Anne Stephansky remembered 30 years ago when she and her late husband, Ben, President John F. Kennedy’s ambassador to Bolivia, sold their home in suburban Maryland and purchased a four-level house, circa 1897, in Northwest Washington’s Kalorama, or Sheridan-Kalorama, neighborhood.
The house was designed by the architect who drew up plans for the old Wardman Park Hotel (now the Washington Marriott Wardman Park) on Woodley Road. “My husband worked downtown,” she said, “and because there were a lot of interesting things going on in the city,” like shows at the Kennedy Center, “he didn’t want to go all the way back to Chevy Chase and then come back downtown.”
Kalorama — a Greek term for “nice view” — is nestled between the city’s uptown and downtown zones. The community is composed of stately embassy homes occupied by ambassadors, along with a stock of vintage and contemporary townhouses. From the intersection of Connecticut and Florida Avenues south to Dupont Circle are coffee shops, galleries — including the Phillips Collection — and yoga studios.
The community’s northern path unfurls the uninterrupted buzz of Adams Morgan, teeming with quaint specialty shops, Latin American cuisine and pulsating nightclubs. With the added perk of a concentrated police presence around diplomatic missions, residents feel more secure after dark. “I feel very safe here,” said Stephansky, a retired psychotherapist. “I often walk down to the Metro or to Kramerbooks at Dupont Circle. I also walk to Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown.”
Rural sanctuary: Titled in 1668, the property that is today Kalorama was later sold to a man named Anthony Holmead, according to the Call Box Restoration Project. He eventually willed it to a nephew. In 1791, as French architect Pierre L’Enfant crafted his blueprint for the boundaries of the federal city, his plans did not include Kalorama. During the following century, the area, whose highest point offers a sweeping panorama of downtown, remained a rural sanctuary. In 1807, a Connecticut man, Joel Barlow, bought all of the property for $14,000. Barlow, a friend of Thomas Jefferson’s, remodeled and expanded an existing house, renaming it Kalorama.
It wasn’t until about 1890 that development began in earnest along the northern stretch of Connecticut Avenue. Soon the community drew captains of finance, railroads and shipping. By the 1920s, new Beaux-Arts style apartments, rowhouses and mansions were sprouting along Massachusetts Avenue.
The Rev. Kym Lucas, the pastor at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, a short stroll south of the Washington Hilton, said she enjoys living in Kalorama for several reasons. “I just find it a curious mix of residential and commercial places,” said Lucas, 43, who has led the church for two years. “I think neighbors speak to each other, and they look out for each other.”
Home to 28th president: Amid the diplomatic chanceries and residences in Kalorama sits the house on S Street, just off Sheridan Circle, where President Woodrow Wilson spent his final years, 1921 to 1924. The residence, a Georgian Revival-style townhouse, bequeathed by Wilson’s widow to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1961, is Washington’s only presidential museum.
Visitors get lessons in Wilson as scholar, educator, New Jersey governor and president. He is remembered as the statesman who pushed his Fourteen Points for Peace through, yet was stymied by a Senate that refused to go along with his plan to join the League of Nations.
The grandfather clock on the stairway was a housewarming gift to Wilson from his wife, a replica of his favorite clock in the White House. She bought it at the urging of Wilson’s doctor, who thought the soothing sound of the chimes would evoke memories of happier days.
Neighborhood events: During the warmer seasons, the neighborhood’s social and recreational hub is city-owned Mitchell Park. The leafy urban playground hosts several annual programs. For instance, the Fun Fall Day attracts hundreds of people who munch on grilled food and fresh-baked treats while listening to music and soaking up acrobatic performances. In October, Dutch ambassador Rudolf Bekink and his wife sponsored a fundraiser for the park at their home on S Street. The event, which brought more than 100 people, generated $28,000 of the $30,000 required yearly to maintain the park.
Two doors up from the Wilson House on S Street is the Textile Museum. The facility is currently moving to new digs at George Washington University in Foggy Bottom. According to its Web site, it is continuing to offer programs on S Street and at other locations in town.
Living there: Kalorama features irregular borders: roughly Connecticut and Florida Avenues on the east; P Street on the south; and Rock Creek Park on the west and north.
In the past 12 months, 238 homes sold in Kalorama at prices ranging from $97,000 (a short sale) to $7 million, said Earl Hain, an agent with ReMax/Allegiance in Georgetown. Of those properties, 161 were condos, 40 were co-ops and the remaining 37 units were detached houses. Forty-five properties are for sale now, ranging from a studio condo to a nine-bedroom, eight-bathroom home, with prices from $354,000 to $7 million. Thirty-four homes are under contract, from a studio co-op unit to a nine-bedroom, eight-bathroom house. These houses are priced from $259,000 to $6 million. Six of the properties under contract are co-op units, ranging from one to four bedrooms with one to two full baths. They are priced from $299,000 to $3.55 million.
Schools: Marie H. Reed Elementary; Oyster-Adams Bilingual School; Francis-Stevens Education Campus; the School Without Walls; Woodrow Wilson High; Sidwell Friends; Maret.
Transit: Metrobus serves Kalorama. The nearest Metrorail stations are Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle on the Red Line.
Tony Glaros is a freelance writer.