At the time Gilson and Matilda Hall Gardner built their summer home in 1918, you probably could look out the back of the house and see the Potomac River. Although the development of Crystal City now obscures that view, the setting hasn’t lost its feeling of living in the Virginia countryside.
Gilson Gardner was a Washington correspondent for the Newspaper Enterprise Association, a news service founded by the E.W. Scripps Co. in 1902. He covered Washington politics and World War I and had a syndicated column. In his biography of E.W. Scripps, “Lusty Scripps,” one of three books he wrote, Gardner sounded like a jaded journalist: “My job in Washington and elsewhere had accustomed me to meeting the great and the near-great and I stood in no awe of Representatives, Senators, departmentarians or even Presidents. They were all in the day’s work.”
His wife, Matilda, also had newspapers in her blood. She was the daughter of Frederick Hall, editor of the Chicago Tribune. Educated in Chicago, Paris and Brussels, she became active in the National Woman’s Party. In addition to writing articles for the Suffragist, Matilda demonstrated for women’s right to vote. In 1917, while picketing in front of the White House, she was arrested for obstructing traffic and sentenced to 60 days in the Occoquan Workhouse. Later, she spent five days in the D.C. jail.
The home’s bucolic surroundings seemed to attract journalists; NBC White House correspondent Ray Scherer later owned it.
Although the two-bedroom main house and two-bedroom guest house have been modified over the years, the property retains much of the original character and charm of an early 20th-century summer home.
Once known as Dyke’s Acre — Dyke was Gilson’s nickname — the current owners, Lee and Deborah Genuleas, changed the name to Tilly’s Ridge in honor of Matilda. The Genuleases, who bought the home in 2003, have done extensive work to the property, renovating the kitchens in both houses and the bathrooms.
They restored the heart of pine floors in the living room and bedrooms. In the kitchen, they removed five layers of old flooring and replaced it with reclaimed heart of pine from a house in Georgetown. The living room features a brick hearth, crown molding and chair rail.
“The living room is the one space that’s probably untouched, other than [refinishing] the floors,” Lee Genuleas said.
The dining room with its slate flooring was originally a screened porch. After it was enclosed, French doors were added that open to a patio. The family room, which was constructed in 1987, offers spectacular views from its wall of windows. An arbor-covered patio connects the main house to the guest house. A 100-year-old yew hedge guards the back of the property.
Located on nearly three-quarters of an acre with a view of the Washington Monument, the property is listed at $1.785 million. An open house is scheduled for Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m.
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