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Meridian House International (Irwin B. Laughlin House)

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Irwin B. Laughlin House
1920–1929, John Russell Pope. 1630 Crescent Pl. NW
  • Meridian House International (Irwin B. Laughlin House)
  • Meridian House International (Irwin B. Laughlin House)

Of all the French-inspired mansions in Washington, none is more successful than Meridian House. John Russell Pope's rendition of an early eighteenth-century urban villa is not a reinterpretation of any single prototype or group of prototypes. Rather, its architectural excellence results from his absorption of the planning principles, spatial arrangements, surface treatment, and restrained details of the Louis XV style. Set within extensive walled grounds with landscaping specifically planned to complement it, the restrained volumetric cube is broken on the entrance facade by a semi-octagonal bay and on the garden front by a semicircular one. Ostensibly two stories high, Meridian House actually has four floors, including a sunken basement level for services and a servants' floor under the mansard roof set behind the deep balustrade that circumscribes the building. Each side measures 78 feet 6 inches and is five bays wide, with the same plain molded entablature dividing the two main stories used at the cornice line. Bracketed keystones over the windows provide minor three-dimensional accents to otherwise planar walls punctuated by shallow panels and unfluted pilasters at the corners. Fine limestone was used for the walls and sculptural details, as in the leaf enframement of the bull's-eye window over the main door and the garlanded mascaron above it.

Due to the difference in ground levels, the entrance is at the basement level with the rise to the main garden level accomplished immediately upon entering by an elegant double staircase contained within a circular room 12 feet in diameter. On the landing the main axis opens visually to the garden through two sets of floor-to-ceiling glass doors. A long rectangular drawing room (43 feet by 24 feet 10 inches) and a dining room (40 feet by 24 feet 10 inches) parallel the central hall, with access to the garden through French doors at their short ends. Tall casement windows on the sides open onto balconies on both main floors, thus flooding all the rooms with natural light. The interconnection of these public rooms, through a series of axially aligned openings, results in a clarity of plan replicated in the treatment of interior walls. The built-in bookcases in the library situated in the northeast corner are original, a typical French poché effect rarely encountered in American buildings. Like its neighbor ( MH17), the Laughlin house is owned by Meridian House International and open to the public.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee
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Citation

Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee, "Meridian House International (Irwin B. Laughlin House)", [Washington, District of Columbia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/DC-01-MH18.

Print Source

Buildings of the District of Columbia, Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, 309-310.

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