My House in Dupont

In Historic Houses on May 12, 2011 at 1:59 am

As mentioned previously, I’m in the USA mainly because of the National Park Service. Part of that is HABS, the Historic American Building Survey. They document the historic buildings of the US, unsurprisingly, and I’m helping to research one of the most mental houses in Washington. This, ladies and gents, is the Perry Belmont Mansion:

Situated on a weird triangular bit of land between New Hampshire, 18th and R streets, it’s a weird shape, but breathtaking. In the Beaux-Arts style (influenced by the 19th/20th century popularity of teh Parisian Ecole des Beaux-Arts), it is basically a party house (just like mine), designed purely to entertain the Washington elite in the early 20th century. There are a measly 2 family bedrooms, but 14 or so servant bedrooms, as well as a ball room, a piano nobile with a 1000 person capacity, and just some of the most decadent interiors you’ll find in DC. It’s absolutely bizarre.

Now home to the Masonic Order of the Eastern Star, the building’s unique plan has been preserved, and although there are a few dubious additions to the interior, a lot remains intact. It’s just an amazing thing. I’m here to look in depth at the history of Belmont and the people who lived here, and try and put it all down on record for HABS to use alongside architectural drawings and plans on record. Built 1906-09 by Congressman Perry Belmont and wife Jessie, it was designed to impress by French architect Sanson, supervised by the American Horace Trumbauer (who designed, among many other things, the Philadelphia Museum of Art) and also by Trumbauer’s assistant, Julian Abele (pronounced Able, although I keep wanting to say ah-bell-ay). Julian was black, and so gets very little credit for the work he did, despite being Ecole des Beaux-Arts trained like Sanson and Trumbauer, and by all accounts a very talented architect. Cross your fingers that I find something on Abele’s work that might get him some of the recognition he deserves!

I’m hoping to dig up some new info on the Belmonts, their house and their three architects. I’ve already found some cool stuff on Sanson – will keep you up-to-date x

  1. […] Post navigation ← Previous […]

  2. […] said, the house STILL awed me, and I have been working in the Belmont Mansion all summer. I’m pretty blasé about ballrooms now. It is just the most outsized, opulent behemoth […]

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