Outerbridge Horsey: An Architect of Georgetown

The name Outerbridge Horsey sounds more like an honorific title than the personal name of a tall, red-headed Georgetown resident who is fond of his job, community, wife and two greyhounds. Yet its bearer, who is the seventh in his family to inherit his name, seems to think little of it, other than the fact that people find it easy to remember. Horsey’s is a well-known name throughout the neighborhood; he is an active and passionate member of the community and is the principal of a Georgetown-based architecture and design firm, Outerbridge Horsey Associates, PLLC. The firm specializes mostly in residential additions remodeling around the D.C. area, although they do some institutional work. Horsey estimates that he has worked on 15 to 20 houses in Georgetown itself but his work is scattered around the east coast – his most recent project was the remodeling of a house in Nantucket. Samantha: So what first drew you to architecture? Outerbridge: I grew up abroad. I grew up in Japan, Italy, Rome, Prague, Czechoslovakia and Sicily. And so I think that laid the foundation. Then when I went to college, my first year of college, I was a classics, Greek and archaeology major. I’d been on archeological digs for a continuous two summers and enjoyed it tremendously; I studied Greek in high school. But when I got to college I found that archaeology in the classroom was not nearly as interesting as it was in the field and I fairly quickly, my first year in fact, migrated over to the architecture program called Designing the Environment at Penn, the University of Pennsylvania, and went on from there. And then I came back here, I majored in design in the environment – it’s just sort of a mixture of landscaping and architecture, landscape design. And then came back here for a year, took some classes at Georgetown and applied to architecture schools and ended up back at Penn again for my master’s degree. So it’s worked out very well. But I have a feeling all that exposure to, especially in Italy, to beautiful buildings and ruins and even archaeology, sort of, was the foundation. S: And why have you continued doing it? O: Because I love it. I’ll never be rich, but that’s okay, I’m rich in loving what I do and I think that’s the most important thing. My wife, fortunately, is interested it and appreciates it and tolerates my love for it. I get up every day and I love to do what I do every day, most of it anyway. And it’s great, you know, there’s always something new. Every client, every site, every project, doing something new so it’s never dull. Not to say there aren’t some tedious times running a business and making sure the little details are attended to by the builders and all that, but the whole process is really pretty enjoyable from the beginning, meeting the client, to seeing the project through construction to finalizing the details and seeing the building emerge. So, it’s fun. S: What has your favorite project been that you’ve worked on and why? O: Well, the house in Nantucket is certainly the most memorable one…well, there have been several, actually. The house in Nantucket and the complete redo of a Watergate apartment. I’d never worked on the renovation of an apartment, I’d only worked on new apartments. The house in Nantucket was great because it’s a fairly tight regulatory review process […] so they start very early in providing parameters for new buildings throughout the island in Nantucket. It’s very fortunate that the entire island, I believe, is governed by the town council and all the building departments and so on and so forth – all their regulations apply all over the island. They started in the 70s and they wrote this book called “Building with Nantucket in Mind,” which basically lays out all the dos and the don’ts and the cans and the can’ts, and it’s really quite helpful. But within that there’s a great deal of flexibility that you can work with, but that sort of gives you the vocabulary. Everything has to be natural, white shingled, and it all works, you can see why they did it. Have you ever been to Nantucket? I’d never been before three years ago, but all the house sizes are different and there are certain parts of the island that are very dense, but there’s a sort of, not homogeneity, but, nothing jumps out at you, which is important. Other places you go, houses are very different, paint colors are very different, the materials are very different, the aesthetic style is very different, and it can be somewhat discordant. And Nantucket’s not like that. So that was interesting to work within those parameters and working with the Historic District Commission was interesting, it went pretty well, actually, surprisingly, and in the end they thought very highly of the design which I took as a compliment. […] S: What was your vision for your firm when you first opened it, and have you lived up to that dream or has it changed? O: I was trained as a modernist at Penn and at the time I came out there was very little modern architecture even in D.C. But the training I had, I guess you could call it a classical training in architecture, and we were both familiar with architectural design and the history of architecture. […] But I ended up, when I went to work in Philadelphia for a year and I came back here knowing I wanted to start my own firm and I worked for a couple of firms doing my apprenticeship for three years. I think the vision I had was just designing beautiful buildings without any particular emphasis on style or period, design. Traditional architectural design tends to have a stylistic period that they sort of focus on, but I like almost all of them, all the architectural periods and styles, so I’m less concerned about being particular to any one. So designing in a variety of styles and designing some modern buildings has ended up what we’ve done and I’ve been very pleased with that. You know, I’d be nice to do a little bit more modern work and we actually are doing a little bit more now, which is nice. I think the vision is pretty much the same. It’d be fun to design my own house some time, but I haven’t quite gotten there, I’m not sure that’ll happen. I think every architect wants to design their own house, some are lucky enough to do it, others aren’t. S: And speaking of your house, you are a Georgetown resident. What do you like or dislike about the neighborhood? O: I love the area. My wife has lived her whole life in Georgetown so that’s been important but my parents moved here in the early 70s and I was in high school at the time just going to college, so I didn’t really live here the whole time. I came back here for the summers and enjoyed it immensely but I didn’t really live here full time till the early 80s when I came back from architecture school. And I’ve always lived in Georgetown, my jobs have always been in Georgetown. When I worked for other firms, they were both located in Georgetown. I like the river, I like the parks, I think it’s a pretty remarkable environment in that it offers something, a lot of diversity, to people of all ages. Children to teenagers to young professionals to older people. I think it’s the sense of community, village-like atmosphere. In those days there were a lot more stores that catered to the neighborhood than there are now and that was a nice aspect that has been lost, I think, which is too bad. But what we gained in exchange for that is more vitality in the commercial district, which I think is important, there were always doors shuttered in the old days. And that wasn’t a blight, but there’s a much more vibrant commercial district and that’s good for the community, good for the city, it brings people from the city into our neighborhood which is good too. When we first were married my first house was up the street here, 31st and N, and our whole sort of outlook was towards the river, walking down there, and we moved five blocks about six years ago, we moved to the north to 32nd between Q and R, and our whole focus sort of changed. It’s now at the parks on the north end of Georgetown, plus we got two dogs so that kind of encouraged that interest in the parks. S: You’re also a very active member of the Georgetown community. O: I have been at times, it’s true. S: And what compels you to speak up, so to say? O: What compels me to get involved? I guess it’s a disposition, a personal disposition I have. It probably runs in my family to do something for one’s community or public service in some way even though I have my own firm I guess I’m just personally inclined to want to participate and want to help and give the necessary time. S: What kinds of projects have you spoken up for in the past? You were just featured in the Georgetowner speaking about the Tudor Place and everything going on there. O: That’s right, I’m trying to find what’s best for Tudor Place in the neighborhood. But I guess the early things that I was involved in, probably the most meaningful ones, were the Georgetown Ministry Center where I was involved for many years. I was president of the board for four years at the very early stages so that was very interesting, it was very much needed, it still is needed and they’re doing a fabulous job now. […] And the other early initiative was Trees for Georgetown which I helped to start along with two other people, Flow Stone is still around and very involved with various things in the community and Ann Witherspoon who is now living in California. And the need at that time was that the District of Columbia had no money at all for their tree replacement program. Their funds were completely dry, the nursery was empty, and the tree maintenance division of the government was really down to a skeleton staff. And they had the whole city to deal with, so we started to raise money to plant trees and worked hard at it. We got contractors working in concert with the government and it was very successful, we raised enough money to plant empty tree boxes every year. […] There are other things, I was on the Citizen’s Association Board for five years, so there was a period when I was very involved. S: But not so much anymore? O: I did get involved with another board downtown for five years which took a lot of my time but now I’m back focusing on my practice which needs me more than ever in these trying times. [gallery ids="100261,106959,106954,106968,106972,106949,106976,106980,106944,106964" nav="thumbs"]

Remodeling for Modern Life

John and Kristin Cecchi’s life could be a reality TV show. But it wouldn’t involve cameras following them to Peacock Cafe or Fiola Mare. HGTV would hit closer to home, since John is a real estate developer. The 39-year-old, soon to turn 40, has renovated eight houses in Georgetown, the neighborhood where he and Kristin reside. “Georgetown seems to be what’s in,” John said. “It’s the ‘it’ place.” After John’s father, Giuseppe Cecchi, built the Watergate, considered D.C.’s first mixed-use development, he started IDI Group Companies. John began working for IDI after college in 1996, first in customer service. Making his way up through the ranks, by 2008, John was named vice president and project manager of an IDI project in Alexandria. (The project was shelved due to the declining market and economy.) At the same time, he was building his own home on P Street in Georgetown. It was then that he realized there was a market for restoring and renovating historic homes. John launched IDI Residential, a division of IDI Group Companies, in 2008. “I figured it out late,” John said. “I should have been doing this since ’96.” His most recently finished project, 2305 Bancroft Place in Kalorama, was John’s first house outside Georgetown and the first celebrated with an opening party. “The first time we decided to tell people what we were doing, it went big,” John said of Bancroft – a Washington Post house of the week that also appeared in Home & Design magazine. “We like to stay hush-hush about our houses. Just build them, renovate them and sell them,” he said. Historically, Kalorama has been D.C.’s wealthy neighborhood: bigger yards, bigger homes. The elegance of embassies and black cars makes you feel like you’re in an important place, John said. “It’s one class of people, where in Georgetown you have your $8 million house next to two college kids.” Doing a house in Kalorama takes patience, according to John, who is currently renovating another house in the neighborhood. “It’s not so volatile of a market, but things do sell there and second only to Georgetown in the area. It’s not the village feel that Georgetown has.” Back in Georgetown, John has renovated two houses on P Street (with work on a third about to begin), two on Dumbarton, one on 31st and two on N, plus the N Street Condominiums. Three homes a year is a good pace, according to John, who describes his business as taking a great house with unrealized potential and working through the Advisory Neighborhood Commission and the Old Georgetown Board to make renovations and sometimes additions. “I try to work within the walls and create a better space.” John and Kristin are currently renting their house on N Street, where John took a deteriorating home and made it livable in a mere 26 days. “It looked like a haunted house that should have been condemned,” Kristin said. “The ceiling was crumbling. It was in disrepair.” John asked for 26 days to whip the house into shape. “Not my kind of finished product, but I did a very heavy lipstick,” John said. Like an episode of “House Hunters Renovation,” the couple sanded, scraped, painted and fixed up all the rough, superficial parts of the house. “We even had the appropriate arguments,” said Kristin. They added carpet and painted the wood floors white. John changed the upstairs layout, turning a bedroom into Kristin’s closet. Kristin picked out all new light fixtures. They hung artwork from around the world on the large white walls. The couple moved to N Street in December of 2013 with their five-month-old daughter Valentina and two-and-a-half-year-old son Antonio in tow. “It’s not as perfect as our old one, on P Street,” Kristin said. “That house was such a jewel, but after kids it was like a tight pair of designer pants.” “Now we’re in a pair of sweatpants,” John said. “It’s comfortable.” Around the time they moved into their home, John purchased another house on N Street to renovate. “John is so artistic,” Kristin said. “These are like art projects to him. I joke that he has laser beams in his head. He walks in a house, scans the room and sees everything in his head. He gets these end results that are absolutely beautiful, but there has to be a profit at the end of the day.” The whole process is envisioning the end product, Kristin says. “It’s a big guessing game, but the more we do it the better business we produce.” The guiding principle is to adapt a house’s layout to the way people live today. That generally means a formal space in the front of the house and an open floor plan in the back – for the kitchen and an informal dining and breakfast area. Sometimes a complete overhaul of the second level and master suite is needed to update the home. The all-important master suite encompasses a his-and-hers walk-in closet, a large bathroom with a toilet closet, a double vanity, a soaking tub and a rain shower. John’s goal is to preserve a home’s historic charm while updating the design and layout and adding state-of-the-art systems. Working with contractors and interior designers, John’s homes are staged and finished to perfection before selling – that is, if they can stay on the market that long. All of the N Street condos were sold before they were finished. John says that the houses he renovates in Georgetown typically sell in 45 days or less. “Each house has its own little story,” John said. “From when you purchase it, what you find when you start gutting it and what it turns out to be, there are parts that you didn’t expect to surprise you.” Transforming Georgetown’s storied homes, one day the Cecchis just might find a camera crew on their doorstep. [gallery ids="101796,140741,140717,140722,140743,140728,140733,140737" nav="thumbs"]

Bill Dean: Georgetown’s Budding Philanthropreneur

The Dodge Mansion on P Street, although elegantly and imaginatively renovated by architect Dale Overmyer, is very old. It has the look of old Georgetown history and wealth about it. It is the kind of house, manse, mansion that ends up on the Georgetown House Tour, which it has been. On the other hand, Bill Dean—the businessman who lives here by himself except for his two bounding dogs, Shredder and Splinter—looks brand new, shot out of the 21st-century entrepreneurial cannon, full of energy and enthusiasm, insouciant in a contemporary way. Add to another side of him, the word “philanthropreneur” for Dean’s work with non-profits. It’s an all-too-new descriptor that seems to fit the bill. (Seriously, look it up.) Fresh from an early morning business meeting and scheduled to head out late morning to Pittsburgh for a presentation on trolley cars, Dean is armed with charm, an iPad and an iPhone and ready to seat for a mid-morning interview and photo shoot with the Georgetowner. Why today? Dean has signed on with the Citizens Association of Georgetown to be a patron and head booster of its 2012 Georgetown Gala, Putting on the Glitz, scheduled for Oct. 26 at the Embassy of the Russian Federation. Such a celebration, which is the group’s main fundraiser, needs planners, volunteers and donors with money. If you google Dean by name, a couple of things come up right away, almost like warring images, which have already attached themselves to his name and reputation. There’s the single guy about town, most eligible bachelor cool guy who throws terrific parties at his mansion. There, he has been captured photographically leading the revel in the company of stunning women or hanging out with best bud Michael Saylor, another single entrepreneur, author and guru of the digital-cum-communications age, whose book, “The Mobile Wave,” is getting big buzz in the digital brainiac culture and is on the New York Times Best Seller list. Right next to the party and social reports is what you might call the other Bill Dean—the president and CEO of M.C. Dean, Inc., a big contract and big client technology and electronics communication outfit headquartered in Dulles, Va., which describes itself as “the nation’s expert electrical design-build and systems integration firm for complex, mission-critical organizations.” When interviewed by ExecutiveBiz.com, a government contracting sector news site, it headlined its article on the Georgetown businessmen: “Bill Dean, CEO of M.C. Dean, on his passion for workforce development and more.” Of course, the contrast and dichotomy are obvious. It’s only natural to bring it up: playboy and party-hearty with work force development, competing interests that don’t seem to jive. “Yeah, I get that all the time,” Dean says, like Bryce Harper watching a curve hanging over the center of the plate. “I mean, sure, I’m single. I like to enjoy life. You’ve sort of got to. So, yeah, I throw parties or go to parties, and they’re fun. But they’re usually about something, the community, Georgetown, a good cause. It’s not incompatible with what I do, who I am or what I care about. It’s part of who I am.” Looking at the party pictures, one might come to some conclusions about Dean, and those would be wrong. In conversation, he’s easy to talk with, well met, with a regular guy kind of demeanor, dressed casually, short hair, goatee—and with his dogs. You relax almost instantly, forget the house you’re in and the fact that Dean runs a billion dollar company with offices all over the country and the world from Baton Rouge to Ukraine. He’s not out to impress you. He’s out to engage you. Dean is a man in tune—like a tuning fork—with the times he lives, plays and most expressly works in. He has an almost gleeful curiosity, a passion for the electrical impacts on life and people of electronics and communications, the new and shape-shifting digital world. M.C. Dean, Inc. has a lot on its plate: there’s the big contract with the new Walter Reed Hospital, there’s the company foray into robotics, there’s the new offices in Louisiana and Texas—and there’s what everything means. “People still don’t realize how instant, how small, everything has become,” Dean says. “It changes everything in life, the connectivity. People want to be more and more connected with more and more people and the latest information. It’s in a pad, in a phone. I understand the idea of print media, but you can see how technology has changed everything. I did it for a while. We had a regular newspaper in Loudoun County, and I liked it. But it’s just not that pragmatic a thing to do.” As conversation flows into talk of technology as a game changer and wherever that might lead, we talk about a 60 Minutes episode on Steve Jobs. At that point, Dean jumps up from the couch, grabs his iPad and flips it open. “It’s right here, that show, that segment,” he says, as he taps on a link. There it is, the 60 Minutes segment from the night before, Jobs on a screen. “See, it’s instant, and it’s permanent, all at the same time,” he says. It seemed elementary, that thought. And it’s a big thought, too. Part of it is as ordinary as saving a file, but another part of it is magic. Talking with a master of multitasking, who can go in a heartbeat from playing with his two dogs to explaining the presence of the keyboards by a big living room window and a friend who co-wrote the musical, “Memphis,” to his feelings about community and neighborhood and a swift aside to the Roman emperor Hadrian. “Memoirs of Hadrian” is one of his eclectic collection in the downstairs library, along with original Wizard of Oz books and “In Cold Blood”—little things tend to stick out (at least, they do to me.) No doubt, Dean has a lot of books on his Kindle, but he appears to like the presence of books. “That’s amazing,” Dean says of the Truman Capote book. “For him to go out there to Kansas, get what he got and pull it together, it’s an amazing book.” Dean—William H., formally on the bio—is the third Dean to head M.C. Dean. The first and founding Dean was Marion Caleb Dean, a World War II U.S. Navy veteran who started out working as an electrician in the shipyards and turned the skills and spirit of adventure into a career in electronics and electrical engineering, founding the company, which soon became adept at riding the technology advances of the second half of the 20th century and working with the government, especially the Department of Defense. Besides running the founder’s company, and adding significantly to its wealth and enterprises, Dean got something else from his grandfather: a sense of place and neighborhood, the importance of community and a desire to be a part of the greater community in a big way. “He grew up in the old U Street neighborhoods of Washington, went to Central High School [now Cardozo],” he says of his grandfather. “He loved the area, the city, and that’s what I love about Washington. I grew up in the suburbs, and you didn’t really have neighborhoods, the sense of place that we have in the neighborhoods of Washington.” Georgetown, as a neighborhood, obviously agrees with him. He’s totally involved and says, “I’ve helped with Rose Park. I was on the House Tour, and I’m doing the 2012 gala with the Citizens Association of Georgetown because it’s a great group with involved, smart people who think about the community and its future. I love the sense of the past you get here—and the sense of the future with new people and kids.” One of the articles about Dean talks about him as a CEO who cares. The company’s founder did that, too, creating an electrical apprenticeship program which still exists. Dean himself believes firmly in adding to the community by way of his business. It’s one of those ongoing commitments where you get, give back and it comes around again. We’re talking about work force training and creation, getting involved in education, creating opportunities for young people in other parts of town which might not have them. “Education is the key to everything,” Dean says. “There are a lot of jobs in electronics, tech, engineering. And, in fact, there’s often not enough people with the training to fill them. You look for young people and students, who might not have seen the opportunities in school—but have the math or science skills and the talent but not the training.” Dean serves on the D.C. Workforce Investment Council and the Virginia Apprenticeship Council. He has donated money for the Loudoun County Katrina Relief Fund, to the Child Rescue Centre in Sierra Leone by way of helping Children Worldwide. He has worked with the D.C. Center for Therapeutic Recreation, helped with construction needs of School Without Walls and continues to be involved in the apprenticeship program founded by his grandfather. No doubt, too, there will be more Fourth of July and Halloween parties. “Do I want children and a family?” he asks. “Sure, sure. You have to know when the time is right and the person is right.” Right now, Bill Dean seems to like being Bill Dean, forward-looking entrepreneur, CEO, thinker and reader, and tinkerer and thinker. In his way, he is a man of his time and the time that’s coming just around the corner. The doorbell rings. It’s a group of Georgetown realtors and business folks arriving for a photo shoot, including developer Herb Miller. Patrons and sponsors involved with the Citizens Association’s Georgetown Gala are heading to the pool area. The doorbell rings again. Shredder barks. The phone rings. They’re waiting at the airport. And it’s not yet noon. PARTY ACTIVISTS Sponsors, patrons and volunteers met a few weeks ago at Bill Dean’s P Street home to prepare for the upcoming 2012 Georgetown Gala -- Putting on the Glitz -- to be held Oct. 26 at the Russian Embassy on Wisconsin Avenue. The gala is the main fundraising event for the Citizens Association of Georgetown, the nonprofit which protects and promotes the oldest neighborhood in Washington, D.C. And thanks to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and his wife Natalia, it will again be at their nation’s embassy up the avenue. The evening will honor Pamela and Richard Hinds as “Champions of Historic Preservation and Guardians of Georgetown Public Safety.” Along with cocktails, buffet, a live auction (items include that house in France, apartment in Florence or spa in Mexico) and gaming tables, oh yes, there will be dancing. This time to the sounds of Big Ray and the Kool Kats. Cutting up with the movers and shakers, the evening’s fun always generates buzz, especially when it persuades the Mayor of Washington to dance with a boa and in the conga line. Such an undertaking requires hefty support from residents, businesses and other planners and players around town. There are people to meet and money to match. Georgetown is blessed to have such a fellowship of givers, young and old, who always show up to help and are as tried and true as the day is long. This year’s list of supporters and sponsors begins with three U.S. senators (Roy Blunt, John Kerry and Joe Lieberman) and their wives (Abigail, Teresa and Hadassah, respectively), a university president (Jack DeGioia of Georgetown), a chief of protocol (Selwa “Lucky” Roosevelt), a techie CEO (Mark Ein) and master architect (Hugh Jacobsen). Impressive. All right, they are honorary chairs, who are nevertheless quite effective in helping with the invitations. As for the really big sponsors, they include “Community Pillars,” namely, Long & Foster, Exclusive Affiliate of Christie’s International and Angelo, Gordon & Co. and Vornado Realty Trust (on behalf of the Shops at Georgetown Park). Add to that patrons Nancy Taylor Bubes (Washington Fine Properties), Georgetown University, Jamestown Properties, the Levy Group, M.C. Dean, Inc., MRP Realty and Western Development Corporation. Now, we’re cooking. But, wait, there’s more: Beasley Real Estate, Gregg Busch (First Savings Mortgage Corporation), EastBanc Technologies, LLC, Georgetown University Hospital, PNC Bank and Securitas Security Services USA, Inc. There are even more involved, whether it is Clyde’s Restaurant Group, EagleBank or, even, this newspaper and its media group. This year’s gala co-chairs include Nancy Taylor and Alan Bubes, Michele and Jack Evans and Patrice and Herb Miller, assisted by a slew of neighborhood friends and influencers. Stay tuned for updates in the few weeks ahead. Party Activist Photo Credits below: Front row: Herb Miller, board chairman and CEO, Western Development Corp.; Jennifer Altemus, president, the Citizens Association of Georgetown; Bill Dean, CEO, M.C. Dean, Inc. Middle row: Stacy Berman, manager, Long & Foster Georgetown office; Nancy Taylor Bubes, Washington Fine Properties. Back row: Jim Bell, founder and managing partner, Beasley Real Estate; Gregg Busch, loan officer, First Savings Mortgage; Paul Foster, senior vice president and regional manager, Long & Foster Real Estate. [gallery ids="102471,120617,120608,120605" nav="thumbs"]

New Faces, Old Facades

Each spring, Georgetown greets the season by freshening up its homes and yards in anticipation of one of the neighborhood’s signature events: the Georgetown House Tour — this year on April 26. “The house tour is a crown jewel” of Georgetown, says Trish Yan of TTR Sotheby’s International Realty, the tour’s main sponsor. “It is amazing to see more than 1,800 persons visiting neighborhood homes.” It certainly gets people thinking about Georgetown houses, home design, history and boldface names — both the younger set like Robert Allbritton, Bill Dean, Mark Ein, Kevin Plank and Michael Saylor and the established types like Jack Evans, Valerie Jarrett, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi and Bob Woodward. While some downtown neighborhoods have gotten new attention, Washington’s oldest neighborhood smoothly retains its premier status. Indeed, with the house tour in mind, the Washington Post ran an article last week that asked: “As Washington development moves east, what does Georgetown represent today?” An alternate headline for the same piece tellingly read: “Georgetown’s quiet boom: As other parts of Washington get the hip restaurants and slick condos, this enclave prospers, too.” Whatever your assessment of the neighborhood, Evans’s stump speech sums it up: “Today is Georgetown’s golden age.” Over the past five years, Georgetown has experienced a youthful kick: its own baby boom. The place is more family-focused, sometimes to the puzzlement of the older crowd that recalls a livelier — perhaps wilder — nightlife along its commercial streets. Meanwhile, younger residents are taking over and renewing many of Georgetown’s organizations and places. The 2014 co-chairs, Colman Riddell, 45, and Barbara Wolf, 50, understand the pull of the house tour, which benefits social programs at St. John’s Church on O Street. “The house tour continues to interest residents as well as visitors because of the unexpected surprises behind every door,” Riddell says. “Whether it’s a secret garden, incredible architecture or design, the houses in Georgetown never disappoint. No matter how long you’ve lived here, there is always a house on the tour you’ve never seen.” Riddell is a chemotherapy nurse turned designer, whose 33rd Street home was on last year’s tour. She lives with her husband, Richard, and her son and daughter in a converted carriage house and stable. The 1,700-square-foot home — with its expanded lighting, neutral colors and artifacts on display — and its designer were featured in the Washington Post last year. Riddell grew up in Georgetown and went to Madeira School and Georgetown School of Nursing. The 34th Street home of her parents, Charles and Betsy Rackley, has been on the tour. As for Wolf, who lives in Falls Church, she and her husband, David, were married at St. John’s Georgetown. She loves her parish and says, “I feel very married to it.” Her two boys were christened there, and her parents are also parishioners. Thanks to the influential and beloved Frida Burling, Wolf — for two decades a chief development officer and chief advocacy officer for several youth-focused nonprofits — got involved with the house tour. “St. John’s is the heart of the community for so many of its residents,” says Wolf. “We like to say, ‘We value open hearts, open minds, open arms, faith, staying rooted and staying current, and discussion that allows for mutual respect.’ The tour speaks to this and to our commitment to Georgetown and all its citizens.” In the same spirit, Georgetowners answer the call to be on the tour. Many helping out with the tour have shown their homes. It is not always an easy decision to invite crowds to march through. Sometimes the houses are newly redone, and others might be about to go on sale. But most on the tour are occupied by longtime residents who are here to stay. Architect Christian Zapatka showed his place two years ago. “The best thing about being on the tour was that it forced me to complete my own house renovation. Which is, of course, agony for an architect,” he says. About 15 years ago, Burling — now chairwoman emerita and 98 years old — gave the tour a heightened energy and status. She started the Patrons’ Party, held at another home a few days before the tour. First up as hosts were such iconic Georgetowners as Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn and Kitty Kelley. The party itself ranks high on the social calendar for what might be called its “house wow” factor. Last year, it was at the P Street home of Tom Anderson and Marc Schapell of Washington Fine Properties. This year’s venue is the Foxhall House on Dumbarton Street, owned by the Powell family. Built by Henry Foxhall in 1819 for his daughter, Mary Ann, who married Samuel McKenney, the Foxhall House (also known as the McKenney House) is now the home of Elizabeth and Jeffrey Powell and their two children. Foxhall was a mayor of Georgetown and munitions manufacturer during the War of 1812. Foxhall Village and Foxhall Road are named for him. The original gardens were designed by Rose Greely, the first woman landscape architect licensed in D.C. Before moving to Dumbarton Street in August, the Powells had lived around the corner. Elizabeth had passed and admired the house for quite a while. In addition to their own, all lovers of Georgetown have a favorite house (or several). Some are well known and others, not at all. For Riddell, one is “a white-painted brick firehouse” on the east side of town on O Street. For Wolf, it is simple: “The rectory at St. John’s. It’s a lovely, large home with a warm front porch and open space on both sides. It has sentimental value for me.” For Yan, her favorite is the Beall-Washington House at 30th and R Streets, once the home of Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham and now owned by Mark and Sally Ein. As a director of business development for TTR Sotheby’s International Realty, Yan attends 80 to 100 events for the company annually through its different offices. She wanted to get the Georgetown office more involved with the house tour, “especially as a number of agents live in Georgetown.” Yan formerly worked with Nancy Taylor Bubes of Washington Fine Properties, who put her 31st Street home on the tour last year. “I learned from her,” Yan says of Bubes. Another good call on favorites comes from Zapatka, who says, “Without a doubt, the finest house in Georgetown is Tudor Place. Its setting and its classically composed garden elevation, complete with temple portico, make it a vision out of the English countryside.” There is one house missing — because you cannot see it. Call it the most famous lost home of Georgetown. It is fitting to recall it this year, the 200th anniversary of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” “When I think about Georgetown homes, the one that comes most readily to mind — and is my favorite — is a house that no longer exists: the Francis Scott Key House that stood at 3516-18 M Street,” says Jerry McCoy, who is special collections librarian at the Georgetown Public Library’s Peabody Room, which acts as Georgetown’s historical archives. “Constructed in 1795 by Thomas Clark and occupied by Francis Scott Key and his family from 1808 to 1828, it was from this address that Key departed for Baltimore and into the pages of American history,” says McCoy. “The desire was there to save the structure, but it failed, and what remained of it was taken down in 1947. Had this home been preserved, visitors from all over the world would have made the pilgrimage to see where the man lived who penned ‘O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.’ " Finally, here’s a little secret about the Georgetown House Tour. It’s not about houses and design but about people: our neighbors past, present and future. Histories of these homes often have surprising connections to people one would never suspect walked the streets where we live. You see, Georgetown is still a village, after all. Now in its 83rd year, the Georgetown House Tour is one of the oldest house tours in the nation. Nine properties will be shown Saturday, April 26. It benefits the social programs of St. John's Church. The tour will run 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. — along with a Parish Tea in Blake Hall at the church on Saturday between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Ticket prices are $50 or $55. The Patrons' Party is on April 23 at the Dumbarton Street home of Jeffrey and Elizabeth Powell. Visit GeorgetownHouseTour.com for details, or call 202-338-2287. [gallery ids="101711,143101,143099" nav="thumbs"]

Christ Church Marks 200 Years

Hundreds of parishioners gathered at the Georgetown landmark for a special service commemorating the laying of the church cornerstone on May 12, 1818.

The Utensils: From Eating to Dining

Early Americans were close to medieval in their dining habits. Even though people have been sharing communal meals with their families and friends from the beginning of civilization, early meals in Colonial America were more a matter of crude survival. Most foods in the colony-building 17th century consisted of one-pot dishes like stews, porridges and puddings, meals that are suited for cooking over an open fire. Tableware and dining utensils were scarce; hence, meals were eaten from shared utensils, bowls and wooden cups, called noggins, passed from mouth to mouth. Although using communal tableware was borne of necessity, it was also customary, as the Puritan ethic espoused frugality and simplicity. It was related that a newcomer to one New England town brought individual trenchers for each member of his family and was admonished by the town magistrates for being too extravagant. A typical family ate off trenchers, a 10- or 12-inch rectangular block of wood about three inches thick with a bowl shape carved into it. After the main course, the trencher was turned over and dessert was served on the clean side. A poor, rural family might eat from a trencher that was actually a table of sorts made from a long block of wood with a “V” shaped trough cut through the center into which the stew was poured and shared by all. Some families dispensed with trenchers altogether, and ate “spoon meat,” roasted meat served on thick slices of bread. Prior to the American Revolution, most Americans ate with spoons made from shell, horn, wood or gourds. Sharp knives, also used as weapons, were initially used less to cut meat, than to anchor it down while people tore off a piece with their hands and shoved it into their mouths. The blunt-tipped knives imported to the colonies were the precursors to the fork and often food was brought to the mouth on the flat edge of the knife. Until the late 18th century, forks were still uncommon in the colonies and deemed a curiosity. Since the new blunt knives made it difficult to spear food, the two-prong fork was used to hold meat while being cut — but still not so helpful for holding bites of food. By the middle of the 18th century, early Americans began to acquire more wealth and mass-produced dining utensils were becoming more available and affordable. A sign of refinement was the appearance of individual place settings. The simple fork significantly refined table manners, as hands were no longer used to reach for food and greasy fingers no longer wiped on the tablecloth. Although forks had been used by the French court as early as the 14th century, they were used only when eating exotic foods or foods that could easily stain the hands. By the 17th century, travelers had spread the word about this eating invention. It became commonplace throughout Europe, but the colonies still refused to use the fork. They looked upon it as an effeminate and useless curiosity. Finally, by the early 19th century, the three- and four-prong forks, developed in England and Germany, were becoming the primary eating utensil in America and marked the real beginning of civilized dining by Americans. Meanwhile, fewer middle and upper class folk ate from a common serving bowl. Pewter plates began replacing wooden trenchers, and many affluent households did not use woodenware at all. However, people living far out in the newer settlements, away from transportation centers used it for about 200 years. China first made an appearance in the early 18th century, but was found only in wealthier households — and it rarely came out of the china closet. By the middle of the 19th century, dining in America was not just about eating. Victorians, with their love of making any simple gathering an event, were the first to identify a specific room for dining. They introduced a bewildering assortment of silver flatware, a far cry from the simple knives of their ancestors. There was a specialized utensil for every conceivable use. There was a spoon for cream soup, a special spoon for clear soup, luncheon knives, dinner knives and coffee spoons, dinner spoons, dessert spoons and so on. There were so many dining accoutrements that it seemed there was scarcely room on the table for the food. Even though the United States was one of the last regions to adopt spoons and forks, we still tuck into great fried chicken using our most efficient eating tools — those located on the ends of our arms. Michelle Galler (antiques.and.whimsies@gmail.com) is an antiques dealer, design consultant and realtor based in Georgetown. Her shop is in Rare Finds, in Washington, Virginia.

Whole Foods Missed, Future Undecided

On Jan. 23, Judge Royce Lamberth dismissed motions by both parties in the dispute between Whole Foods and Wical, landlord of the closed Glover Park store.

The Wharf Is Launched

Developers Monty Hoffman of PN Hoffman and Amer Hammour of Madison Marquette and Council member Charles Allen, among others, had devoted the past 10 years to creating the new Southwest D.C. neighborhood.

Plank House Yours for Under $30 Million

Purchased in 2013 for $7.8 million, the house at 1405 O St. NW, known as "Sagamore South," is on the market at $29.5 million, the highest asking price right now for a D.C. residence.

Isabel Ernst: Developer

Longtime Georgetown resident Isabel Ernst got her start in real estatein 1998. She now lives with her husband, Ricardo, a professor of Business at Georgetown University, and her four children in Georgetown. How did you get your start in development? I got into real estate development when I bought our house in 1998, the historic Hillandale Mansion. It was completely abandoned and was falling apart. It had no electricity or water, and the windows and doors were either missing or destroyed. It had great bones, though. I took it upon myself to bring this beautiful house back to life. I spent two-and-a-half years renovating the mansion. I did all the design myself and learned a lot about space and materials, two very important components for a successful project. After I finished my home in 2000, I realized that development was my passion and started my business. What has been your most memorable project to date? The Clyde building on 10th between M and L St.: It was a leap of faith when I bought it, because it was still a very "transitional neighborhood." The building was condemned, but it also had great bones, so we completely gutted it and transformed it into 14 beautiful apartments. When you're not at work, what can you usually be found doing? I am usually taking care of my family, my husband and my four kids, spending time with my friends, taking care of my house, going to board meetings for the different organizations I am involved in, planning trips or going to art fairs with my parents. Not a lot of down time! What is the hottest neighborhood in Washington right now? D.C. has a lot of great emerging neighborhoods that are blending into each other. We are slowly building a wonderful city with a very international flavor, where people can walk or bike to work, to the theater or to a hot yoga class. As Mayor Gray described it, "D.C. is a world within a city," and I cannot imagine living in a better place anywhere in the world. What is your favorite thing about being a developer? My favorite thing about being a developer is the demolition face when you get down to the bones and then start to rebuild; the smell of fresh paint and a beautiful space surrounded by beautiful materials.