Travis Shelhorse bought this Victorian mansion in Northwest Washington, which, for several decades, was used as a bed-and-breakfast, to add to his collection of boutique hotels.
Swann House is one of the oldest free-standing mansions in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. It was designed by Washington artist and architect Walter Paris for his own use and was completed in 1883. The cost of construction was a then-impressive $18,000. A Renaissance man, Paris was also a violinist with the Georgetown Orchestra, and several of his watercolors and photomechanical reproductions are owned by the Smithsonian Institution.
Though Paris never lived in the house, it did have several notable residents. Paris sold it to Theodore Tyrer, a lawyer and president of the Washington Real Estate Co., who lived there until 1901. Eva Roberts Cromwell, widow of renowned American mountain climber Oliver Eaton Cromwell, lived there, and she had her second wedding there in 1912; guests included President William Howard Taft and banker J.P. Morgan. It was also owned by diplomat George Garrett, the first U.S. ambassador to Ireland, in the early 1930s.
In the 1940s, the mansion was converted to a boardinghouse, then it fell into disrepair. After sitting vacant for years, it was renovated in 1987 into a small hotel. In 2014, the longtime bed-and-breakfast owners sold the property at a bankruptcy auction.
After Shelhorse bought Swann House in 2022, he restored the floors, repainted several rooms, repaired tiles in the courtyard and pool area, refinished decking, revised the front and rear gardens, and upgraded the roof and fireplaces. The house, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, still has moldings, paneling, a staircase and doors from renovations that occurred between 1899 and 1910.
“It’s sort of a canvas now that’s in good shape, and it’s ready for anyone that would want to make it a home,” Shelhorse said.
If it is not sold by April, Shelhorse said, he would prepare the property for use as a boutique hotel, adding an eighth location to his East Coast lodgings. This is the first property he has put back on the market.
“It wasn’t the intention initially, but it’s just as we were working on it, like this seems like it’s just a beautiful mansion for some institution or person that might not know they want it,” he said.
Behind a Romanesque front porch, the mansion has 15 bedrooms and 13 bathrooms. Cornice moldings, fluted woodwork, 11 fireplaces and inlaid wood floors preserve some of the property’s 19th-century glamour. On one side of the first floor, there is a deck with stairs that lead down to a slate-paved courtyard with a pool. This level also has the larger of the mansion’s two kitchens and the formal living and dining spaces.
The lower level and the second and third floors each have several bedrooms and bathrooms. The second floor has three balconies. Each floor has a circular sitting room. There is a small attic for storage and a semicircular front driveway.
- Bedrooms/bathrooms: 15/13
- Approximate square-footage: 8,000
- Lot size: 5,405 square feet
- Features: This free-standing mansion is one of the oldest in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. It was built in the Victorian style in 1883 by Washington architect Walter Paris. There are four decks across several levels, a pool and design details from remodeling that took place between 1899 and 1910.
- Listing agent: Randolph Adams, EXP Realty.
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