The Antiques Addict: Staffordshire Portrait Figures

January 16, 2015

Here in Georgetown, we live in the mother lode of antiquities, an antique community where relics are everywhere we look. Since Georgetowners interact with history every day in our 18th- and 19th-century homes and on our cobblestoned streets, it’s easy to stop actually seeing the objects and places that inform our daily lives.

So it’s interesting to delve a bit into the what and why of the old things that surround us, everyday household items or fine rarities from a century or more ago: a colorful vase that a favorite aunt left, an old bottle found under a floorboard during renovations, yellow ware bowls, glorious old silver, colorful tins that once held everything from soup to opium.

A dealer in antiques for most of my adult life, I am drawn to old things and old places. I still like to imagine the people who lived in my early 19th-century home and how they lived in it. They loved, lost and raised their families within the quotidian realities of the age.

Just as certain smells can flood us with memories, antiques can provide a powerful connection to our own personal histories. A familiar object spotted at an antiques shop can be an emotional bridge with our past, a childhood moment or a loved one.
Many collectors’ fascination with the things of the past reflects a profound desire to connect to a time when life was more predictable. True collectors don’t buy to resell. They buy for that enduring link to the past, a sense of history, the thrill of the hunt or to furnish a home.

My penchant for collecting Staffordshire portrait figures (1837-1901) stems from all of the above. They are decorative and have a wonderful naïve charm. The figures were the Victorian version of People Magazine; made to communicate the “news of the day” to everyman, they had a broad appeal across social classes. Many a politico, murderer, actress, soldier and historic event of the time were portrayed in Staffordshire.

Victorian portrait figures are generally titled, but not always. The quality of the workmanship varies tremendously. Some were quite primitively rendered, making the characters impossible to recognize (likely the result of basing the portrait on a bad engraving in a periodical of the day). Yet all are historically interesting and, amassed, make up a visually pleasing and thought-provoking collection.

Prior to 1840, most figurines were made to imitate porcelain and finely worked. Starting in 1842, the “flat-back” design made them easier to reproduce in earthenware. The Crimean War (1854-1856) was the heyday of this form. There was intense popular interest in Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the allied leaders and their war commanders, and a profusion of figures were made in the new style.

One of the chief attractions in collecting Staffordshire figures is the great number of variations within a type. Each potter created his own version of a well-known contemporary subject – a famous battle, performer, literary character or royal personage – hence the profusion of similar subjects that look extremely different from one another.

Some collectors specialize in certain themes, like Little Red Riding Hood (a popular subject). Others may collect circus figures, politicians, sporting figures or any of the hundreds of variations available.

By the start of the 1880s, the art was beginning to decline. Finally, with the death of Queen Victoria, fewer figures were produced. Although a few figures were made to commemorate World War I, they were in a different, more sophisticated style, lacking the former rustic charm.

For me, the fun is in buying whatever strikes my fancy. Since the figures are ubiquitous, I am almost always able to find company for the others in my collection.

An antiques dealer for more than 25 years, Michelle Galler owns Antiques, Whimsies & Curiosities, located in Georgetown and in Washington, Va. Contact her at antiques.and.whimsies@gmail.com to suggest a topic for a future column.

Roadside Development: A Different Kind of Commercial Real Estate

December 19, 2014

One of the biggest names in Washington, D.C., real estate, Roadside Development was established 17 years ago by Smithy Braedon alums Richard Lake and Armond Spikell, who recruited longtime client Todd Weiss to join them. All three are well acquainted with the D.C. metro area. When he was growing up, Lake worked at the Zebra Room, a Wisconsin Avenue business owned by his family.

The name Roadside Development was inspired by the company’s first projects: CVS locations in the D.C. suburbs. After doing 17 stores in and around D.C., Armond said, “We build things along the road. Why don’t we call ourselves Roadside Development?” Lake says he and his partners have thought about changing it, “because who wants to live in an apartment built by Roadside Development…[but] it has really stuck.”

According to Lake, there are a lot of developers who build housing well, and others who build retail well, but Roadside’s mission is to “marry the two.” He offers Roadside’s City Market at O in Shaw and its Cityline in Tenleytown as examples and calls them his favorites, saying that the projects “captured what was necessary for those neighborhoods.”

He talks glowingly about City Market. “It was an early form of grocery store in the 1800s when it was built. It made sense to incorporate the market and make it the centerpiece of the entire development.” But, Lake says, Roadside wanted to “design something that sets that building off and apart from more modern construction.” The company looked at different shapes, materials, colors and windows and came up with a design that pays homage to the original market while maintaining modernity.

Lake also talks passionately about the need for affordable housing in the District, calling such housing “imperative.” He adds, “We all fail if we don’t provide safe and quality housing for everyone.” In that vein, during the City Market construction process, Roadside promised area seniors 78 affordable units, eventually constructing 90 that rent at below-market rates.

Lake is looking forward to future Roadside projects, such as renovating Frager’s Hardware, a Capitol Hill institution that burned down in 2013. He calls the project a “smaller version of [City Market at] O Street” and says that Roadside is seeking to add vitality to the block and bring people in to live at the site.

In Georgetown, Roadside has the old Neam’s Market site under contract. Lake says: “We don’t own the property. We aren’t talking about plans yet because we haven’t formulated them completely. It’s a really cool corner with a lot of history. The corner is a Washington institution. It’s a small piece of property, but we want to do something neat there if we are able to.”

Lake calls the pipeline the “single most complicated part of the business,” explaining: “We just finished building $400 million worth of stuff, but you have to make sure there’s something else in the pipeline for the future when you are in the final stages of other projects.” He adds, “There are so many variables in the types of development we do, always something that can trip us up, whether it’s zoning, the market or changes in attitudes.”

The company “has been pretty fortunate to find projects to keep us active.” Lake says he worries sometimes about overdevelopment and “too many of the same thing being built,” but says Roadside works as hard as it can to differentiate its product by bringing in retail, office space and, when feasible, housing.

So far, that mix and Roadside’s vision have brought great value to the District while restoring and enhancing its architectural character.

Roadside Development: A Different Kind of Commercial Real Estate

December 17, 2014

One of the biggest names in Washington, D.C., real estate, Roadside Development was established 17 years ago by Smithy Braedon alums Richard Lake and Armond Spikell, who recruited longtime client Todd Weiss to join them. All three are well acquainted with the D.C. metro area. When he was growing up, Lake worked at the Zebra Room, a Wisconsin Avenue business owned by his family.

The name Roadside Development was inspired by the company’s first projects: CVS locations in the D.C. suburbs. After doing 17 stores in and around D.C., Armond said, “We build things along the road. Why don’t we call ourselves Roadside Development?” Lake says he and his partners have thought about changing it, “because who wants to live in an apartment built by Roadside Development…[but] it has really stuck.”

According to Lake, there are a lot of developers who build housing well, and others who build retail well, but Roadside’s mission is to “marry the two.” He offers Roadside’s City Market at O in Shaw and its Cityline in Tenleytown as examples and calls them his favorites, saying that the projects “captured what was necessary for those neighborhoods.”

He talks glowingly about City Market. “It was an early form of grocery store in the 1800s when it was built. It made sense to incorporate the market and make it the centerpiece of the entire development.” But, Lake says, Roadside wanted to “design something that sets that building off and apart from more modern construction.” The company looked at different shapes, materials, colors and windows and came up with a design that pays homage to the original market while maintaining modernity.
Lake also talks passionately about the need for affordable housing in the District, calling such housing “imperative.” He adds, “We all fail if we don’t provide safe and quality housing for everyone.” In that vein, during the City Market construction process, Roadside promised area seniors 78 affordable units, eventually constructing 90 that rent at below-market rates.

Lake is looking forward to future Roadside projects, such as renovating Frager’s Hardware, a Capitol Hill institution that burned down in 2013. He calls the project a “smaller version of [City Market at] O Street” and says that Roadside is seeking to add vitality to the block and bring people in to live at the site.

In Georgetown, Roadside has the old Neam’s Market site under contract. Lake says: “We don’t own the property. We aren’t talking about plans yet because we haven’t formulated them completely. It’s a really cool corner with a lot of history. The corner is a Washington institution. It’s a small piece of property, but we want to do something neat there if we are able to.”

Lake calls the pipeline the “single most complicated part of the business,” explaining: “We just finished building $400 million worth of stuff, but you have to make sure there’s something else in the project pipeline for the future when you are in the final stages of other projects.” He adds, “There are so many variables in the types of development we do, always something that can trip us up, whether it’s zoning, the market or changes in attitudes.”

The company “has been pretty fortunate to find projects to keep us active.” Lake says he worries sometimes about overdevelopment and “too many of the same thing being built,” but says Roadside works as hard as it can to differentiate its product by bringing in retail, office space and, when feasible, housing.

So far, that mix and Roadside’s vision have brought great value to the District while restoring and enhancing its architectural character.

The Auction Block: Dec. 3

December 5, 2014

Doyle New York

Important Jewelry Sale, Dec. 11
Platinum, Invisibly-Set Sapphire and Diamond Flower Clip-Brooch, France
Estimate: $40,000 – $60,000

The stylized flower and leaf is invisibly set with 153 square, rectangular and triangular-cut sapphires, approximately 15.50 carats, edged by 59 round and single-cut diamonds, flanked by a stem set with 17 baguette and tapered baguette diamonds, altogether approximately 2.45 carats, centering 3 marquise-shaped diamonds, approximately 1.75 carats, with maker’s mark and French assay mark.
www.DoyleNewYork.com

Sotheby’s

Magnificent Jewels Auction, Dec. 9
Iconic Platinum, Colored Stone, Diamond and Enamel ‘Tutti Frutti’ Bracelet, Cartier
Estimate: $750,000 – $1,000,000

The flexible openwork foliate band is set with numerous carved emeralds and rubies, accented by onyx beads and faceted rubies, further set with old European and single-cut diamonds, approximately 6.25 carats, enhanced with black enamel. Signed Cartier, circa 1928.
www.Sothebys.com

Bonhams

Fine Jewelry Auction, Dec. 8
Sapphire and Diamond Ring??
Estimate: $100,000 – $150,000

This ring of radiant blue is set with a cushion modified-cut sapphire, 25.66 carats, flanked by pear-shaped diamonds, mounted in platinum. Size 2 3/4 (with sizing beads).
www.Bonhams.com

Freeman’s

Holiday Estate Jewelry Auction, Dec. 15
Emerald, Diamond and 18 Karat Gold Ring
Estimate: $2,000 – $3,000

The classic ring centers an oval cabochon emerald weighing approximately 10.00 carats, bezel-set and accented by pavé-set diamonds. Total diamond weight approximately 2.40 carats.
www.FreemansAuction.com

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Who Lives Here: November 19, 2014

November 19, 2014

Washington Harbour resident Nancy Pelosi was spotted in her purple velour jumpsuit on Nov. 5. No doubt the House Minority Leader, who has lived in Washington Harbour for more than a decade, was blowing off some post-election steam after the Democrats got collectively drubbed in Senate and House races. Regardless, we appreciate a woman who can still rock a velour jumpsuit.

Georgetowner John Fahey moved from the National Geographic Society to become a member of the Board of Regents at the Smithsonian. Fahey lives on Dent Street between 33rd and 34th Streets, the block where a tree crashed into a derelict house a couple summers ago. He led National Geographic’s television ventures and extended the magazine internationally and into the digital age. We wish him luck as he settles in at a somewhat older (1846 vs. 1888) and inherently more bureaucratic institution.

A puppy named Olive has moved into a home on Olive Street in Georgetown. The yellow lab pup moved in with Doug and Laura Stone a few weeks ago and is already making waves in the neighborhood. Olive can be seen taking long walks with dad Doug, frolicking at Rose Park and getting petted by strangers amid the commercial bustle of M Street. She’s a happy little pup who is still getting through the tough parts of puppyhood, chewing on furniture and fingers and going piddle in the house. Her parents assure us she’ll turn out fine.

Latham Apartment’s Get Zoning OK’s

November 6, 2014

Developer SB-Urban moved past the last major obstacle to building micro-residential units on the 3000 M Street site of the Latham Hotel, which closed in 2012.

On Tuesday, SB-Urban was granted a series of variances from the Board of Zoning Adjustments for the project.
According to an Urban Turf article, the requests were for: a rear-yard variance for an addition, a special exception to a parking requirement that would allow the company to provide 42 off-site spaces, a variance for the remaining 74 parking spaces and a variance for a loading dock and delivery space.

The micro-unit project will create retail spaces along M Street and will have 140 furnished apartments with an average size of 330 square feet. There will also be 11,000 square feet of shared-living spaces, such as kitchens, laundry rooms and living rooms. The lease agreement will prevent residents from parking on Georgetown streets, but residents will receive Capital Bikeshare and car-share memberships.

Among its other projects, Bethesda-based SB-Urban will also convert the Patterson Mansion on Dupont Circle into rental apartments. The company bought the historic 36,470-square-foot mansion from the Washington Club for $20 million in June.

Fighting for Aged Architecture


As larger and larger swaths of the city’s quadrants are torn down and rebuilt in the name of revitalization, D.C. Preservation League fights to maintain local architectural treasures. Since 1996, the organization has announced an annual list of “Most Endangered Places” to draw attention to sites of historical, cultural and architectural significance that are threatened with alteration and demolition or neglect and abandonment.

The group’s stances are widely publicized in the city, and the league has an outsized impact for its small size. For example, earlier this fall, the organization urged the Historic Preservation Review Board to block the International Spy Museum’s plans to expand the Carnegie Library. The board took the D.C. Preservation League’s advice, causing the Spy Museum to pull out of the site, an “Endangered Place,” altogether. The site is still on the list however, with the league pushing the city to fund preservation for the Beaux-Arts building across from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

This year’s list also includes two homes on L Street in Shaw that are likely to get swept up in a proposal to build more hotels close to the near-completed Marriot Marquis convention center, a huge portion of relatively pastoral land at the St. Elizabeths East Agricultural Complex, and the Washington Canoe Club and West Heating Plant, both in Georgetown. Other than the boathouse, which is in such a state of disrepair that the National Park Service closed the building, the list consists of buildings that are facing off against gentrification.

It’s a battle that the D.C. Preservation League has seen before, and will see again, as it continues to fight a war on behalf of the city’s aged architecture. [gallery ids="101909,136324,136331,136328" nav="thumbs"]

Who Lives Here…

October 22, 2014

Maureen Dowd couldn’t have been happy with our editorial last week urging voters to support recreational marijuana legalization in the District. Back in June, the Georgetown resident and New York Times columnist visited Colorado to report on legalization. After eating far more than the recommended dose of a marijuana-laced edible chocolate, Dowd criticized legalization. On the experience, she wrote in her column, “I felt a scary shudder go through my body and brain. I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours… I was panting and paranoid, sure that when the room-service waiter knocked and I didn’t answer, he’d call the police and have me arrested for being unable to handle my candy… As my paranoia deepened, I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me.” Sounds like a pretty bad trip. No doubt
Dowd will proceed carefully, if at all, when marijuana edibles come to Georgetown. Although, her place near the corner of Potomac and N streets NW is probably a better place to experiment than a Denver hotel room.

Head east across Georgetown on N Street, then north on 28th and you might bump into Walter Isaacson, the renowned author who just released a new book on the digital economy called, “The Innovators.” The book is a follow-up to Isaacson’s hugely successful Steve Jobs biography and talks about some of the most innovative companies in tech, including Apple, Microsoft and Georgetown’s own IBM.

The Nats’ playoff performance must have disappointed team owner and Washington Harbour resident Mark Lerner. There’s always next season, though. Until then, Lerner can continue working on the family’s real estate empire and supporting area institutions and causes like the Georgetown Day School, the Holocaust Museum and the Scleroderma Foundation.

The Auction Block

October 8, 2014

Bonhams
Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Danseuses et contrebasse (‘Dancers and bass’), ca. 1879-1880
oil on panel
ca. 1879-1880
Auction Date: Nov. 4, 2014
Estimate: $400,000 – $600,000

Part of the Impressionist and Modern Art Auction, this rare oil by Degas shows the painter at work again on his beloved dancers. With the recent 2012 exhibit at The Phillips Collection, “Degas’ Dancers at the Barre,” and the recently opened “Degas’ Little Dancer” at the National Gallery, this painting is a piece of a reinvigorated history for any Washington collector. This auction covers works from the dawn of Impressionism to the fracturing of traditions in the Post-War period, from Degas to Dalí, covering the movements that define recent Western Art. Artists represented include Monet, Bonnard, Sisley, Pissarro, Rodin, Picasso, Miró and Ernst ,to name but a few. www.Bonhams.com

Andy Warhol (1928 – 1987)
“Campbell’s Soup I,” 1968
The complete set of ten color screenprints on wove paper.
Auction Date: Nov. 2, 2014
Estimate: $250,000-400,000

Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup I,” a complete set of ten screenprints, is the centerpiece of the Modern & Contemporary Art sale, featuring works by Calder, Dubuffet and Bertoia, among others. These screenprints were purchased directly from the artist
during one of their first showings at Leo Castelli’s gallery in 1968 by Lois Cowles Harrison,. The daughter of famed Warhol collector (and founder of Look Magazine) Gardner Cowles Jr., Cowles Harrison was an avid and early collector of Warhol and other Pop artists.

Potomack Company
Rare Gilt Bronze Mounted Kingwood
Meuble de Milieu
By Joseph-Emmanuel Zweiner, Paris, ca. 1880
Auction Date: Oct. 18, 2014
Estimate: $20,000 – $30,000

Cabinetmaker Joseph-Emmanuel Zwiener (1849-1895) was born in Germany and moved to Paris to practice his craft. He was renowned for his copies of 18th century furniture from public collections and won a gold medal at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1889. This cabinet is after a design by Charles Cressent (1685-1768). www.PotomackCompany.com

Doyle New York
Willem de Kooning (1904-1997)
Woman, 1965
Oil on paper laid to panel
Auction Date: Nov. 11. 2014
Estimate: $200,000 – $400,000

This seminal de Kooning will be offered with Doyle’s Post-War and Contemporary Art sale on Nov. 11, from the Estate of the Honorable Roy M. Goodman. The piece was initially acquired directly from the artist by New York State Senator Goodman (1930-2014), who was a dedicated and effective advocate for the arts in New York for more than forty years. Senator Goodman was even named an Ambassador for the Arts by the National Endowment for the Arts “in recognition of his unwavering support of the arts and cultural affairs.” The work is inscribed to Goodman by the artist himself on a notecard affixed to the reverse.

Who Lives Here: Mika Brzezinski and Scott Altman

September 10, 2014

Georgetowners may notice “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski strolling through the neighborhood in the coming days and weeks. The popular media personality just bought a condo in what used to be the Phillips School between N and Olive Streets. While her show is based in New York and she and her family currently live there, she purchased property here as “Morning Joe” has become increasingly focused on politics in the nation’s capitol. D.C.’s thriving real estate market could have also influenced the purchase. Alexander Memorial Baptist Church is next up on the list of old properties being converted into condo units. Maybe Mika will convince friend and co-host Joe Scarborough to become a neighbor.

If you wander a block north of Mika’s place, you’ll pass a house where retired NASA astronaut Scott Altman lives with his wife, Jill. They temporarily live near the corner of 28th and Dumbarton Streets while they await a move back to the west side, where their house on 36th Street is being redone. Altman piloted or commanded four space shuttle missions. Years before, he got to fly his F-14 in the movie, “Top Gun,” which he admits was a real kick since the pilots were allowed to “buzz the tower” at the Miramar Air Station in San Diego. The two are active in the community and regularly volunteer at the Georgetown Senior Center.

Around the corner from the Altmans, several neighbors routinely walk their dogs past the intersection of 27th and O Streets, where a black SUV or sedan sits continually at the corner. Questions have arisen among local residents as to who is living in the neighborhood with a security detail. Things became slightly clearer last year when anti-war group Code Pink demonstrated on neighborhood streets. Well, suffice it to say, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and his family live nearby. Johnson was sworn in to his current role at the end of 2013 but has lived in Georgetown for a number of years.
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