to it. She would not supply further details.
Clinton will become the first president since Woodrow Wilson in 1921 to live in the District after the end of his term. As word spread about the deal, the calm street filled with reporters, gawkers, slow-moving drivers and joggers curious to look at what the Clintons are buying.
The 5,500-square-foot house sits at the end of a quiet, dead-end street near the U.S. Naval Observatory, the site of the Admiral's House, home to the vice president. It is not far from where Rock Creek trickles under Massachusetts Avenue. It's a reserved neighborhood, the kind of place where "No Trespassing" signs outnumber welcome mats and where maids answer the doorbells in the afternoon.
The Clintons' new home, at 3067 Whitehaven St. NW, sits on a third of an acre. It is across the street from the Royal Danish Embassy and down the street from the Italian Embassy. A few doors down is the office of the Brazilian Embassy's Consular Service. The embassies of Great Britain and New Zealand are close by.
Clinton pal Vernon Jordan lives two blocks away. The Clintons' neighbors on the block include businessman and Republican fundraiser Wayne Berman; former Treasury secretary Nicholas Brady, also a Republican; Gladys Preston, widow of World Bank President Lewis Preston; and Leo A. Daly, executive architect of the imposing new avant garde Italian Embassy at the foot of Whitehaven.
"We will certainly welcome the Clintons to the neighborhood," Berman said. "It's fun and fascinating and interesting, and it's going to improve security on the street, not that that's an issue. I now feel my two teenage daughters will be completely safe, with all the Secret Service that attends a former president."
In the spirit of comity, Berman -- who contributed "$1,000 or whatever you can give" to Hillary Clinton's Senate opponent, Rep. Rick Lazio -- said, "I think neighborliness transcends partisan politics."
The residence itself is more brick house than White House. The house is red brick with white trim and has a red door decorated with a holiday wreath. A Volvo, a Land Rover and a Suburban with Virginia license plates sat in the tight, curved driveway yesterday. The house opens in the rear onto a slate patio overlooking a landscaped formal garden and good-size heated pool.
A red "Private Property, No Trespassing" sign was stuck in the ground outside. A security guard stood out front, telling would-be visitors that no one was home.
"It's great for the neighborhood," said Paul Ryscavage, 59, who huffed past the home yesterday. Ryscavage, a retired economist from the U.S. Census Bureau, lives nearby and jogs occasionally down Whitehaven. "Lovely," he said of the Clintons' new neighborhood. "Rich. Lots of money."
Some passersby expressed disappointment at the home's alleged lack of grandeur. "It doesn't look that big," said one man who jogged past. "Hope they're not paying too much."
The Clintons bought the home -- listed for $3.5 million -- from Joseph Welles Henderson III and his wife, Lucia, who have lived there for 20 years. He is general partner of Alder Branch Realty, a family investment group that owns Northern Virginia real estate.
Settlement will take place and the Hendersons will move out before Jan. 20, when the president must move out of his Washington house, said the Hendersons' lawyer, Edward A. Bloom. He would not reveal the settlement date.
The house was on the market for 160 days, which real estate agents said is not unusual at that price level. Hillary Clinton, who brought daughter Chelsea for a visit once, saw the house several times.
"She had a very positive reaction to the house the moment she walked in," said listing agent Mary White, president of Mary White Inc., a boutique Georgetown real estate firm. White was one of three agents -- all registered Democrats -- from three firms involved in the transaction.
President Clinton saw the house last weekend, Bloom said, and the Secret Service approved it on security grounds.
Heavy negotiations began last weekend, Bloom said, and a flurry of faxes culminated in a "terms sheet" the Clintons sent to his house late Wednesday. There was a home inspection, Bloom said, but it turned up nothing that needed to be fixed.
"We appreciate all the hard work of everyone who made our search for a place in Washington, D.C., productive and enjoyable," the Clintons said in a statement.
"Very smooth transaction," Bloom said.
The Hendersons decided to sell because their two children are grown -- both are Harvard students, according to the Green Book, Washington's social directory -- and they decided to move to their property in Berryville, Va., Bloom said. The Green Book says the Hendersons also own a home on Fisher's Island, N.Y.
The two couples have met, and the Hendersons "thought the Clintons were very nice people," Bloom said.
It is not clear how the Clintons will furnish the home. They had only minimal furniture when they came to Washington from the governor's mansion in Arkansas, and that is believed to be at the Westchester County, N.Y., home they bought last year so Hillary Clinton could run for the Senate.
Property taxes on their D.C. home will run more than $10,000 a year. Hillary Clinton recently won an $8 million advance for a new book, and the president is expected to do well as an author and lecturer.
The Clintons' $1.7 million home in New York will be their primary residence, White House spokesman Jake Siewert said. Clinton is expected to commute from there to a New York office.
Although White described the Whitehaven property as "the house for them to buy from the very beginning," the Clintons visited several others, even making an offer on one and withdrawing the contract.
In the space of a year, the Clintons have gone from owning no homes -- the only presidential couple since the Wilsons not to -- to owning two.
Instead of leaving Washington after his second term, Wilson and his wife, Edith, bought a town house at 2340 S St. NW in Kalorama, a short drive from the Clinton home.
Upon arriving at his new home, Wilson announced his intention to "teach former presidents how to behave." He lived there only three years, dying in 1924. The S Street house is now a Wilson museum, open for public tours.
Staff writers Annie Groer, Jura Koncius, Nancy McKeon and staff researchers Lynn Davis, Madonna Lebling and Margot Williams contributed to this report.