Tiny bells fastened to the gate chime to announce your arrival at this Tudor-style cottage in the Wesley Heights neighborhood of Northwest Washington. As you continue up the flagstone path, you almost expect Little Red Riding Hood or Hansel and Gretel to greet you at the door.
Martha Moffett Bache built the home in 1941, two years after her husband died. Bache was an accomplished artist who specialized in landscapes and miniatures. Several of her works are in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution, including her painting, “Wartime Marketing, 1942.”
Born in Flint, Mich., Bache came to Washington in the mid-1920s. During World War I, she worked with the Army Medical Corps as a rehabilitation aide, teaching arts and crafts to wounded servicemen at Walter Reed hospital. She remained in the home for 42 years before she died at age 89 in 1983.
Bache kept the original blueprints and architectural drawings of the house by architect V.T.H. Bien, and they have been passed down to each subsequent owner. Bien, a native Washingtonian and MIT graduate, designed several homes in the area.
It may have been Bache’s artistic eye or Bien’s meticulous craftsmanship or a combination of the two, but this house brims with charm and character. The details are what draw you in. It is a house you need to see several times to appreciate all the care that has gone into this home.
Rugged stone is the main element of the exterior, but the smooth brick, arranged in decorative patterns, creates a pleasing counterpoint. Ludowici clay tiles adorn the roof. The wood entry door contains a lead-glass speakeasy window that opens and closes.
The front room, which was once Bache’s studio, has a cove ceiling, wainscoting and shutters on the interior of the windows. The kitchen was updated by the third owners of the home.
An enormous brick fireplace anchors the living room. The nickel flashing that fronts the firebox is decorative, as well as practical. Wood beams stretch across the ceiling. A Dutch door opens to the back yard.
In the spacious fenced back yard, an adorable garden cottage could be a children’s playhouse or a place to store garden supplies. The second owner designed the landscaping so that a variety of plants flowered through three seasons.
What is remarkable about this house, besides its charming details, is how each owner has been a steward to the home, preserving its character. An oil painting of the house by Bache has been passed down from owner to owner. Tucked into the back of the painting are postcards sent to Bache that have been wrapped in plastic and preserved all these years.
“It really comes from Martha’s spirit in the house,” owner Brad Welling said. “She built this house essentially as her art studio. She lived in this art studio because itself is a piece of art. You just feel that inspiration, warmth and feeling in the house. I think that’s why every owner wants to preserve it.”
The five-bedroom, four-bathroom 2,817-square-foot house is listed at $1.4 million.
Listing: 4532 Macomb St. NW, Washington, D.C.
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