Why buy one, when you can get two? Halcyon House, one of the most recognizable historic homes of Washington, D.C., went under contract to S&R Foundation Nov. 14. Its present owners – The Dreyfuss family – have held the property longer than anyone else in its 225-year history.
[Editor’s Note: In the spirit of full disclosure, the writer of this report lives in one of the apartments at Halcyon House.]
Ryuji Ueno and his wife, Sachiko Kuno – founders of S&R Foundation and new owners of the Evermay Estate on Georgetown’s east side, purchased for $22 million in July – have signed a contract to buy Halcyon House for $11 million. The listing agent Mark McFadden of Washington Fine Properties spoke with the Georgetowner Newspaper and would only tacitly confirm that Ueno and Kuno and their S&R Foundation have made an offer.
“We are fortunate that we have a non-profit buyer who is a non-developer, which has the means, resources and commitment to historic preservation of the ‘Great Houses’ in Georgetown,” McFadden said. “Sale to this buyer means that the property will continue to contribute to the historic fabric of Georgetown, as it was intended.”
Halcyon House first went on the market in August 2008 for $30 million.
Prospect Associates, which owns Halcyon House, accepted the contract and issued a right-of-first-refusal document, containing details of the sale, to the tenants of Halcyon House Nov. 18. (Tenants in D.C. must be given the opportunity to purchase a housing accommodation in accordance with Title IV of the Rental Housing Conversion and Sale Act of 1980.) The six tenants have 45 days to respond. Future plans for rental units or events at Halcyon House are unclear at this time.
In an urban setting and on an half acre of land, Halcyon House is on the west side of Georgetown at 3400 Prospect Street, N.W. and is a very different property compared to Evermay, the historic 3.5-acre estate on 28th Street, which borders Oak Hill Cemetery at R Street. Purchased by Edmund Dreyfuss and Blake Construction in 1966 from Georgetown University via John Truver, Halcyon House – built by Benjamin Stoddert, first Secretary of the Navy, between 1785 and 1787 – was restored and improved by artist John Dreyfuss, son of Edmund Dreyfuss, and Prospect Associates during parts of the 1980s and ’90s. Dreyfuss and his team received the top award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Once called Stoddert House, the Prospect Street mansion is a well-known party and wedding venue around Washington.
“An unparalleled historic site for viewing the city, Halcyon House has hosted numerous spectacular events for more than 20 years, including events for the community, corporate events for industry with guests from all over the world, and charitable causes,” said John Dreyfuss, who has lived there for many years and is considered a great neighbor to the community. “The restoration of Halcyon House . . . meant a great deal to everyone in the Dreyfuss family. We were committed to doing the hard work both structurally and in the craftsmanship that this Federal building deserved. Every effort was made to restore both the historic interiors and gardens. It is our hope that the next steward will maintain the standards set for this extraordinary national heritage.”
Founders of Bethesda-based Sucampo Pharmaceuticals, drug researchers Ueno and Kuno – who also own a house on P Street – are not well known to most Washingtonians, they are known in philanthropic circles, such as the Washington Opera and the Smithsonian. The couple founded S&R Foundation in 2000, a non-profit whose mission is to encourage and stimulate scientific research and artistic endeavors among young individuals, and “to recognize talented young scientists and artists for their distinguished work in fields of science and fine arts, especially those who contribute to U.S.-Japanese understanding.” Their foundation awards the S&R Washington Award and the S&R Ueno Award.
Ueno’s and Kuno’s Sucampo Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company on Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda, focuses on the development and commercialization of medicines based on prostones. Ueno, who is also a medical doctor, discovered “the therapeutic potential of prostones, which are bio-lipids that occur naturally in the human body.” The company markets the drug Amitiza for gastrointestinal disorders. One of the couple’s first successes was Rescula eye drops, the first bioactive lipid used to treat glaucoma.
Together, the couple holds several degrees from universities in Japan and the U.S., and has other interests as well. A Class A race car driver, Ueno is a member of the Leica Historical Society of America, Ferrari Club of America and Miles River Yacht Club. Involved in fundraising for the Washington Opera, Kuno was also cited by the Washington Business Journal two years ago in its list, “Women Who Mean Business.” She even studied in the neighborhood at Georgetown University’s International Business Management Certificate Program.
A larger article on Halcyon House, its history and its neighborhood will appear in the Nov. 30 edition of The Georgetowner.