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Inter-American Defense Board

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1905–1906, George Oakley Totten, Jr. 2600 16th St. NW
  • Inter-American Defense Board

Known locally as the Pink Palace because of its original color, this building was the first speculative mansion undertaken on Meridian Hill by Mrs. John B. Henderson and her architect, George Oakley Totten. The building has had many residents and undergone numerous changes, including a two-story ballroom addition on the north by Totten in 1912. Under Mrs. Marshall Field's ownership (1920–1937), interior and exterior renovations were undertaken, the most notable being the closing of the two open loggias on the Euclid Street facade. In 1984 eight of nine original balconies were removed, and an office addition was attached to the west wall. The building was painted a cream color at that time but has recently been painted white.

The building's orientation with the entry on the short side facing 16th Street and the greater architectural development on the long Euclid Street facade was probably due to a combination of factors: a southern exposure and its view of the city when it stood in splendid isolation on top of Meridian Hill. In form and details the Pink Palace is a composite of Venetian Renaissance elements, notably the rectangular mass with hip roof and strong horizontal divisions between floors accomplished by projecting moldings, grouped windows, inset loggias, spiral colonnettes (including one inset into the corners), and variegated marble columns. Its most striking features are the Venetian Gothic trefoil arches on second-and third-story windows supplemented by additional medieval decorative details. The smooth, ground-floor walls are polished Beaver Dam marble, while the three upper stories are brick covered with marbleized plaster, since painted white. The surviving balcony over the main entrance is of terracotta-encased concrete, including the lion's-head consoles supporting it. Most of the ornament is molded terracotta. Unfortunately, the pink variegated marble columns have been painted.

Like its immediate successor, the French Embassy (see MH16), the Pink Palace is a rationally composed and proportionally balanced design in which the correct use of a historical vocabulary has been reinterpreted in modern materials and building methods. It has long been beloved in Washington because it is an architecturally pleasing and believable fantasy.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee
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Citation

Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee, "Inter-American Defense Board", [Washington, District of Columbia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/DC-01-MH20.

Print Source

Buildings of the District of Columbia, Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, 310-311.

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