I’ve found that if you remain alert when riding a bike around D.C., you’re almost always guaranteed to happen upon something interesting and out of the ordinary. And on today’s lunchtime bike ride, I chose to ride around with no particular destination in mind hoping to find something new. I wasn’t disappointed. I was riding around the historic Kalorama Heights neighborhood in northwest D.C. when I happened upon an “Art On Call” installation. Art On Call is a city-wide effort, lead by an organization named Cultural Tourism DC, to restore the city’s abandoned roadside police and fire call boxes and turn them into neighborhood artistic icons. (Note: I plan on writing a future blog post on this subject.)
The Art on Call piece I discovered on this ride was about a house known as The Lindens. Located nearby at 2401 Kalorama Road (MAP), the house is also known as the King Hooper House. But it is more than just a house. The elegant Georgian-style house is also the answer to a riddle. So if anyone ever tells you that there is a house in our nation’s capitol that is the oldest house in the city, even though some houses have been in city longer. And then asks you what house it is, you will know the answer is The Lindens. And after reading this post, you’ll know why.
The house known as The Lindens was built in 1754, more than two decades before America declared its independence, making it the oldest house currently in D.C. However, it has not always been here. It was originally built in Danvers, Massachusetts by Robert Hooper, an English Loyalist and wealthy shipping and business tycoon. It was Hooper, whose nickname was King, who hired an architect named Peter Harrison to build him a summer home for property he owned in Danvers. It got its name, The Lindens, as a reference to the linden trees that lined the property’s original driveway. It remained in Massachusetts for nearly 200 years, and had many illustrious owners over those years, including Henry Adams, descendant of President John Adams. As the American Revolution drew near in 1774, the house even temporarily sheltered General Thomas Gage, the Massachusetts colony’s last British governor.
However, it become run down over the years and by the time the Great Depression hit the house was in a sad state of affairs. Then in 1933, it was rescued by Israel Sack, founder of the Sack Gallery based in Boston, and Leon David, a Boston real estate and antiques dealer. At that time Sack used the house for storage and as a showroom. He also brought in a team of architects from the Historic American Buildings Survey in D.C. to make a set of measured drawings and photographs of the house. Those drawings and photographs would soon come in handy.
In 1934, George Maurice Morris, a lawyer who eventually became president of the American Bar Association, and his wife, Miriam, a fertilizer heiress, bought the house for $10,000. They then had it moved to its present location on Kalorama Road. Under the supervision of Walter Mayo Macomber, the architect of reconstructed Colonial Williamsburg, the house was painstakingly taken apart and transported on six railroad cars to its new home. Using the drawings and photographs, it was reassembled beginning in 1935, and took 34 months to complete. The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969. So even though there are numerous homes in the city that predate The Lindens tenure at its current location, the house itself is, nonetheless, the oldest house in D.C.
And if this house sounds interesting to you and you think you might want to own it, you’re in luck. It is currently for sale. The 262-year old, 8,820 square-foot house boasts six bedroom suites, and seven full and two half baths on five separate levels. It also includes banquet and embassy-sized principal rooms, a reception hall, a library, a spa with sauna, a billiard room, a tavern room, and eleven fireplaces. The Colonial-style home has all of this, as well as a patio and three-car garage, all on a majestic half-acre, landscaped and fully fenced-in yard. The Lindens was featured in Architectural Digest in January of 2014. The house most recently sold for $7.165 million in February of 2007 to retired hedge fund manager Kenneth Brody, but is now on the market again and could be yours for a mere 8.75 million dollars. I looked over my budget and worked out the math, and found out that I’d have to sell some of my bikes to be able to afford it. So I decided to pass.