The words “Victorian mansion” often conjure visions of Scooby-Doo’s haunted houses or waistcoat-wearing Dickens characters crouched on uncomfortable sofas. But at Dupont Circle’s Heurich House Museum, a new energy (as well as nearly perfectly preserved 1894 Romanesque revival brownstone) gives the impression that turn-of-the-century Washington wasn’t just corsets and ornate carvings.
“I like to call Christian Heurich the original hipster,” says museum executive director Kimberly Bender, of the home’s original owner. “He had this fabulous mustache; he brewed beer, smoked meat and furnished his house with the latest technology.”
On a guided tour of the softly lit manor (1307 New Hampshire Ave. NW), you’ll feel as if you’ve met Heurich, a German immigrant and beermaker who was, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the largest private landowner and employer in the District. Heurich, who married three times and had three children who survived to adulthood, had a love of European style and American ingenuity.
The three floors that are open to the public will please historic-house geeks, fans of District lore and beer buffs alike. The house’s ornate elements (15 carved fireplaces, gilded furniture) exist alongside state-of-the-art technology for the era, including central heat and gas-electric hybrid lamps. Heurich’s more humble childhood in Germany as the child of tavern keepers is evident in the beer cellar with walls emblazoned with quotes about drinking.
Everywhere are signs that a real family and its patriarch lived here. On the main level, the high-ceilinged music room holds a recently restored 1901 model C Steinway piano played by the Heurich children. Another room features family photos (that’s Heurich himself with the pointed beard, round glasses and sharp suit) and labels from his brewery, which crafted European-style ales from 1872 through 1956.
“There’s such a connection between Heurich and the city, particularly when you think about this new brewery revolution going on now,” says Emma Stratton Bray, the museum’s director of public engagement.
Every third Thursday of the month, Heurich’s sudsy successors, a.k.a. area brewers, show up for History & Hops evenings. Docents lead beer-focused tours of the house, while outfits such as DC Brau or Vienna’s Caboose Brewing Co., pour their wares.
Carly Spring and her girlfriend, Stephanie Stilson, who live on Capitol Hill, have been to several History & Hops events. “It’s a nice way to get to know local breweries in a beautiful setting, and we’ve met so many other people who love beer here,” Spring says.
Other events include concerts year-round, an Oktoberfest in the fall and a German-style Christmas market with local crafts and mulled wine.
The year-old Brewmaster Studio is also drawing fresh buzz and creative crowds to Heurich’s old stomping grounds. The workspace for local artists is in the property’s carriage house, a two-story stucco and brick building.
“Heurich was very into the arts, so it’s a nod to him to bring creativity back into the space,” says Mallory Shelter, a jeweler in the studio who works alongside such creative outlets as a documentary film company and Sea Heart City Press, a letterpress card company.
(Regular tours of the mansion are Thursday through Saturday with a suggested donation of $5.)