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Embassy of Indonesia (Walsh-McLean House)

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Walsh-McLean House
1902, Henry Andersen. 2020 Massachusetts Ave. NW

Although reputedly commissioned by its original owner, gold miner Thomas F. Walsh, to be Washington's most expensive residence, the $835,000 spent on the fifty-room Walsh-McLean house did not result in a building of outstanding architectural quality. Danish-born and -educated architect Henry Andersen's Neo-Baroque square palace sits uncomfortably on its irregular corner lot. Its two major facades have different entry sequences, with the porte-cochère on 21st Street oriented to vehicular traffic. The Massachusetts Avenue entrance, marked by a wide arch flanked by double Ionic columns in an imported variegated yellow marble and a recessed loggia above, does not adequately express the three-story, galleried central hall. Limestone trim used for all the windows on three stories plus the attic dormers, and for three horizontal bands encircling the building, is not strong enough to subdue the tan Roman brick walls, so that the less expensive material predominates. Andersen provided some imposing curved elements for each facade, but the total effect is bulbous and vulgarly overblown, rather than gracefully curvilinear. Windows too widely spaced and not graduated in size (traditional in palace architecture) contribute to the sense of an incoherent composition. The copper-clad conservatory on the east facade, with its spectacular stained-glass windows, is one of the house's best features.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee
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Citation

Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee, "Embassy of Indonesia (Walsh-McLean House)", [Washington, District of Columbia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/DC-01-DU30.

Print Source

Buildings of the District of Columbia, Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, 328-329.

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