Back in 1889, the Washington Real Estate Co. capitalized on the building boom taking place on Capitol Hill, buying the land where this rowhouse overlooking Lincoln Park stands.
There was a rush by developers such as the Washington Real Estate Co. to construct housing that was affordable and that appealed to middle-class residents. The company scooped up 1 million square feet of land along East Capitol Street SE for $350,000. “We bought the property because we think it’s a good investment,” John H. Walter, company president, told the Washington Star.
The company hired Charles E. Barry and Henry Simpson to design the homes, according to Robert S. Pohl, an author of books on Capitol Hill who writes for the blog The Hill Is Home. Barry & Simpson designed many buildings throughout the city, including ones for Georgetown University and Gonzaga College High School and the addition to the American Security and Trust Co. Building.
The architectural firm chose the Richardsonian Romanesque style for its design of the homes, a style of Romanesque Revival architecture named after architect Henry Hobson Richardson. Most of Richardson’s designs used stone to evoke a sense of permanence. According to local lore, the gray stones used for these homes were the same as those used for the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.
Alvaro F. Gibbens and his wife, Mary Barr Warfield Gibbens, were the first owners of the home. Gibbens was an author, a poet, a newspaper editor, a clerk in the U.S. Treasury Department, postmaster of Charleston, W.Va., and twice president of the West Virginia Historical Society.
His first wife, Bessie Egan, died in 1890. A year later, he married Mary Barr Warfield, who was a descendant of Capt. Joseph Burgess of Maryland. Gibbens was her third husband. Her first husband was a nephew of President Andrew Jackson’s wife; her second husband was the great-grandson of Lord William Butterworth Bayley. She died shortly after her marriage to Gibbens.
George W. Esterly, who came to Washington from Wisconsin to be the deputy auditor for State and other departments, lived in the home shortly after the Gibbenses. Esterley’s father invented a farm implement that rivaled the McCormick reaper. Esterly worked for his father’s company before coming to Washington.
The current owners, who bought the four-level home in 2008, hired architect Steve Lawlor to renovate it and bring it into the modern day while maintaining its historic integrity.
“Most of the house was gutted,” Lawlor said. “We brought it back, keeping some of the DNA of the house.”
Lawlor redid the kitchen in 2008, installing statuary marble countertops and Affinity cabinetry. A built-in banquet provides a cozy seating area. Glass doors lead to a bright and airy screened porch. The kitchen was given two design awards — the National Association of the Remodeling Industry’s Coty award and Qualified Remodeler’s Chrysalis award.
The top-floor master suite, which includes an office space, also was redone by Lawlor.
The seven-bedroom, three-bathroom, 3,994-square-foot house is listed at $2,175,000. An open house is scheduled for Jan. 21 from 1 to 3 p.m.
Listing agent: Patrick Morris, Century 21 Redwood Realty
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