For more than eight decades, the historic Wardman Tower at Connecticut Avenue and Woodley Road NW in the Woodley Park section of Washington has captured the attention of countless commuters and tourists on their way uphill to the National Zoo or downhill to Dupont Circle.
Each spring the corner is awash with bright blooms that draw the eye from the street up the gentle slope to the distinctive Georgian Revival-style apartment building, which is wrapped by 2.5 acres of manicured gardens.
Now the former apartment house and hotel is being transformed into 32 luxury condos anticipated to be complete by the end of summer.
The luxurious Wardman Tower, built in 1928 by Harry Wardman, one of the city’s most prolific developers, was originally designed by Mihran Mesrobian, known for his collaborations with Wardman and for designing some of the city’s most beloved buildings, including the St. Regis Hotel and the Hay-Adams Hotel. Wardman had built a home for himself on the corner lot in 1909, which he later tore down to make room for Wardman Tower. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.
Wardman Tower is known as much for its distinctive residents as for its architectural style. Over the decades, dozens of politicians and celebrities made their home in the apartments, including Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. and Lady Bird Johnson, Herbert Hoover and Marlene Dietrich. From 1928 until the 1970s, the apartment was connected to a luxurious hotel on the grounds so that residents could enjoy complete hotel services, including housekeeping and room service, says James Nozar, senior vice president of development for the JBG Companies. In the 1970s, the building became part of the hotel, now the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel.
“As part of the renovation of Wardman Tower, we completely separated the hotel from the condominiums,” Nozar says. “Once the residents move in, they’ll have their own entirely private staff, including full-time concierge services. There will be nine full-time staff members for the 32 homes, providing doorman, valet parking and porter services.”
Other building amenities, Nozar says, will include two clubrooms, one with a catering kitchen and one with a terrace to an English garden; a fitness center with a yoga studio and rooms for personal training; 35 private storage spaces; and a rooftop terrace with an outdoor kitchen.
The residences, priced from $2.7 million to more than $9 million, are among the most expensive condos in the city.
Historic preservation of the exterior of Wardman Tower, which required restoring and re-pointing the original bricks, cast iron, stone and metal architectural details, also dictated some of the design choices for the interior. New York architecture firm Deborah Berke Partners, known for distinctive projects around the globe, was brought in to design Wardman Tower’s interior to blend the traditional design of the building with an open and contemporary feel.
“I lived in Washington briefly during my 20s, close by to Wardman Tower actually, so I had a sense of the neighborhood and city,” Berke says. “With its formal plan, vast green spaces and monuments, Washington is unique among American cities. Wardman Tower is special because it takes in so much of the city’s grandeur. It’s an impressive historic building that feels at home in Washington’s monumental fabric.”
Wardman Tower’s unusual shape, essentially an “X” with a circle in the middle, presented some special challenges for the architects who needed to create spacious homes while taking advantage of the spectacular views afforded by the height of the site and the numerous windows.
“Each wing of the building has three exposures, which was the classic pre-air-conditioning way of getting cooling breezes,” says Stephen Brockman, a senior principal with Deborah Berke Partners. “All those windows meant we had openness and light, but at first it was hard to determine where to put some of the interior walls.”
Brockman says that as a hotel, the rooms were configured around the central circular corridor and many had connecting doors so they could be combined into suites.
“When we started the design process, we zoomed out from Woodley Park to look at other influences on Washington and its architecture and realized the strength of the connection between this city and Paris that dates back to Thomas Jefferson and Pierre L’Enfant,” Brockman says. “We designed the homes to be appropriate for the building, with a nod to the aesthetics and richness of Paris and yet with up-to-date kitchens and bathrooms.”
The resulting building has four floors with six homes per floor and, on the upper two levels, just four homes per floor. Each of the penthouse units has a private roof terrace.
“The tower has good bones,” Berke says. “We wanted to create spaces within it that reflect a gracious way of living, so getting the proportions of the rooms right was important. The floor plans celebrate the views. There is a sense of procession through the apartments that terminates in these wonderful vistas.”
Brockman designed the homes so that the public spaces — the living room and dining room and entertaining areas — would be at the end of each home to take the fullest advantage of the views.
“We had to design a meaningful way to get from the front door to the entertaining spaces, something other than a long hallway,” he says. “Essentially, there’s an entry hall and then two gallery spaces between the front and the back of each home. The second gallery is a big, generous room that you could use for anything you want, such as displaying your favorite art or furniture or putting in a desk and using it as a place to write.”
Once the general layout was determined, Berke and Brockman focused on the details, such as the wide-plank oak flooring, which has a herringbone pattern in some rooms; the crown moldings, door casings and baseboards; and the windows, which are all new yet have an old-fashioned aesthetic.
“The color palette is muted but the materials we selected are rich, so the apartments are elegant without feeling overly formal,” Berke says. “They are also designed to appeal to people with traditional and modern tastes. They are designed for contemporary life. They’re not period rooms.”
Wardman Tower’s sixth-floor model home, which has about 3,300 finished square feet, is priced at $4.6 million. The foyer provides an instant preview of this building’s key attraction: A view through the glass doors leading to the terrace offers glimpses of both rooftops and treetops.
Nozar says the condos were designed to meet the needs of people downsizing from a Kalorama or Wesley Heights home, including space for entertaining and extensive storage. Just off the foyer is a laundry room larger than many found in single-family homes, with plenty of space for cabinets, counters and a sink in addition to a full-size washer and dryer.
Beyond the foyer is the first of two galleries, this one with closets with paneled doors on either side and a door to a powder room. The third bedroom opens off this gallery and includes a double-door closet, a deep windowsill with a picture window above and a private full bath. Like all the bathrooms in these homes, heated mosaic tile flooring is underfoot, while the walls and counters are marble.
The second gallery, wider than the previous gallery, features a coffered ceiling and opens into the living room. The second bedroom opens off this gallery and includes a double-size walk-in closet and a private full bath with a marble shower. The gallery also has doorways to the kitchen and to the master bedroom suite.
The kitchen provides both the openness to match modern tastes and the ability to close off the space when entertaining formally. The massive room has two walls of cabinets and cupboards, all custom-designed for the space; extra-wide pocket doors connect the room to the gallery on one side, and a second set of extra-wide pocket doors connect the room to the dining area on another wall.
At the back of the kitchen is a built-in window seat with a picture window above framing a view of the National Cathedral. The kitchen includes quartz counters, a marble backsplash, an oversized island with a breakfast bar, a built-in desk in one corner, two dishwashers, a microwave drawer, a wine cooler, a separate beverage cooler, double wall ovens, and an oversized refrigerator and freezer. The room is also large enough to accommodate a casual dining table.
Across the back of the residence are an open dining area and living area, which have windows on three sides as well as glass doors to a private terrace. Large crowds could easily be accommodated in the open space provided by these rooms as well as the second gallery space.
The master suite includes a spacious bedroom, an oversized walk-in closet and dressing area, and a luxurious bathroom. The bedroom, closet and bathroom all have large picture windows framing city views. The bathroom has heated mosaic tile flooring, a marble double-sink vanity, a soaking tub set under a large window, a glass-enclosed shower with marble flooring, a marble seat and a window.
Some of the Wardman Tower homes are already under contract. The building is anticipated to be complete by late summer, with the grounds fully landscaped by Michael Vergason Landscape Architects.
Michele Lerner is freelance writer.
2660 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington
The 32 units range from $2.7 million to more than $9 million.
Builder: The JBG Companies and North America Sekisui House (NASH)
Features: Each unit includes six-inch wide oak panel flooring with a herringbone pattern in the gallery and living room, crown moldings, picture windows pre-wired for automatic shades, solid wood doors and custom-made cabinets, gray polished quartz cabinets, marble backsplashes, stainless steel appliances, and an extensive center island and breakfast bar in the kitchen. The building has concierge services provided by Abigail Michaels Concierge, a rooftop deck with an outdoor kitchen, a fitness center with a yoga studio and rooms for personal training, a library and lounge that open onto a garden, private storage units, and at least two parking spaces per residence.
Bedrooms/bathrooms: 2 to 4 / 3 to 4
Square footage: Approximately 2,600 to 4,800
Condominium association fees: Approximately $1.20 per square foot per month
View models: Open by appointment
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-751-2900 or www.wardmantower.com
Schools: Oyster-Adams Bilingual School, Wilson High School
Transit: The building is less than one block to the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan Metro station for Red Line service. There are numerous bus routes on Connecticut Avenue.