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Georgetown mansion on the market for $6.7 million

HOUSE OF THE WEEK | The building has a three-bedroom, three-bathroom dwelling above L’Enfant Galerie, an antiques and art shop

L'Enfant Galerie, at 1442 Wisconsin Ave. NW, has Palladian windows, hardwood floors and a riot of artworks and antiques. (Oleks Yaroshynskyi)

This Georgetown mansion has hidden treasures behind the sidewalk cluttered with old furniture and embellished mirrors. Inside, below crystal chandeliers, the ground floor is filled with paintings, ceramics and sculptures. But the antique and art shop’s most interesting stories are not about the artifacts. They’re about the people who spent time there.

City documents indicate that the house was constructed on a corner lot at Wisconsin Avenue and P Street NW in 1900, but the Historical Society of Washington has photos that show the building at the nexus of trolley lines circa 1880. And during a renovation, the current owner, historian Peter Colasante, found in the basement a scrap of decaying newspaper dated 1849.

Colasante suspects that the paper was left by a worker when the space was a garment sweatshop. More recently, the building was used as an upscale Italian shoe boutique and, before that, a video rental store.

Stalls in the basement were used as workstations in the sweatshop, but that wasn’t their original purpose, Colasante said. According to past tenants and neighbors, he said, Union troops training nearby during the Civil War kept horses in the basement, accessible from the alley through a coal chute.

Colasante moved L’Enfant Galerie from D.C.’s Woodley Park neighborhood to Georgetown in December 1999, renting the basement and main level. He began renovations almost immediately. He later took over the top two floors, and he bought the building in 2012.

“We spent every cent we had, every nickel we could, in trying to transform it into a period-feeling building that would show to best advantage art and antiques,” Colasante said. “It was as much a pain in the neck as it was a beauty to be in.”

It was during renovations that he discovered some of the unusual architectural features of the building, which is believed to be one of the last Federal-style houses built in Washington. For instance, the exterior walls have two layers, in keeping with ancient Roman practice, Colasante said, and the space between them keeps the interior cooler in summer and warmer in winter.

“When you peel something back, you find the original bones and skeleton, and with it, lots of history,” Colasante said.

Colasante’s clientele has included such prominent American politicians as Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor and two-term California governor.

“We collected politicians by the score,” Colasante said. “They knew that I had a nonpartisan sort of free speech place, so they could come and say whatever the hell they wanted, and it wouldn’t go beyond the gallery.”

The building also served as a location for films, including “Wonder Woman” (2017), although all that remained in the final cut is the heroine running past the storefront. Items from the gallery have been used as props in other films, Colasante said.

Colasante uses the second story as an extension of the gallery, but a buyer could make the space residential again. The top two levels were once separate apartments. Stairs from the main floor lead to a second-story hall that connects four rooms and an open-concept dining and living space with 12-foot ceilings. This level also has two bedrooms and a bathroom.

The top level includes Colasante’s office, two bathrooms and a primary bedroom. Behind a recently renovated kitchen is a room with a new washer and dryer. There is also another dining area on this level. Palladian windows on both upper levels offer views of Wisconsin Avenue.

The shop will move to a new location after the property is sold. According to real estate agent Randolph Adams, the building could be divided again for commercial and residential use, made possible by a second door on P Street NW.

$6.7 million

1442 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington D.C.

  • Bedrooms/bathrooms: 3/3
  • Approximate square-footage: 7,600
  • Lot size: 2,019 square feet
  • Features: This four-level property was once divided into a shop on the lower levels — the basement and ground floor — and apartments on the upper two floors. The three levels above ground have ceilings that are 11 feet or higher. There is no designated parking.
  • Listing agent: Randolph Adams, Randolph Adams Group at EXP Realty.