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The Green Door (Denman-Werlich House)

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Denman-Werlich House
1886, Fuller and Wheeler. 1623 16th St. NW

H. P. Denman's house on 16th Street is the finest surviving example of Richardsonian Romanesque in the city, other than Richardson's own Warder house (see MH22). Albert W. Fuller was the author of five illustrated books of architectural designs in the Queen Anne and Richardsonian styles between 1882 and 1890. Unlike Thomas Franklin Schneider (see MH08), Fuller and Wheeler, who were from Albany, New York, understood and applied Richardson's basic compositional principles, rather than merely copying the superficial motifs—low-springing arches, sculpted foliate decoration—of his style. The Denman house, as published in the June 1886 issue of The American Architect and Building News, was initially planned to be brick on all stories with sandstone trim, its battered base emerging from the ground. As erected, the base and first story were built with rock-faced Long Meadow, Massachusetts, sandstone cut in small pieces and set in random courses. The architects thus responded to Richardson's dictate that buildings should seem to grow out of their sites, demonstrably part of the earth, not appear as objects that sit on the land.

Like Richardson, the architects viewed entry as an event, penetrating the massiveness of the wall through a sequence of spaces. However, they did not here adhere to Richardson's practice of placing his inner door off-axis with the outside wall arch. Their placement and variation of the window sizes, shapes, and compositions is particularly successful. In some areas they created subtle asymmetries and in others, elegant, rationally organized groupings of tripartite windows. Queen Anne details—partial, small-paned colored-glass windows, a corbeled chimney springing from the ground story, and small-scale geometric wood details in the gables and window frames—are well integrated to the balanced asymmetries of the total design. Varied materials, such as the buff-colored sandstone, deep red brick, and wood shingles in the gables, were chosen for their contrasts in color and texture; their use is in harmonious balance.

Although the entrance is on 16th Street, the main rooms face south, beginning with the drawing room expressed on the exterior by the corner tower, the library lit by three windows of the octagonal bay, and a small dining room with a single, wide tripartite window. An extended suite of rooms consisting of a sun room, gallery, and large dining room or perhaps ballroom is lit by a sequence of almost continuous tall rectangular windows. A continuous enfilade runs through these rooms from the front to the back of the building (73 feet), although room divisions are marked by wide openings with doors that slide into the walls.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee
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Citation

Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee, "The Green Door (Denman-Werlich House)", [Washington, District of Columbia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/DC-01-MH09.

Print Source

Buildings of the District of Columbia, Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, 303-304.

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