The Tudor Revival mansion just north of Chevy Chase Circle and the District line in Chevy Chase, Md., is the second-most-expensive house for sale in the Washington region. The $25.9 million home is about half the price of Merrywood in McLean, which is listed at $49.5 million.
Concealed behind a mass of mature trees and tall bushes, the 13,000-square-foot manor was one of the first built in Chevy Chase. Architect Leon E. Dessez — best known for designing the Admiral’s House at the Naval Observatory (now the vice president’s residence) — designed the home circa 1891 for Sen. Francis G. Newlands, a Democrat from Nevada and one of the founders of the Chevy Chase Land Co. Newlands was also the first president of the Chevy Chase Club.
Baking magnate William S. Corby bought the property in 1909 and renamed it Ishpiming, a rendering of the Chippewa word for high ground. He bought an adjacent lot in 1915, expanding the grounds to nearly two acres. Corby hired Arthur Heaton, the first supervising architect of Washington National Cathedral, to remodel the house between 1911 and 1914. Heaton’s plans for the mansion are housed at the Library of Congress.
According to Chevy Chase Historical Society documents, Corby was a music lover. He had Heaton knock down walls and tear up floors to create a 30-foot-high “grand hall,” in the center of the house, with a beamed ceiling, leaded windows and paneled walls. He had an Aeolian pipe organ installed at one end of the room. Many famous musicians gave concerts there, including French organist Marcel Dupré.
Besides concerts, the Corbys held many social events in the house. Muriel Corby started the Chevy Chase Garden Club there in 1926.
A 1967 New York Times article hinted that the Corby mansion was among several being considered as a permanent home for the vice president of the United States. Maryland reportedly balked at allowing it to be annexed into the District, which put an end to those discussions.
After the Corbys died, their daughters donated the estate to National Cathedral School, a school for girls on the grounds of the cathedral. Because of zoning restrictions, the school eventually sold it to John E. Threlfall in 1976 for $350,000. Just before the sale was completed, the National Symphony Orchestra Women’s Committee used Ishpiming for its annual Decorators’ Show House.
The current owners bought the property in 1991 and did extensive renovations. But what makes this house special remains.
A sweeping drive leads to the gracious porte cochère. An arched double door opens to an elegant foyer. To the left is the grand hall. The organ is no longer — some say it was donated to the NSO — but some of the pipes remain.
Aside from the grand hall, the house is a cluster of small gathering spaces. Several sitting areas are scattered throughout, but you won’t find a formal living room. Nonetheless, it is well suited for indoor and outdoor entertaining. A water feature with a fountain is the focal point of the landscaped grounds.
The second and third floors are a labyrinth of bedrooms, bathrooms and sitting areas. Among the seven bedrooms are three potential master suites.
Listing agent Ted Duncan of Long & Foster has had interest from countries that want to use it as an embassy and philanthropists who could turn it into another Evermay or Halcyon House, two historic properties in Georgetown that were converted into philanthropic and artistic incubators.
Listing: 9 Chevy Chase Cir., Chevy Chase, Md.
Listing agent: Ted Duncan, Long & Foster
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