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 (email@example.com) is an antiques dealer, design consultant and realtor based in Georgetown. Her shop is in Rare Finds, in Washington, Virginia.
Lucky the girl who has a best-selling song named after her! In this case, the girl was one of the most talked about people of her era, who remained the talk of this town for over seven decades. “Alice Blue Gown” was written for President Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter, a beautiful young girl who was the American equivalent of a princess and whose style signature was her azure blue gowns. The pretty lyrics suggest a demure young woman, but young Alice was quite the opposite, in fact, a perfect terror. The press followed her around to record her much-publicized escapades. She smoked in public (a no-no at that time), jumped fully-clothed into a swimming pool, wore a boa constrictor around her neck and shot at telegraph poles from a moving train. Word of her adventures got back to her father, the President, who said, “I can run the country, or I can control my daughter. I cannot do both.” Alice’s marriage to the wealthy, handsome congressman from Ohio, Nicholas Longworth III, had a fairy tale quality, at least in the beginning. They had a large imposing townhouse at 2009 Massachusetts Ave. NW, where they threw lavish dinner parties attended by senators, journalists and society ladies. Alice, who was not one to keep her opinions to herself, had devoted friends and fierce enemies, and she is often associated with the saying embroidered on a pillow in her much-visited salon,” If you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me” She and Cissy Patterson, a rival for her husband Nick’s affections, were competing hostesses for the top spot in Washington society. Cissy lived just down the street at 15 Dupont Circle NW, now the Washington Club; her brother owned the New York Daily News, so she often put her cutting remarks about Alice in the newspaper. Alice shot back at every opportunity, and to get even with her husband for his infidelities, caused a major scandal by having a well-known affair with Senator Borah, which earned her the moniker “Aurora Borah Alice.” She could and did verbally slay presidents with one-liners. She said Calvin Coolidge looked like he had been “weaned on a pickle” and dismissed Thomas Dewey as looking like “the little man on the wedding cake,” a comment that many said was so devastating it lost him the presidential election. She told Lyndon Johnson that she wore wide brim hats to his receptions so he couldn’t get close enough to kiss her, and dubbed him “an engaging rogue elephant of a man.” She even took a swipe at her cousin, Franklin Roosevelt, who she described as “two-thirds mush and one-third Eleanor.” Alice lived to the age of 96, much longer than most of her friends and enemies. People who once vied for invitations to her parties stopped coming to visit. Her granddaughter, who lived with her, would get on the phone and call Alice’s old friends to urge them to come by, because “Gammy” was lonely. As Alice got older, her house fell into such a state of disrepair that the few visitors there were had to pick their way through the poison ivy to get into the house. The salon was full of clutter and torn upholstery, and the living room ceiling looked as if it could fall at any minute. Her granddaughter painted the window sills red and decorated the walls haphazardly with poetry. Every inch of Alice’s bedroom was covered with books, newspapers and knick-knacks, so much so that when she returned home one day and the maid announced that the bedroom had been ransacked by a burglar, Alice said, “How can you tell?” Alice reigned as a maven of Washington society through eighteen administrations, from the beautiful, wild young girl in the azure blue gowns to the elegant old lady with a sharp tongue and the signature wide-brimmed hat. While she was still alive, she was referred to as “the other Washington monument” and when she died, “Meet the Press” host Larry Spivak said, “It is extraordinary to become almost mythological in a city of this kind, just by being yourself.” Donna Evers, firstname.lastname@example.org, is the owner and broker of Evers & Co. Real Estate, the largest woman owned and run residential real estate firm in the Washington metro area; the proprietor of Twin Oaks Tavern Winery in Bluemont, Virginia; and a devoted fan of Washington history. [gallery ids="100412,113366" nav="thumbs"]
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"]
SMART TECH AND SOPHISTICATED STYLING CREATE A HOME THAT’S READY FOR ANYTHING There’s more to 1639 35th St. NW than meets the eye. From the...
Once upon a time in America, a boy left Georgia to become a Virginia Military Institute cadet, then a soldier, and later an aluminum siding salesman. He turned to selling real estate in Washington’s booming suburbs in the 1960s and now commands the largest privately owned residential real estate company in the United States. The story of P. Wesley Foster, Jr., is the story of 20th-century American success. Foster is the chairman and CEO of Long & Foster Companies, headquartered in Chantilly, Va. His easy manner tells a tale of an American life we hope can still happen today. Georgetowner editors got a chance to sit down with the real estate legend. As his executive assistant offered us coffee, Foster greeted us in his modest—at least by Donald Trump’s standards—office. The space immediately telegraphs his main loves -- real estate, VMI, America, football, art, his family and especially his wife, Betty. Feeling casual with Foster’s disarming charm, one of us flippantly began, referring to Long & Foster. “I know all about you guys.” Foster shot back, “I doubt it.” No doubt, Foster has built a real estate and financial services empire step-by-step, agent-by-agent and office-by-office for longer than four decades. Who has not seen a Long & Foster sign somewhere during a daily drive? Such effort to build the top independent real estate company in America is not for the faint of heart, short of time or low of aim. These days, however, Foster can take it a little easier: “I get up around 7 a.m. and read the paper,” he said. He doesn’t arrive at the office until just before 9 a.m. Foster and his wife—a sculptor who taught at the Corcoran and was on its board—moved to a townhouse in Old Town, Alexandria, after spending 32 years in their McLean, Va., home with almost four acres. “I go for a walk with my wife when the weather is good in the afternoons,” he continued. “So, I leave the office around 3:30 or 4 p.m. … I’ll be 80 in November. I don’t work as hard as I used to.” Fair enough. He deserves that, although he still visits the branch offices and sales meetings as often as he can. In Foster’s early years, the opposite surely was the case. His long hours involved a six-day work week. It’s this sort of discipline that Foster needed to build his company, but he has had some vices along the way. The first of which has been a sweet tooth. He manages his love for chocolate, and even turned to candy while he quit smoking when he was 30. “I was dating my wife and carried around a little bag of chewing gum and lifesavers,” he said. As to the impact of the recent economic recession on the housing industry, Foster is clear. “We went through about five years of challenges in the market. Our production went down from 2005 to – I don’t know where the low point was, 2008 or 2009 . . . and now we are fortunate to see growth once again. As tough as it was to do, we continued investing in our company and our people. That’s what makes us so optimistic going forward.” Not that Long & Foster itself was immune from such miscalculations. Its huge Chantilly headquarters building is an unexpectedly imposing Williamsburg-style building that has a similarly styled garage with more than 1,000 parking spaces, which Foster has dubbed “the best-looking parking garage in Washington.” He is pleased that the company has just negotiated a lease for 50,000 square feet and looks forward to welcoming new tenants to the building. “It’s a beautiful building and we are quite proud of it,” he said. “I think our headquarters represents the stability and confidence of our company and our agents.” Still, the economy appears in recovery—with the stock market hitting an all-time high and unemployment numbers lowering March 8—but Foster remains cautious: “I’m not sure that it’s going to be that great [a recovery] because the Federal government has to get its house in order. The good news is that our company is well positioned to succeed in any scenario. I learned early on that if we lead our team to focus on the basics – really taking great care of every single client, one transaction at a time – then together as a team, we can weather any kind of market and emerge even stronger.” Regarding the economy, Foster added: “We still have some work to do.” And as far as a true recovery in real estate? “We are working our way through and are beginning to see a real shift in the market.” For Foster, such an approach illuminates his life. At VMI, he was on the football team. “My playing wasn’t that great,” he said. “But I played, played all four years. I was a slow, small guard.” Working his way through, even then. Foster has never truly left his beloved VMI. “I’m on the board there,” he said. “I go down there three or four times a year …” In 2006, VMI’s football stadium complex was dedicated as the P. Wesley Foster, Jr., Stadium. So, what brought Foster to Washington, D.C., and specifically, its suburbs? “When I graduated from VMI, I took a job,” Foster said. “I didn’t go directly into the military. You could take a year off and work in those days. So, I delayed my military duty for one year, and worked for Kaiser Aluminum. They put me in the Chicago office. When I got there I hated it. I mean, it was a place a little southern boy didn’t want to go to. But, by the time I left the next spring, I nearly left with tears in my eyes. I had a great time.” Foster served his military duty as many young American men do and served for two years in West Germany. He was in the 8th Infantry Division—“Pathfinder”—and served as a special weapons liaison officer to the German III Corps. (Begun in World War I, this army division was inactivated in 1992.) When his time was up, Foster said he toured Europe, thus igniting his love of travel. “They’d let you get out of the army over there and for up to a year, they would send your car and you home for free,” Foster recalled with a smile. “You could get out and travel if you wanted to. . . . Well, I got out, and a buddy and I … drove my Volkswagen to Moscow. The United States had an American exhibition that year and [Vice President Richard] Nixon was over there speaking. Got tears in my eyes watching him speak.” (This was the famous “kitchen debate” between Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in July 1959.) Soon enough, our American GI returned home, with no money to his name. Foster got his old job back at Kaiser Aluminum and sold aluminum building products to homebuilders in 15 cities across the United States. Foster ran the program for a year. “Boy, did I get tired of that. I’d get up in the morning and have to think for a while about which city I was in that day.” Nevertheless, one thing does lead to another. “All the guys I had been working with at Kaiser Aluminum got interested in the real estate business because we were working with builders, and I thought I’d become a builder,” he said. This English major seemed still to be undecided on his career path. “I thought about law school,” Foster said. “My two brothers were lawyers, and had I never made it in real estate. . . . I would have probably gone onto law school and become a mediocre lawyer.” So, why think that way and why the success in real estate? We asked. “The guys that really tear it up are very bright. … I think I have a knack for this [real estate] business and see things that other people don’t see. In college, I graduated in the middle of my class. I may not have graduated at the top of my class, but I think I was the most persistent and worked the hardest – that’s what, after all of these years, has driven the growth and success of Long & Foster.” Foster admitted that he sees “opportunities that other people don’t pick up,” and said a large part of his success was due to the “companies we acquire, and the people we hire and team up with. We choose to associate with people that share our values – teamwork, integrity and a drive for results. A team like this can be magical.” Before that powerful recognition was a beginning: “I happened to meet a young fellow by the name of Minchew, who was also from Georgia and was a good builder here in Northern Virginia,” Foster recalled. “I went to work for him selling his homes. Worked for him for three years.” Foster lived in Annandale, “sold a lot of new houses . . . and met my wife here,” he said. “I had a roommate at VMI who was a Navy SEAL doctor and had come to Washington to do his deep sea diving training, if you can believe it, at Andrews Air Force Base,” Foster said. “He went skiing one weekend and rode up the ski lift with a pretty girl who became my wife. He introduced me to her and said, ‘Man, I’m leaving town, call her.’ ” From Connecticut, Foster’s future wife moved to Virginia to be near her brother, an Episcopal priest. “We raised our family right here in Virginia,” Foster said. He is a father to three, and now a grandfather to six, ranging in age from teenagers to a four-year-old, all boys, and all of whom he takes delight, especially the youngest. Today, of course, some of the family is involved in the business: son Paul Foster looks after offices in Montgomery County and D.C.; son-in-law Terry Spahr runs the New Jersey and Delaware offices; and nephew Boomer (Larry) Foster oversees offices in Northern Virginia and West Virginia. “Even as a large company, it’s important that we remain a family company. That way, our commitment to our agents and their success is unwavering,” Foster said. Before all these company positions were possible, Foster had to meet Long. While working in Annandale on a new development, called “Camelot,” a name which Foster still dislikes to this day, he met Henry Long, an Air Force bomber pilot. The two worked together in a firm and then decided to start their own. And what of those good-looking homes in “Camelot”? They sold very well despite that name. “We both went to military schools,” he said of Long. “He went to VPI [Virginia Tech]. I’d gone to VMI. He had flown B-47s. I shot rockets. He was commercial, and I was residential. We’d start a company, and we flipped a coin. He won and got his name first. I got to be president. We took off. We were partners for 11 years until 1979. Merrill Lynch came along and wanted to buy us, and he wanted to sell and basically do what he was doing and that was being a developer. So, I bought him out of the company.” Foster has been asked the question again and again. We asked again, too, if he would sell the company. He folded his arms, leaned back and said: “I don’t want to sell . . . We have brought together some of the best business minds from inside and outside real estate to take our firm to the next level, and that gives us a solid succession plan as a family-owned company. Not many firms like ours can say that.” “Family members play an instrumental role in the company,” Foster said. “I’ll be a large part of this as long as I can, but my three children own practically all of the company now. So, that’s all set. They will keep the family company spirit and leverage our management team to make sure we are on the right path.” Things may be set internally, but elsewhere, competition remains for Long & Foster. In one of the nation’s hottest residential markets, that’s a given. “Good competitors drive us to better ourselves every single day,” Foster said. “It’s a great incentive to stay on top of your game and advance your business.” “For example, luxury real estate, particularly in the D.C. area, is huge. Everyone out there today is vying for luxury business – and while we do sell more million-dollar-plus homes than anyone, our competitors keep us on our toes. That’s why we leverage our affiliation with Christie’s International Real Estate for our agents and their clients. The Christie’s brand really matters – it’s immediately recognizable as ‘high end,’ and it gets us in front of the most exclusive buyers and sellers from around the globe. Only our agents can market with the Christie’s brand.” Indeed, the biggest D.C. sale in 2011—the Evermay estate in Georgetown – was sold by Long & Foster. How do you deal with all the egos? We asked. “The best you can,” Foster wryly replied. “We give them all of the tools and the backing of a great brand – and they do what they do best – work with buyers and sellers.” “I will tell you this,” he said. “What we look for, especially in managers, is good empathy and a drive for results. When we achieve this, it is a winning combination for our company, and most importantly, for our agents and their clients. That is the key.” From start to finish, Foster can easily detect that. “I grew up fairly poor and went to college on a scholarship, and my brothers also went to college on scholarships,” he said. “We’ve had a fair amount of drive. Two were lawyers and one is a developer now in Atlanta. I am truly humbled by the success of the company and my team. It is an honor that so many clients put their trust in Long & Foster and our team of agents.” At a Glance: Long & Foster is the largest independent residential real estate company in the United States. Long & Foster represents more than 10,000 agents at approximately 170 offices across seven Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states, plus the District of Columbia. For 2012, Long & Foster’s sales volume exceeded $24.8 billion and with more than 74,000 transactions; this is up from $22 billion and 69,000 transactions in 2011. 2012 marked a year of significant growth for Long & Foster, seeing an increase in volume of 14 percent and a 9-percent increase in unit sales. While Long & Foster was founded as a real estate company, today its family of companies offers everything customers need as it relates to buying selling, or owning real estate – including mortgage, insurance, settlement, property management and corporate relocation services. Long & Foster Companies’ combined sales volume and equivalents for 2012 were $48.7 billion, a $6-billion increase from 2011 figures. [gallery ids="101194,143745,143730,143740,143737" nav="thumbs"]
The 12,000-square-foot mansion at 1405 34th St. NW owned by the billionaire Under Armour founder went for $17.25 million, $7.25 million under last fall's listing price.
It’s not very often that one gets a chance to buy a genuine, big piece of Georgetown history — and a fraternity house, no...
You make the client’s dream come true,” says architect Errol Adels, whose professional life has ranged from Washington, D.C., to Muscat, Oman — and places in between, such as Dubai, Athens and London. As far as being an architect, he says, “Occasionally, you’re like the family doctor.” For someone who has worked half a world away part of his life, Adels is known around town for his work at Watergate apartments, and his firm’s designs for the Finnish and other embassies along Massachusetts Avenue and his modernist home on Cathedral Avenue, which he designed and lived in for a time. “I worked on all kinds of projects over my career,” says Adels, who first arrived in D.C. in 1968, after studying at the University of Pennsylvania and University of Florida, and briefly stayed at the Georgetown Inn. He now lives in Upperville, Va., at Lavender Hill, which he designed for himself and his fam- ily. One of his most prominent designs around Middleburg includes Foxlease Farm. Influenced by Le Corbusier along with “the shining white of the Aegean” and the south of France, Adels reflects his own joie de vivre, geniality and depth of design wisdom. “It’s been beneficial to re-invent one’s aesthetics,” he says of his worldly flexibility. After a teaching fellowship at Manchester University in England and a stint as visiting critic in design at several other British schools of architecture, Adels began working with archi- tect Angelos Demetriou in the 1970s. They later co-founded Architects International, a firm with worldwide projects, in the 1980s. During his early career, Adels worked on projects for the Georgetown waterfront and the West End. He recalls attending Georgetown community meetings where there was minor, but vocal, opposition to new development and the future subway, known today as Metrorail. For the young Adels, Georgetown “was a hoot.” One evening, a group of young friends, along with doyenne Kay Halle, wanted to get seated at Rive Gauche, a restaurant at Wisconsin and M, but were being shoed away until the maitre d’ saw that Secretary of State Dean Rusk was part of the gang. “In the old days, everyone knew each other,” says Adels, who worked with Sam Pardoe on the design of his house at 28th and Q Streets. Georgetown “was not such an entertainment center then” — even if he did design Pisces, the private club run by Wyatt Dickerson. The town is “different not lesser,” Adels says. “But, oh, to meet Elizabeth Taylor at Clyde’s . . .” Soon, however, Adels found himself in another world: “a very foreign place at the end of the Arabian Peninsula.” There, in 1983, he met the Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Said Al Said. Adels recounts: “The sultan said some- thing indelible: ‘Will you help me build this country?’” The architectural firm’s workload exploded as parts of Oman went from nothing to the best of everything. Adels considers the sultan an “enlightened ruler,” who “balanced the life of the Middle East with the need to have good will of the West.” His firm designed the capitol build- ing at Muscat, the state palace and the summer palace at Salalah, the sultan’s hometown. Over a period of some 13 years, the firm left behind more than $600 Million in completed works. Adels says he has designed at least 10 mosques — perhaps more than any other archi- tect. He got so good at it that an old villager simply asked him one day to build a mosque in Dhofar, Oman. “He insisted that I should do because I can . . . just make it happen,” Adels recalls. “So, we got land from the state and some extra building materials.” The firm also designed the Dubai Dhow Wharfage, a large anchorage and parks complex along Dubai Creek. “We helped to set a frame- work for a new Dubai,” Adels says. Closer to home, the white buildings of Adels still reflect the eclectic tastes of their designer. At 2130 Cathedral Ave., NW, a striking house stands out across from Rock Creek Park. The architect lived there during part of the ‘80s and ‘90s; it is again on the market for close to $1.8 million. Above Chain Bridge in Arlington sits Potomac Cliffs, four attached townhouses, his firm designed and built in 1983. One personal project by Adels is his beloved Lavender Hill in Upperville, Va. Built in 1998, it calls to mind the architectural notions of Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson as well as Italy’s Palladio. Its grounds evoke Provence, although only a small number of the original 1,400 lav- ender plantings remain. The two-story, stucco home has a central pavilion connected to two end pavilions. With its gardens and swimming pool, the place is in perfect harmony with the earth and was the venue for a Georgetowner cover photo shoot during the summer. Nevertheless, Adels has now put the five-acre property on the market for $2,750,000. The architect is also proud of his designs for Foxlease Farm, also in Upperville and the former estate of John Archbold, a Standard Oil co-founder. The farm includes a residence, stable and polo grounds for the Steiner family. “I can’t think of anything further from a mosque than a hunt country house,” Adels told Virginia Living a few years ago. “But if you’re good, and the cli- ent is good, the building will emerge.” Another place proves that sentiment: the Watergate penthouse of Leslie Westreich, a good friend of Adels. At Watergate South, he rehabbed and designed the onetime apartment of former Sen. John Warner, R-Va., opening it up to a spec- tacular vista of the Potomac, from the Kennedy Center up past Georgetown. Westreich’s art and antique collection is displayed seamlessly along- side unique furniture, including chairs from the S.S. Normandie. “Houses are wonderful, but it’s time to move on,” says the 70-year-old Adels, who remains busy designing both buildings and interiors for a noteworthy clientele. He and his family are also patrons of the National Gallery of Art. “More than any other Washington institution, the gallery has given us great pleasure for more than 40 years,” he says. “It is nice to be able to give back. Alas, Lavender Hill will go to a new generation.” [gallery ids="101062,137086,137080,137096,137074,137101,137068,137106,137062,137110,137092" nav="thumbs"]
The country’s oldest house tour, often called “the glue that holds Georgetown together,” comes again this Saturday, April 27. This year, longtime supporters and Georgetown residents Tom Anderson and Marc Schappell open their historically preserved home, five years in the making, for this year’s Patrons’ Party. The Georgetown House Tour is a celebration of what makes our neighborhood great. This Saturday’s annual tour will provide the best opportunity to experience what Georgetown is all about. This year, ten Georgetown homes will be open to the public to view their interiors as a benefit for St. John’s Church’s outreach programs. The homes range from contemporary to traditional, but all are beautiful examples of what is here. The preservation of these historic Washington homes is one of the things this community safeguards. An example of the importance of this devotion is the home of the hosts of this year’s Patron’s Party, Tom Anderson and Marc Schappell. Anderson and Schappell have had a love affair with Georgetown for the better part of their adult lives. After his undergraduate studies, Schappell moved to Georgetown to attend George Washington University and completed his Ph.D. Anderson was drawn initially to Georgetown to help his friend Sam Pardoe start a real estate company in Georgetown, but instead opted to move to New York City to become part of the founding group of Sotheby’s International Realty, when it was under the ownership of the art auction house bearing its name. Both flipped back and forth between New York City and Washington and Georgetown several times over the next decade for various positions: Anderson with Sotheby’s; Schappell in various general management consulting roles, before settling into New York City for almost 25 years. Anderson became the executive vice president for Sotheby’s International Realty, while Schappell became co-head of the United States, and Managing Partner of New York for Egon Zehnder International, one of the “big 5” executive search firms globally. Then, back to Georgetown they came again: Anderson in 2005 and Schappell in 2007 to join a firm they had helped found in 1999, Washington Fine Properties, one of the premier residential real estate firms in and around D.C. “Coming back to Washington in 2005 was in many ways like coming full circle,” Anderson said. “I had always loved living in Washington, and we had so many great friends here.” Schappell agreed: “We had incredibly fond memories of having lived here before. So, we were really excited about it.” In moving back, their first house they bought sight unseen -- thanks to their partners at WFP Dana Landry and Bill Moody. That home hardly had its paint dry before their current home came on the market, which they bought immediately. “It was one of three homes in Washington that I had admired most since my graduate school days, never dreaming that I might live in it one day,” Schappell said. “It just spoke to both of us,” Anderson said. Then came the restoration, all five years of it. “Talk about the wonderful community of neighbors that Georgetown is all about,” Anderson said. “We really put it to the test.” “It’s a true Federal,” said Schappell, who still manages to sit on the Board of the New York Landmarks Conservancy in New York. “What was so special to us was that the house still had so many of its original features, such as its staircase, its windows and its moldings.” According to the Peabody Room at the Georgetown Public Library, 3142 P Street, built between 1790 and 1800, was known as the Bodisco House in 1927. Russian ambassador Alexander de Bodisco married Harriet Williams, who was given away by Henry Clay. According to the article, “the marriage lifted the girl from obscurity to the highest round of the social ladder and the vast wealth of her husband adorned her with flashing jewels that became known the world over.” The article continues, “the most superb fete ever given in the District, according to some historians, was given in this house in honor of the birthday of the Emperor Nicholas, when 800 guests were invited.” Before the Civil War, 3142 P Street was the home of the Rev. Mr. Simpson, and later it became the residence of William H. Tenney, who owned a mill in Georgetown. There is, of course, another Bodisco House -- perhaps more well known -- at 3322 O St., NW, the home of Secretary of State John Kerry and Teresa Heinz. Today, Anderson and Schappell’s home has a lot of features that its predecessors did not enjoy, but they are proud of the fact that they were able to preserve so much of the original fabric of the house. “We had a great contractor, Danny Ngo, who, by the way, was the contractor for another home on the tour this year, 3245 N Street,” Anderson said -- to which Schappell added, “And a great decorator, Susan Beimler, who helped us tremendously with color and textiles.” Of the P Street house, Beimler said, “Their home has great bones, and I wanted to make sure we built on the wonderful foundation that was already in place. Tom and Marc are avid collectors of American and English antiques. So, it was a very easy collaboration for me.” “We couldn’t have done it without her,” Anderson said. Anderson called the house’s restoration and preservation “a great journey.” “At times, like when we were digging out the basement which didn’t exist beforehand, we wondered if we were ever going to see the end,” Schappell said. “But then we’ve put ourselves through this drill more than once.” Anderson and Schappell also have a historic home in Southampton, N.Y. -- where they are hosting the Southampton Historic House Tour’s Patron’s Party next week -- as well as in Palm Beach, Fla. The big secret is actually their cattle operation -- “Think Belted Galloway cattle that look like Oreo cookies,” Schappell said -- and sheep dairy in upstate New York (Meadowood Farms), where they make an artisanal sheep cheese which can be bought at Cowgirl Creamery here in D.C. “We are very, very pleased to open up our doors, contributing to the spirit of the community,” Anderson said. At 3142 P Street, an old wisteria vine climbs the “front” of the house. Like many Georgetown homes, the side of the house facing P Street is actually the back of the house, the front of the house facing what was the Port of Georgetown, now with a view of Rosslyn, Va., and the Georgetown Inn. “The Georgetown House Tour speaks to the best of what Georgetown is all about, which is its architecture and the vibrant neighborhood that it is,” Schappell said. [gallery ids="101258,147651,147642,147648" nav="thumbs"]
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"]