Romulus Riggs, a wealthy Marylander, bought the property in 1812 and spent the next several years constructing the house. He lived in it nearly 25 years before selling it to Joshua Riley, a well-regarded doctor who practiced medicine in Georgetown for a half-century.
Distinguished homes for sale in the D.C. region
In the 1850s, Riley added a detached professional office, which he also used as a school for medical students, including Armistead Peter, whose family owned the nearby Tudor Place mansion, and two nephews of a Russian ambassador, Baron de Bodisco.
Elliot and Isabel M.G. Goodwin bought the house in 1912. He was an official at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. She wrote about the house’s terraced gardens in a two-part series for House Beautiful in 1927. The Goodwins replaced Riley’s office with the kitchen wing.
When Henry and Eileen Leonard took ownership in 1928, the house began to gain its social cachet. He was a Marine officer who served in several wars, a noted lawyer and a director of the National Metropolitan Bank. She helped found the Potomac School and start the Flower Mart at Washington National Cathedral.
The Leonards enlarged the house and hired Lillian Wright Smith to develop the gardens. It was during the Leonards’ tenure that the gardens became a regular fixture on the Georgetown Garden Tour.
William W. Scranton owned the house for a short time while serving in Congress. After he was elected governor of Pennsylvania, he sold it to W. Averell Harriman in 1963. Scranton extensively remodeled the house, adding a drawing room.
Harriman, an adviser to four U.S. presidents, served as ambassador to the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union in the 1940s, as governor of New York in the 1950s, and in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations in the 1960s. He had barely moved into the house when he offered its use to Jacqueline Kennedy and her children after her husband’s death. The house was one block from her mother’s home. After a few months, Kennedy moved across the street to 3017 N Street.
Harriman’s wife, Marie, the former wife of Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, transformed the house into “an acclaimed museum of French Impressionist painting,” according to her obituary in 1970.
The Harrimans remodeled the house and gardens, hiring landscape architects Edmunds & Hitchcock. Images of the garden are on file at the Smithsonian’s Garden Club of America Collection. As part of the renovations, a swimming pool was added and the garage was removed.
In 1970, the Harrimans bought the Colony Club next door, expanding the house into one of the largest in Georgetown. “We just needed more space for my husband’s offices and more galleries in which to hang our pictures,” Marie Harriman told The Washington Post that year.
Also that year, the FBI placed the house under surveillance to spy on a meeting of State Department personnel opposed to the U.S. invasion of Cambodia during the Vietnam War. A Harriman aide told the Washington Star in 1974, when it was uncovered: “They didn’t have far to go to spy on [Harriman’s] house. He lives right across the street from columnist Joe Kraft.” Kraft was said to be a target of the “Plumbers,” a covert White House group investigating information leaks.
After Marie’s death, Harriman married Pamela Churchill Hayward in 1971. She hired society decorator Billy Baldwin to redecorate the house. He gave it faint praise in his autobiography. “The house was not beautiful architecturally and was rather awkward in many ways as those Georgetown houses are, but it had charm,” he wrote. Pamela Harriman also hired architect Hugh Newell Jacobson to transform the house and received advice on the gardens from noted landscape architect Perry Wheeler.
The Harrimans were known for giving lavish parties for Washington’s political and social elite. Even after Averell Harriman’s death in 1986, Pamela continued as a doyenne of the Democratic Party, which is why the Clintons made her house one of their first stops in Washington.
Thomas Nigra, a doctor in the dermatology department at Washington Hospital Center, and his wife, Jane, bought the house in 1997. The wallpaper in the dining room comes from her parent’s home in North Carolina and is a reproduction of late 18th-/early 19th-century wallpaper.
Despite the many alterations over the years, the house remains an outstanding example of Federal architecture. Its wide windows are capped by stone lintels with prominent bull’s eye corner blocks. An arched entrance to the house has a fanlight in a delicately ornamented keystone surround. The gabled dormer windows have elegant trim.
Terraces of flagstone, brick and slate are surrounded by landscaped gardens and descend to the large, heated swimming pool. In addition to a small garage, there are parking spaces for four cars in a courtyard.
The eight-bedroom, six-bathroom, 9,339-square-foot house is listed at $10 million.
Listing: 3038 N St. NW, Washington, D.C.
Listing agent: Michael Rankin, TTR Sotheby’s International Realty
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