Affectionately referred to as the “gingerbread house,” this Cleveland Park home is for sale for the first time.
The house has changed little since it was built in 1929 for the grandparents of owner Clarissa Bonde. According to Bonde, her great-grandfather O.F. Carlson, a doctor from Fort Worth, bought the land and ordered the house from the Sears catalogue for his daughter, Dagmar Carlson Leggett.
The Barrington model was described in the catalogue as retaining “the dignity of an old English home” and the “practical interior of modern American architecture.”
Dagmar Carlson met Eugene Leggett at the Detroit Free Press in 1923. She was a Texan. He was a Canadian. They married the following year and had a son in 1925.
Carlson was an unusual woman for the times. After graduating from the University of Texas, she traveled through Europe and the United States before taking a job as a newspaper reporter in Fort Worth. She left for a Montreal paper in 1922 and then joined the Detroit Free Press the following year. Carlson covered crime for the Free Press, including the House of David scandal, in which the founder of the religious colony in Benton Harbor, Mich., was accused of having sex with minors. After her son was born, she left newspapers.
Leggett began his career at the Brantford (Ontario) Courier in 1918. He came to the Detroit Free Press in 1923. Two years later, he moved his family to the District to serve as the paper’s Washington correspondent. In 1931, he became the youngest president of the National Press Club. Known as Red to the Washington press corps, he left newspapers in 1933 to work as the executive assistant to the director of the National Emergency Council. He was eventually promoted to its executive officer.
Carlson was frequently outspoken. She was described in a 1933 Washington Post article as a “lovely blonde former newspaper woman” and “descendant of Vikings.” In the article, headlined “Middle Western Woman a Better Person Than She’s Painted, Says Dagmar Leggett,” Carlson called out writers such as Sinclair Lewis for being critical of women.
The marriage didn’t last. In 1938, Carlson went to Reno for a divorce. Ten days later she married Blake O’Connor, a writer for Newsweek, and moved to New York.
Leggett continued to live at the house until he unexpectedly died of pneumonia at age 36 in 1939. His funeral was attended by 200 people, many of whom were newspaper men and government officials.
Carlson returned to Washington but chose to live in Georgetown rather than Cleveland Park, renting out the cottage. She eventually transferred ownership to her son. Bonde bought the house from her father. “There’s something about the house that seemed so magical,” she said.
When her brother Sheldon Leggett renovated the house in 1989, he reused most of the original materials, including the original door hardware and sconces.
“It was fascinating,” he said. “All the pieces were numbered like a puzzle. You take a piece of trim off the wall and it would have a number behind it. You put all the pieces together according to the instructions.”
Leggett is sad that the family will no longer own the home.
“It’s always been a place with a lot of character,” Leggett said. “I’ve not seen another Sears house that still has all that original stuff.”
The four-bedroom, three-bathroom, 1,723-square-foot house is listed at $1.19 million. Open houses are scheduled for Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. and Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m.
Listing: 3024 Macomb St. NW, Washington, D.C.
Listing agent: Christie Weiss, TTR Sotheby’s International Realty
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