The Taft Mansion Finds Its Proper Stewards  


Almost two years ago, The Georgetowner published a short history of the neighborhood’s most expensive crumbling property, the Taft Mansion at 1688 31st NW which was once owned by Senator Robert Taft, son of President William Howard Taft. Once famed for its luxurious owners and even more luxurious parties, the property had become the antithesis of its former self: dark, deserted, and decrepit. After years of lying vacant, causing issues for the area, this remarkable house has finally found its saviors in longtime Georgetown residents Azali Kassum and Ian Myers, who are planning on restoring the property to its former glory.  

Although the Taft Mansion was in dire need of help for some time, Kassum and Myers did not have an easy time acquiring the property. The endeavor to purchase the house lasted most of 2020, the two working hard to close the deal with the developers who previously owned it. The battle they endured in order to finally obtain the property is a real testament to the dedication and passion this couple feels for the house. Kassum and Myers view the Taft Mansion as their “forever home” and are not only excited to restore the property to enjoy it with their three children, but are thrilled with the opportunity to impart their own design prowess on the space and bring the house back to life and into the modern day.  

The couple is working with Ankie Barnes of BarnesVanze Architects, known for their commitment to classic design and experience with old homes, and Kassum will be heading up the interior work herself with her company Azali Kassum Design. With the complicated planning for the project well underway, the couple is expected to begin the permitting process by the mid-year, hopefully in time to break ground sometime in 2022. If all goes smoothly, the family will be joyously moving into their dream home by late 2023.  

In terms of construction, the focus for the building itself will be the restoration and preservation of the structure as it stands today; an enhancement of the current exterior rather than a redesign. The interior of the property will be changed most significantly, in order to accommodate modern living and entertaining. Most of the interior walls of the house are structural, however, so it is difficult to reconfigure the space.  

The intention of the new design is to create openings where they can encourage a more free-flowing and “gracious” space, while protecting the original layout of the rooms — modern character draped elegantly over the historic backbone of the distinguished home. Additionally, some features will be placed back into their historic context, such as the original fireplace, moved to the house’s addition during the 70s, being returned to its authentic location. Decisions like this preserve the charm and spirit of a home, allowing it to be recognizable, while bringing it forward into the present. Loving an old house for what it is, not making it something it isn’t. 

To see this house come alive once more with a family not only dedicated to the house, but the community is a truly lovely thing. Azali Kassum and Ian Myers are the stewards the Taft Mansion deserves.  

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