The yellow clapboard house in Georgetown is best known as the house where Julia Child taught cooking classes and tested recipes for the cookbook “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” But it is notable for other reasons.
“It’s one of the few houses left after gentrification turned the area [that was] owned by a Black family,” said Rory Veevers-Carter, who bought the house in 2015.
Julia and Paul Child bought the house in 1948. It was the first house they owned after they were married. Not long after they bought it, they rented out the house because Paul was assigned to Paris, where he worked for the U.S. Information Agency and Julia discovered her love of French cooking.
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It wasn’t until the couple returned from France in 1956 that they spent much time in the house. One of Julia’s first projects was to renovate the kitchen. As she wrote in her memoir, “I decided I needed a new stove.” The new stove, a Garland model 182, was a commercial gas range with six burners and a steel griddle. Julia paid about $400 for it. “I loved it so much I vowed to take it to my grave!” she wrote. It didn’t go with her to the grave. Instead, it resides in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
After the kitchen remodeling was complete, Julia began teaching French cooking in her home to a group of women. She also used the stove to test recipes for the cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” which was published in 1961. Julia and Paul Child left Washington in 1959.
When Consuelo Echeverria lived in the house, in the 1960s, she hired architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen to remodel it. He added a spiral staircase and a two-story wall of glass along the back of the house. For 25 years before Veevers-Carter bought it, the house was a rental. It became a neighborhood eyesore.
“When I first purchased it, there were plants growing inside the walls, actually protruding out from the walls inside the house,” he said. “There were certainly lots of entries into the structure of the house for rodents. . . . It got to the stage where nobody had bothered to do anything for the last 10 years.”
The state of the house didn’t deter Veevers-Carter who had been searching for a fixer-upper in Georgetown.
“I don’t do [remodeling] professionally, but I enjoy doing it,” he said. “This house, I built it for myself, built it the way I wanted it because I was going to be living here.”
Veevers-Carter worked with architect Dale Overmyer on the renovation, but “95 percent of it was designed as I went along,” he said.
The floating stairs, which replaced the spiral stairs, was one inspiration that came to him along the way. The wood on the stairs was reclaimed from the house.
Even though the house has gone through several renovations over the years, Veevers-Carter said he did his best to preserve its character. The floors, which had to be replaced because of rot, are rustic white oak.
“I had them cross-sawn, which is an older way of sawing, which gives you that feeling that this is an old cut,” he said. “I was trying to keep the history of the house as much as I could.”
Any house associated with Child must have a kitchen worthy of the chef. In this house, it is one floor below the entry level. The kitchen has a large island with an eight-burner range, a double oven, a wine refrigerator and a farmhouse sink. Rustic wood beams stretch across the ceiling.
“I really wanted that as your entertainment space,” Veevers-Carter said.
During demolition, Veevers-Carter discovered paint on a wall in a shade matching the paint Child used in her Cambridge, Mass., kitchen, which has been re-created at the Smithsonian. He protected the paint on the wall by encasing it with an old window from the house as an homage to Child.
The paint wasn’t Veevers-Carter’s only find. When he excavated the lowest level to create more living space, he uncovered several interesting relics that he offered to a D.C. archaeological program.
By digging down about 15 feet, Veevers-Carter turned a small mechanical room under the kitchen into another floor with a den, a laundry room and a pink marble-tiled hammam (steam room).
The renovation took longer than expected. The permitting process alone dragged on for three years. But in the end, the house has gone from eyesore to eye-catching.
The three-bedroom, four-bathroom, 3,150-square-foot house is listed at $3.5 million.
Listing: 2706 Olive St. NW, Washington, D.C.
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