In the past century, this red-brick Logan Circle building has lived many lives — first as a functional firehouse, later as a space where harpsichords were manufactured and finally as a combined residence, art gallery and studio for a contemporary sculptor.
One month before the Washington Monument was dedicated in 1885, 931 R St. NW was put into service for the D.C. Fire Department as Engine House No. 7. After 1940, it housed the District’s first all-black fire squad, known as Engine Company No. 4, until the fire department was desegregated in 1962.
In the 1970s, local musical craftsmen Thomas and Barbara Wolf bought the space as a workshop to build harpsichords. District-based sculptor Craig Kraft — responsible for neon light public art installations including outside the Arlington Arts Center and the Walter E. Washington Convention Center — has lived in and worked out of the house since 1992.
The historic property retains the original details from the functioning firehouse — a brass fireman’s pole, wooden lockers, a roof deck and exposed brick masonry. Built in the “Victorian Firehouse” style, it has 18-foot ceilings and 13-foot windows. There are three bedrooms and two full bathrooms, with additional sleeping areas and loft space. The floors are hardwood.
The house’s open interior allows for diverse uses, said Michael Rankin, the house’s listing agent at TTR Sotheby’s International Realty. “It’s always had that unique use in vein. To me, it’s a really romantic idea of being in an old firehouse and at one point, different artists occupying it and working there.”
Kraft — the house’s current owner — said the house’s history attracted him to the property, where he’s lived and worked for 21 years. He uses the house’s open basement area as a studio, where he creates his signature large neon light installations.
“Just being in a historic structure was unique in itself because it went so far back in D.C.’s history,” he said. “As an artist, you’d sit in the big room and your thoughts just soared. It helped my artistic endeavors.”
In the past two decades, Kraft said he has witnessed the surrounding area’s dramatic transformation, as more bars and restaurants crop up in Logan Circle and Shaw neighborhoods. “It’s interesting to see its transition from an area of crime and blight into what it is today,” he said.
The house is on the market for $2.65 million, which includes off-street parking for four cars.