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D.C.'s largest penthouse on the market for $6 million

The two-level condo in Wesley Heights was the longtime home of developer Melvin Gelman

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Towers penthouse | The penthouse at the Towers Condominium in the Wesley Heights neighborhood of Northwest Washington is considered the largest apartment in the District. It is listed at just under $6 million. (HomeVisit)

The penthouse at the Towers Condominium in the Wesley Heights neighborhood of Northwest Washington is considered the largest apartment in the District. The two-floor, 9,450-square-foot condo was the longtime home of developer Melvin Gelman and his wife, Estelle.

Gelman’s father, Elias, founded Gelman Construction in 1925 in New York before moving to Washington. His son expanded the firm after World War II, building more than 2,000 houses and 12 apartment buildings in the Washington area. According to James M. Goode, who wrote “Best Addresses,” a 1988 book on Washington’s distinguished apartment buildings, Gelman’s “apartment houses were architecturally advanced and innovative for their times.”

Gelman built the Towers between 1959 and 1960 as a luxury rental apartment complex. He hired architects Julian E. Berla and Joseph H. Abel to design it. Berla & Abel had “gained a reputation as Washington’s most notable modernist architectural firm,” according to the DC Architects Directory.

The complex is two 13-floor buildings with a total of 620 units connected by a lobby and glass-enclosed corridors. The west tower opened in 1959 and the east tower in 1960.

“The enormous Towers, located on a 12-acre site, was one of Washington’s most fashionable apartment houses when completed in 1960,” Goode wrote.

Gelman lived in Towers West for a year before moving his family into the penthouse in Towers East in 1960. After he died in 1978, his heirs sold Towers to a developer who converted it to condos in 1979. Estelle Gelman continued to live in the penthouse, hiring New York designer Jay Spectre to redecorate it in 1981.

After her death in 2009, the penthouse was donated to George Washington University. Melvin Gelman was a GWU graduate and had endowed a chair in Judaic studies. Estelle Gelman served on the GWU board of trustees for 11 years. GWU’s Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library is named after them. GWU sold the penthouse to the current owner who has kept it largely intact.

Double mahogany doors open to a marble foyer with mirrored stairs. A crystal chandelier enhances the opulence. Past two marble columns is the living room. A wall of glass and a 16-foot ceiling give the room a light and airy feeling. The crown molding, marble wainscoting and the ceiling’s ornate details add elegance. A marble fireplace anchors the room. Parquet flooring warms the space.

The spacious dining room can accommodate 24. One end opens to an expansive terrace. The other has a 19th-century Chinese screen that hides storage for crystal, porcelain and linen. One of the panels in the screen conceals the door to the kitchen. An intimate breakfast room is for more casual meals.

The Art Deco-style media room has a wet bar. The mahogany-paneled library has a fireplace and built-in shelving. Views from the library and the media room make it seem as if you are at eye-level with Washington National Cathedral’s spires. The main level also has a laundry room and a door that connects to a two-bedroom staff apartment.

The second level can be reached by the stairs or the elevator. The owner’s suite has two marble bathrooms, two large dressing rooms and a private balcony. One of the three other bedrooms on this floor has its own balcony. There’s also a family room with a balcony, a second kitchen and a second laundry room on this level.

The unit has four parking spaces in the garage. The monthly $8,715 condo fee covers a range of amenities, including a 24-hour front desk, door attendants, valet parking and access to a fitness center, a sauna, a tennis court and a swimming pool. The complex also has a market and hair salon. The four-bedroom, five-bathroom penthouse and two-bedroom, two-bathroom staff apartment are being sold together for just under $6 million.

4201 Cathedral Ave. NW, No. 1215E, Washington, D.C.

Price: $6 million

Features: The penthouse at the Towers Condominium is considered the largest apartment in the District. The two-floor condo was the longtime home of developer Melvin Gelman and his wife, Estelle. It has two fireplaces, sweeping views of Washington and Virginia, an elevator and four parking spaces. The complex has a 24-hour front desk, door attendants, valet parking, a fitness center, a sauna, a tennis court, a swimming pool, a market and a hair salon.

Bedrooms/bathrooms: 4/5 plus 2/2 staff apartment

Approximate square-footage: 9,450 (penthouse)

Condo fee: $8,715 monthly

Listing agents: Mark Lowham, Greg Gaddy and Carroll Dey, TTR Sotheby’s International Realty

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