Mary Swift had taken only a few steps into the Georgetown rowhouse when she knew this was the house she wanted to buy.
“Our family history is she walked in, looked around and said, ‘I’ll take it,’ ” daughter Isabel Swift said. “And she paid a premium for it. To such an extent that her lawyer said, ‘Why are you paying this much for this little rowhouse? I’m going to have to come look at it and make sure you’re not being taken for a ride.’ Her lawyer came down to check it out and said, ‘Yes, you can buy it. It’s a really, really beautiful house.’ ”
The 1865 rowhouse had been completely restored by architect David Childs, who brought the house back to its Federal roots following his exacting standards. Childs, who at the time was working in the Washington office of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, began his career here and lived in the home. The former chairman of the National Capital Planning Commission and of the Commission of Fine Arts worked on the Mall master plan and Constitution Gardens. He also designed the Four Seasons Hotel and the U.S. News headquarters, before moving to Skidmore, Owings and Merrill’s New York office, where he designed several buildings, most famously One World Trade Center.
“Georgetown houses can be either very chopped up and tiny or modernized in a way that might be a little uncomfortable,” Isabel Swift said. “This has beautiful light and flow and proportions. It is very comfortable for a modern person, but also you feel like you’re in Georgetown or in Europe.”
For all the effort he put into the interior, Childs was most pleased with the back exterior of the house, with its private terrace, garden and pool with two lion-head fountains from a turn-of-the-century building on G street. He described it as “a flight of fancy with its Palladian overtones.”
Swift, the longtime managing editor of Washington Review of Arts and Literature, came to the house from a larger home on Reservoir Road. After her divorce from Carleton B. Swift Jr., a retired CIA officer, she remained in the Reservoir Road house until her children had grown. This house was her first place of her own.
“She felt like she was stewarding the house,” Isabel Swift said. “There were things she might have thought of doing, but this was his vision, and she didn’t want to mess with it. She very much felt like this was a David Childs house, and that’s how I want to keep it.”
Swift came from a distinguished family. Her grandfather Frank Patterson helped start National Cash Register (NCR). Her father, Howard C. Davidson, was an Army Air Force major general who was in Hawaii when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Her older brother, Stuart Davidson, owned Clyde’s of Georgetown, Old Ebbitt Grill and 1789 Restaurant.
Swift, who started as a production assistant for Washington Review before rising to managing editor, documented the D.C. art world for nearly 30 years. “Her enthusiasm propped up the District’s art scene for decades,” Jessica Dawson wrote in The Washington Post in 2005, when Flashpoint Gallery held an exhibit of her photos called “Mary Swift’s Washington.”
The four-bedroom, four-bathroom, 3,140-square-foot house is listed at $2.49 million.
Listing: 2806 P St. NW, Washington, D.C.
Listing agent: Michael Rankin, TTR Sotheby’s International Realty
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