Hillandale mansion, built in the 1920s by an heir to the Standard Oil fortune, was saved this week from the wrecking ball as the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board voted to designate it a historic landmark.

Sur Builders/Developers wanted to knock down the mansion on Reservoir Road in Georgetown to build 13 single-family houses in the Hillandale development.

The company said it has not decided whether to appeal the decision to the D.C. Court of Appeals.

If the decision stands, the mansion may not be demolished or substantially altered without the review board's approval.

After a tour of the structure, a 25,000-square-foot dwelling that, although structurally sound, is dilapidated, the board voted 6 to 3 to add the mansion to the D.C. Inventory of Historic Landmarks.

"I found it a delightful piece of architecture," said board member Charles Cassell, who voted to preserve the mansion. "I think the style of living it illustrates is interesting and unique."

Built in the Jazz Age by Anne Archbold as one of several of her residences, where she entertained, among others, author Gertrude Stein and conductor Leopold Stokowski.

But others on the board were not so impressed. "I think one room was very good architecture, but otherwise what you saw has been repeated thousands of times," board member John D. Sullton said of the design of the building. "I don't think it would be a very pleasant place to try to save."

The group that applied to have the mansion designated a historic landmark lauded the board's decision. "I was satisfied with the integrity of the structure and that the board members saw it," said Valerie Lynn, president of the Friends of Historic Preservation.

Lynn lives outside the Hillandale community, several blocks away from the development of more than 200 expensive town houses. But most of the residents of Hillandale, which immediately surrounds the mansion, opposed preservation of it.

Peggy Sneider, a Hillandale resident, said, "All the time the residents of Hillandale have made it clear that we don't want that eyesore.

"We would be in favor of preserving it if someone would fix it up, but as it is it's a danger to my animals and to my children."

Earlier this year, the D.C. Zoning Commission reversed a decade-old rule that required that the mansion be preserved, and gave Sur permission to demolish the mansion to make room for the houses.

The French government, whose embassy property is next to the mansion grounds, objected to the zoning commission's decision. They said their embassy would be susceptible to electronic eavesdropping from some of the new homes built on the site.

The French retained an attorney and a historic architectural consulting firm to represent them in the case. The French government's lawyer, Richard Nettler, also represented Friends of Historic Preservation in the dispute.

At a public hearing last month, Hillandale residents accused the French of masterminding the entire application process, and their thoughts were echoed by board member Ibrahim Mumin Wednesday at the review panel's meeting.

"I think what we are seeing is an abuse of the historic preservation process," Mumin said. "I didn't see why we should be subjected to what we just went through. After the tour, I'm convinced that it {the mansion} is something that ought not be preserved."

Archbold was the daughter of John D. Rockefeller's original partner in Standard Oil of Ohio. Proponents of landmark status argued that its style is a historic rendition of European architecture adapted to the United States.

Opponents called it no more than a Hollywood fantasy drawing on vague Italian architectural themes.

Originally it sat on more than 30 acres of land that served as pasture for sheep and cattle. It remained in the Archbold family until the 1970s.

In the mid-1970s the family sold eight acres to the French, who built their embassy on that parcel. At the end of the decade, the family sold the remainder to a real estate developer, who later filed for bankruptcy protection for the project.

In the 11 years that have passed since the Archbold family sold the property, town houses have been built on the hillside leading to the mansion.

Originally, the zoning commission required that the mansion be retained and incorporated into the plan of the development as a community center or as an individual family residence.

Several attempts were made to sell the mansion and various suggestions were made for its public or neighborhood use, none of which was successful.

Now town houses are being built about 35 yards from the mansion, with more planned for construction even closer.

Had demolition been permitted by the review board, or if the D.C. Court of Appeals overturns the board's decision, the 13 single-family houses would have been the final construction segment at Hillandale.