Tucked away inside a LeDroit Park city block stands a two-story building, circa 1890, that originally housed firemen up top and their horses and carriages below. The building is the lone structure in the interior of the block, surrounded by rowhouses on all four sides. The only way to get to it is through a tiny back alley.
While apartment-hunting in early 2012, Anthony Masucci, 28, came upon a Craigslist post for the building: A “carriage house,” it said. His reaction was, “Oh that’s kind of weird. It’s like a stable?”
Yes. And no.
Carriage houses, which often lurk along alleyways and cobblestone streets, are buildings that once sheltered coaches, horses or cars and have since been converted into residences. Despite the thousands of sleek, new rentals in the area, some Washingtonians opt instead for these quirky homes — preferring something a bit more off the beaten path, if you will.
When Masucci and his two roommates/bandmates walked into the LeDroit carriage house, they immediately knew they found their home. The building was square and open, with 16-foot ceilings and two glass double doors that led to a patio under a cherry tree. “We saw parties. We saw being able to jam,” says Masucci, who, along with his housemates, is in the band The Pantsuit Aggressive. “We saw a good time when we looked at it, and it certainly hasn’t disappointed at all.”
While Masucci shares with other people, Hillary Galland, 38, rents a carriage house designed for one. “I just love it,” the high school teacher says. “It’s like having a house that’s totally manageable.”
Galland’s 900-square-foot, two-story Capitol Hill carriage house is a lesson in “space maximization,” she says. On the first floor, “there are drawers where you wouldn’t expect them, a tiny little kitchen alcove and a Murphy bed,” she says. She uses the upstairs landing as an office/library/place to entertain.
These unique homes aren’t as difficult for would-be renters to find as you might think. Entering the search term “carriage house” on the Craigslist rental Web page will often yield a handful of available homes, which are commonly priced between $1,000 and $3,000 a month, depending on their size.
Real estate agents can also help you find places listed on other websites. Alexandria-based real estate agent Peter Crouch (703-244-4024) owns a cozy two-story Old Town carriage house that “is about the width of a car and a half,” he says. Unlike Masucci’s and Galland’s homes, his carriage house is attached to the main house, which he has also converted into two rental units.
Crouch prefers to advertise his apartments online on the Multiple Listing Service rather than Craigslist. Your agent can pull up available carriage house apartments directly from the service. Or you can do the search yourself by using apps or websites such as zillow.com and trulia.com, which list rentals along with homes for sale.
One potential downside to renting a carriage house: It might be hard for friends and mail carriers to find. Masucci’s home shares a house number with one of the rowhouses on the outer block, but the street name is slightly different. The rowhouse’s address is “Fifth Street,” while the carriage house’s address is “Rear Fifth Street.” Some deliveries end up at the wrong building, but it’s not a problem, Masucci says. His “awesome neighbors” bring them over when that happens.
Masucci takes pride in the relationships he and his roommates have formed with their block neighbors. When the rowhouse residents want a break from the street life happening outside their front doors, they’re always welcome to go out back and enjoy some music and drinks at the carriage house.
“You know we’ll be here, having a good time, kind of away from the streets in our little oasis,” Masucci says.
Is It Really a Carriage House?
While searching online for carriages houses, you might find listings for homes in the Hickory Cluster community near Lake Anne in Reston, Va. A number of the townhomes, designed by renowned midcentury modern architect Charles Goodman, are built above carports, which is why they are called carriage houses. They are not converted garages, but if you like cool geometric shapes, lots of windows and a Frank Loyd Wright-esque connection with nature, you might want to check them out.