Distinguished homes for sale in the D.C. region

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Capitol Hill house | The 1887 house was designed in the Romanesque Revival style by architect Robert Stead. It is listed at just under $3.6 million. (Chris Zimmer/Urban Capitol Photography)

For James L. Swanson, the rowhouse on Capitol Hill has not only been a home but also an inspiration for his award-winning books on Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.

“The house is probably a shrine to American history,” Swanson said. “It’s my silent writing partner. It makes it possible to do my books.”

The original three-story, flat-front house was built circa 1873 by George Doolittle. But S.W. Tullock was the one who transformed it into the house it is today. In 1887, Tullock hired architect Robert Stead to give the house its Romanesque Revival look.

Stead spent nearly a decade in the Office of the Supervising Architect at the U.S. Treasury before opening his firm in 1884. He designed single-family residences in downtown Washington and the Dupont Circle neighborhood before expanding his practice to apartments, schools and office buildings.

Stead added front rooms to the original house on the first, second and third floors, and he gave it a fourth floor. He embellished the facade with arched windows, rustic sandstone and a pressed-tin bay window with small-paned mullioned windows. The transom above a first-floor window has stained and leaded glass depicting a laurel wreath.

Many of the original interior features have been preserved, such as the chestnut stairs and wainscoting and the mantel above the fireplace in the front parlor.

“I love this house because I love Capitol Hill,” Swanson said. “I’ve always loved East Capitol Street, and I’ve always wanted to have a house on East Capitol Street. I love the history of this place.”

Because of its proximity to the U.S. Capitol, Tullock rented the house out to congressmen for a time. Case Broderick, a U.S. representative from Kansas, lived here while in office.

“I walk out the door, and there’s the U.S. Capitol right down the street,” Swanson said. “It’s very inspirational.”

Tullock sold the house in 1904 to Mary E. French. She passed the house to William B. French. It is believed that the Frenches were related to sculptor Daniel Chester French, who sculpted Abraham Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial. Daniel French’s father, Henry Flagg French, lived on East Capitol Street as well. Daniel French may have used the top floor of this house as a studio.

The Frenches sold the house in 1911, and it went through a handful of owners before Carrie D. Pryor bought it in 1923. The Pryor family owned it for 45 years before selling it to Metropolitan Baptist Church in 1968.

Metropolitan Baptist Church, now known as Capitol Hill Baptist Church, used it as a boardinghouse for more than a quarter-century. In 1994, real estate developer Michael D. Baker bought the house and returned it to a single-family dwelling. Under Baker’s ownership, the house appeared on the Capitol Hill House Tour. Baker sold the house in 1999. Swanson bought it in 2008. The house was featured in Thomas Grooms’s 2005 book “The Majesty of Capitol Hill.”

Swanson, who has written three books while living in the house, said he loves how versatile it is.

“I bought it because it’s really several houses in one,” he said. “I use the first floor for entertaining and receptions. I use the huge second-floor library to store my research materials and to work on my books. And then the third and fourth floors are sort of the perfect family home.”

For all its grandeur, Swanson said, the house is quite livable.

“It’s not a museum,” he said. “It’s really a perfect combination of the past and the present.”

The five-bedroom, five-bathroom, 5,600-square-foot house is listed at just under $3.6 million.

Listing agent: Maggie Daley, Coldwell Banker Realty.