The country’s oldest house tour, often called “the glue that holds Georgetown together,” comes again this Saturday, April 27. This year, longtime supporters and Georgetown residents Tom Anderson and Marc Schappell open their historically preserved home, five years in the making, for this year’s Patrons’ Party.
The Georgetown House Tour is a celebration of what makes our neighborhood great. This Saturday’s annual tour will provide the best opportunity to experience what Georgetown is all about. This year, ten Georgetown homes will be open to the public to view their interiors as a benefit for St. John’s Church’s outreach programs. The homes range from contemporary to traditional, but all are beautiful examples of what is here.
The preservation of these historic Washington homes is one of the things this community safeguards. An example of the importance of this devotion is the home of the hosts of this year’s Patron’s Party, Tom Anderson and Marc Schappell.
Anderson and Schappell have had a love affair with Georgetown for the better part of their adult lives. After his undergraduate studies, Schappell moved to Georgetown to attend George Washington University and completed his Ph.D. Anderson was drawn initially to Georgetown to help his friend Sam Pardoe start a real estate company in Georgetown, but instead opted to move to New York City to become part of the founding group of Sotheby’s International Realty, when it was under the ownership of the art auction house bearing its name.
Both flipped back and forth between New York City and Washington and Georgetown several times over the next decade for various positions: Anderson with Sotheby’s; Schappell in various general management consulting roles, before settling into New York City for almost 25 years. Anderson became the executive vice president for Sotheby’s International Realty, while Schappell became co-head of the United States, and Managing Partner of New York for Egon Zehnder International, one of the “big 5” executive search firms globally.
Then, back to Georgetown they came again: Anderson in 2005 and Schappell in 2007 to join a firm they had helped found in 1999, Washington Fine Properties, one of the premier residential real estate firms in and around D.C.
“Coming back to Washington in 2005 was in many ways like coming full circle,” Anderson said. “I had always loved living in Washington, and we had so many great friends here.” Schappell agreed: “We had incredibly fond memories of having lived here before. So, we were really excited about it.”
In moving back, their first house they bought sight unseen — thanks to their partners at WFP Dana Landry and Bill Moody. That home hardly had its paint dry before their current home came on the market, which they bought immediately. “It was one of three homes in Washington that I had admired most since my graduate school days, never dreaming that I might live in it one day,” Schappell said. “It just spoke to both of us,” Anderson said.
Then came the restoration, all five years of it.
“Talk about the wonderful community of neighbors that Georgetown is all about,” Anderson said. “We really put it to the test.”
“It’s a true Federal,” said Schappell, who still manages to sit on the Board of the New York Landmarks Conservancy in New York. “What was so special to us was that the house still had so many of its original features, such as its staircase, its windows and its moldings.”
According to the Peabody Room at the Georgetown Public Library, 3142 P Street, built between 1790 and 1800, was known as the Bodisco House in 1927. Russian ambassador Alexander de Bodisco married Harriet Williams, who was given away by Henry Clay. According to the article, “the marriage lifted the girl from obscurity to the highest round of the social ladder and the vast wealth of her husband adorned her with flashing jewels that became known the world over.” The article continues, “the most superb fete ever given in the District, according to some historians, was given in this house in honor of the birthday of the Emperor Nicholas, when 800 guests were invited.” Before the Civil War, 3142 P Street was the home of the Rev. Mr. Simpson, and later it became the residence of William H. Tenney, who owned a mill in Georgetown. There is, of course, another Bodisco House — perhaps more well known — at 3322 O St., NW, the home of Secretary of State John Kerry and Teresa Heinz.
Today, Anderson and Schappell’s home has a lot of features that its predecessors did not enjoy, but they are proud of the fact that they were able to preserve so much of the original fabric of the house.
“We had a great contractor, Danny Ngo, who, by the way, was the contractor for another home on the tour this year, 3245 N Street,” Anderson said — to which Schappell added, “And a great decorator, Susan Beimler, who helped us tremendously with color and textiles.”
Of the P Street house, Beimler said, “Their home has great bones, and I wanted to make sure we built on the wonderful foundation that was already in place. Tom and Marc are avid collectors of American and English antiques. So, it was a very easy collaboration for me.” “We couldn’t have done it without her,” Anderson said.
Anderson called the house’s restoration and preservation “a great journey.”
“At times, like when we were digging out the basement which didn’t exist beforehand, we wondered if we were ever going to see the end,” Schappell said. “But then we’ve put ourselves through this drill more than once.”
Anderson and Schappell also have a historic home in Southampton, N.Y. — where they are hosting the Southampton Historic House Tour’s Patron’s Party next week — as well as in Palm Beach, Fla. The big secret is actually their cattle operation — “Think Belted Galloway cattle that look like Oreo cookies,” Schappell said — and sheep dairy in upstate New York (Meadowood Farms), where they make an artisanal sheep cheese which can be bought at Cowgirl Creamery here in D.C.
“We are very, very pleased to open up our doors, contributing to the spirit of the community,” Anderson said.
At 3142 P Street, an old wisteria vine climbs the “front” of the house. Like many Georgetown homes, the side of the house facing P Street is actually the back of the house, the front of the house facing what was the Port of Georgetown, now with a view of Rosslyn, Va., and the Georgetown Inn.
“The Georgetown House Tour speaks to the best of what Georgetown is all about, which is its architecture and the vibrant neighborhood that it is,” Schappell said.