To enter the lobby of the Kennedy-Warren apartment building is to plunge into modern history: Under the ceiling, which soars to 20 feet, much of the furniture and decoration is original to the 1930s, and the cool, glamorous atmosphere seems to defy the noise and traffic of busy Connecticut Avenue outside. Residents also have been glamorous, from Harry Hopkins, the close personal adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to the young congressman Lyndon Baines Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird.

Once upon a time "you couldn't do any better than living in the Kennedy-Warren," said Margaret Schlageter, who moved in in 1975, the third generation of her family to live in the building. "And this is still true, definitely." Indeed, the complex was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.

The building was built by Edgar Kennedy and Monroe Warren Sr., then two of the best-known Washington developers, and opened in 1931. "It was quite an event when this place opened," resident manager Paul Hallam said. Two weeks before the official Oct. 1 opening, a special "Kennedy Warren Section" of The Washington Post was filled with ads from the building's suppliers, from the company whose cranes helped build it to the manufacturer of its "improved insect screens."

The mood of the design moment was art deco, and the Kennedy-Warren, designed by architect Joseph Younger, splashed its stylized motifs across the height and breadth of the building's whole facade. Critics then and now have stated it is the finest art deco apartment building ever in Washington.

It's hard to miss the Kennedy-Warren's pyramidal copper-tile tower and the aluminum marquee at the building entrance. But a closer look reveals a striking peculiarity: Both carved in limestone and cast in aluminum, the motifs--stylized falcons, suns--are rare examples of what came to be known as Aztec art deco. Even the apartments' door knockers and peepholes, all 1930s aluminum originals, display deco suns and ferns.

"It's an enchanting building," Schlageter said. Her grandparents moved in in 1944 and she used to come from Ohio to spend summers and weekends with them. More than once, she recalled, her grandfather had to lend a suit jacket to one of her friends because the dining room in the north lobby required evening dress for dinner.

The public dining room operated until the 1980s, then one of half a dozen Washington apartment-building dining rooms still in existence. Then B.F. Saul and Co., which has owned the building almost from the beginning, following the bankruptcy of Kennedy and Warren in 1931, leased the 200-person room to a caterer. That business ceased last January and the company has no plans at the moment for the space, B.F. Saul Senior Vice President Frank Saul Jr. said

Saul Jr. is the fourth generation of the family to be in the real estate business. The family owns and manages about 1,200 apartment units in the Washington area, but the Kennedy-Warren is the company's 'crown jewel,' " Saul said.

Though the dining room is gone, the building now offers more modern amenities, such as an on-site convenience store and dry cleaner, and a fitness room. Two years ago the management put together a children's playroom.

One family using it is the Danishes. Now residents at the Kennedy-Warren for two years, the couple moved from New Jersey for a job opportunity for Kyle Danish, a lawyer.

"It's really an amazing building in which to have a family," Jennifer Danish said. Their two-bedroom apartment is ample enough for the couple and their toddler, 18-month-old Samuel, she said. And Samuel already has a play group in the building, including two children his age.

Wesley Howard, a businessman resident of 11 years, has had a taste of the family atmosphere in the building. Years ago he went through surgery, after which, he said, management checked constantly on him. To this day, "if I'm not in the lobby about 10 o'clock getting the newspaper, I get a call," he said.

The Kennedy-Warren offers 33 different floor plans, all with hardwood floors and nine-foot ceilings. The bigger apartments have a formal dining room and a library or a sun room, but even smaller units have a dining area, separated from the kitchen by built-in china cabinets. The tiled bathrooms feature pedestal sinks and oversize porcelain bathtubs. Glass doorknobs and French doors grace some units.

"The building has a lot of character," said nine-year resident Noreen McGuire, director of undergraduate educational programs and research at George Mason University.

McGuire especially enjoys her view of Rock Creek Park. In fall and winter she can see the cheetahs of the National Zoo next door. "I can hear the animals all the time," she said.

McGuire found the building through a friend who lived there with her husband. When the couple divorced, McGuire recounted, husband and wife both simply moved to smaller apartments in the building.

"I thought, this building must be really something," she said. "And I fell in love immediately."

The Kennedy-Warren

3133 Connecticut Ave. NW

Washington, D.C. 20008

202-234-9100

* Application fee: $35

* Security deposit: One month's rent, refundable

* Lease term: One year

* Utilities: Included

* Amenities: Fitness center; full-service front desk; children's playroom; library; rooftop sundeck; storage; 24-maintenance service

* Parking: Indoor, $95 a month

* Pet policy: Cats only ($150 nonrefundable fee)

APARTMENT SIZE QUANTITY SQUARE FEET MONTHLY RENTAL

EFFICIENCY 103 585 $875 to $975

1BR/1BA 69 720 to 815 $1,350 to $1,450

1 BR/1 BA/DEN 75 675 to 940 $1,575 to $1,725

2 BR/2BA 45 1,040 to 2,000 $1,650 to $2,800

3BR/3BA 8 1,600 $2,350 to $2,500