Splendor in the Grass

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1224 30th St. NW. Courtesy HomeVisit.

It was, after all, a garden where Eve first met temptation. And it is the gardens — extensive, varied and winningly landscaped — that create such a captivating setting for the distinctive brick and clapboard Federal at 1224 30 St. NW in Georgetown.

The home has a long and distinguished history. The original house was built in 1840. Almost a century later, the current configuration was assembled by Illinois congresswoman Ruth McCormick, whose own CV was equally impressive. McCormick served on the executive committee of the Republican National Committee, was featured on Time magazine’s cover in 1928 and ran for Senate in 1930.

Ownership then passed from Scottie Fitzgerald (F. Scott and Zelda’s daughter) to Nancy and Gordon Gray, who served as secretary of the Army under President Truman, national security adviser to President Eisenhower, president of the University of North Carolina and chairman of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Grays — both widowed with three children apiece — no doubt appreciated the spaciousness of the home, which lent itself to entertaining on a grand scale while embracing more intimate family life. Today, the compound sits on a 30,000-square-foot lot and offers 11,100 interior square feet of living space. The main house includes 10 bedrooms, six and a half baths, 12 working wood-burning fireplaces with unique decorative surrounds, a living room, a library and dining and breakfast rooms.

Also on the property: a separate guesthouse with four bedrooms and three baths, a “playhouse” for children and for adult events and activities, two greenhouses, a garden pavilion/reading room, a heated pool beside a pool house with his-and-her changing areas, two two-car garages and a large motor court.

All this is set within a half-acre of terraced, ivy-walled, boxwood, herb and floral gardens designed by well-known landscape architects of their day: Rose Greely, one of the first American women to be licensed as an architect, and Perry Wheeler, whose commissions include plantings for the National Cathedral and for President Kennedy’s gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery.

The estate is on the market for $12,800,000.

Only inside the home does one become aware just how deep and wide it is. The entrance foyer opens to the right into a small alcove (once quaintly called the “telephone room”) with a fireplace and a powder room. To the left is the living room — boasting two fireplaces with carved marble surrounds — which flows into a library with built-in cabinetry and bookshelves. A concealed doorway straight out of Agatha Christie reveals a private stone spiral staircase, leading up to the bedrooms on the second level and to staff quarters next door.

Original wide-planked oak flooring, crown and decorative millwork and ceiling medallions run throughout. There is also a kitchen — now gutted for future renovation — the formal dining room and a breakfast room with a domed ceiling and access to the conservatory and gardens.

Off the library is the conservatory, with terra-cotta floor tiles, lattice walls, a fountain and three sets of French doors that open into the gardens, still blooming with azaleas and irises and scented with lavender and rosemary. Each of the five green spaces has a special element — a fountain, statuary or paths laid with bricks or flagstones — connecting interior and exterior (main house, greenhouse, playhouse, pool) in an organic way.

Large bedrooms, mostly with en-suite baths and all with fireplaces, take up the second and third levels.

This unique historic home, with exceptional potential for redesign and reconfiguration, is offered at $12.8 million and is listed with Washington Fine Properties. For details, contact Chuck Holzwarth at 202-285-2616 or chuck.holzwarth@wfp.com. For a visual tour, visit tour.homevisit.com/view/286856.

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