The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Georgetown home of tech pioneer listed at $19 million

Herman Hollerith spared no expense building his 1911 Georgetown manse. He hired architect Frederic B. Pyle to design it and noted builder George A. Fuller Co. to construct it. (Photo by Gordon Beall)
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The former Georgetown home of one of Washington’s early technology pioneers has gone on the market.

Herman Hollerith came to Washington in 1879 to work as a statistician in the Census Office. His experience processing data for the 1880 Census led him to develop a punch-card system that was used not only in later U.S. censuses, but also in censuses for Canada, Norway and Austria. He started the Tabulating Machine Co., which eventually merged with three other companies to form IBM.

Hollerith spared no expense building his 1911 Georgetown manse. He hired Frederic B. Pyle, the architect of the Hecht building on Seventh Street and the Equitable building on F Street, to design it. He engaged the George A. Fuller Co., the same firm that built the Chicago Opera House and the 1889 New York Times building, to construct it. He added modern conveniences such as electrical outlets and an elevator that ran to all the floors. He installed one of the first electric refrigerators.

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The four-story Georgian brick house remained in the Hollerith family for nearly 80 years, until a pair of noted Washington interior designers scooped it up in 1996. Todd Davis and Robert Brown, who are best known for decorating Bill and Hillary Clinton’s post-White House home, completely refurbished it. They knocked down walls, reconfigured rooms, created a new kitchen and landscaped the garden.

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Davis told The Washington Post in 2005 that Hollerith’s three daughters lived in the home their entire lives. He described the state of the house when he and Brown bought it as “morbid manor” because it had fallen into disrepair later in the women’s lives.

“The great thing about it was that they kept the roof tight and the windows tight,” Davis said. “And because there were just those three very old women who had lived there, it had very little wear and tear.”

During their time in the house, Davis and Brown opened it to charity events and parties that drew celebrity guests. They used the top floor as the offices for their design firm, whose clients included the Clintons and Susan Mary Alsop. Architectural Digest featured the home in 1998.

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The current owners bought the house in 2005 and spent millions restoring and renovating it, according to a Wall Street Journal article. They restored the original intercom system and refurbished the original Otis elevator. They hired David Jones Architects to turn the glass greenhouse into a conservatory and breakfast room.

The 0.61-acre lot includes specimen trees planted by Hollerith’s wife, Lucia, who was co-founder of the Georgetown Garden Club. A gated private driveway leads to two garages that can accommodate four cars.

The seven-bedroom, 10-bathroom, 11,388-square-foot house is listed at just under $19 million.

Listing: 1617 29th St. NW, Washington, D.C.

Listing agents: Mark Lowham and Anj Murphy, TTR Sotheby’s International Realty

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