The Washington Post

Washington Club puts historic Patterson Mansion on the market

Is your ballroom too small for practical use? Do you no longer have enough room for your liveried servants?

Well, everything you’ve been looking for in a home — plus, convenient Metro access! — is now available. For the first time in more than 60 years, the Dupont Circle mansion where publishing tycoon Cissy Patterson entertained the city’s elite is on the market.

The Patterson House, currently occupied by the Washington Club, at 15 Dupont Circle. (Amy Argetsinger / The Washington Post)

It’s being offered for sale by the Washington Club, a women’s social group, after it determined the cost of upkeep was too much for its shrinking membership.

“A building that old is difficult to maintain,” said President Priscilla Baker, “and very expensive.”

What’s next for the club is a story for another day. But the Patterson House has plenty of stories of its own.

It was built by Nellie Patterson, daughter of the Chicago Tribune owner, in 1901, when Dupont Circle was the hot new neighborhood for the nouveau riche, many of them also from Chicago. The grand Beaux-Arts edifice by legendary architect Stanford White was inspired by the “White City” of the Chicago World’s Fair.

“It was meant to entertain, and for Nellie Patterson to show off her wealth,” says historian Amanda Smith, author of “Cissy Patterson: Newspaper Titan.”

Nellie’s daughter Cissy became editor of the Washington Times-Herald and one of the city’s preeminent hostesses. Calvin Coolidge was a guest for a while when the White House was undergoing renovations; in June 1927, he hosted Charles Lindbergh there after his historic transatlantic flight.

Alas, it probably won’t be a home again, unless it gets turned into condos. Other possible future uses: Office space, an embassy or home to another private club.

Asking price? Well, if you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it. But Baker says that two bidders above $20 million have already been turned down. “We will sell,” she said, “when it’s right for our members, the building and the community.”

Earlier: Amanda Smith on the life of Washington grande dame Cissy Patterson, 10/30/11

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Amy Argetsinger is an editor for the Style section.
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