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Cleveland Park

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In 1904 a promotional booklet, real estate agents Moore and Hill boasted, “Cleveland Park is unquestionably the handsomest and most desirable suburb of the national Capital.” The area just north of the Washington National Cathedral was a favored locale for summer homes in the nineteenth century. The most famous, Red Tops, President Grover Cleveland's Queen Anne retreat, was demolished in 1927. One major house from this era, Twin Oaks ( NW10), survives at 3225 Woodley Road. It was designed by the Boston architect Francis Richmond Allen in 1888 in a mixture of Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles for Gardiner Green Hubbard; of the original 50 acres of densely wooded hills, 17 acres remain undeveloped as a reminder of the appearance of many of Washington's outlying districts before they underwent suburbanization.

In 1892, the Rock Creek Railway Company began running electric streetcars up Connecticut Avenue. Shortly thereafter the Cleveland Park Company initiated the first phase of the area's development. Beginning in July 1894 the Brookline, Massachusetts, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted was consulted by government officials concerning extension of Washington's streets and avenues beyond the city's original boundaries. Those in the eastern sector of Cleveland Park between 34th Street and Connecticut Avenue adhere to the Olmsteds' principles of conforming to a site's original terrain to minimize costs, prevent erosion, and provide a natural setting for habitations, evidence of that firm's influence on the city engineers.

Between 1895 and 1909 the Cleveland Park Company hired many Washington architects to design numerous sprawling residences in a mixture of Colonial Revival, late Queen Anne, and Arts and Crafts styles. The president of the company, John Sherman, and his wife, Ella Bennett Sherman, a trained artist, also designed many of the houses beginning in 1902. In addition, the company provided a lodge on Connecticut Avenue to serve as a streetcar stop and entrance to the community, a stable for common use, and a chemical fire station, all lost to later commercial development.

Newark, the first street to be developed, retains its original character. Among the more interesting houses are Ella Bennett Sherman's 1905 design for a Shingle style residence at 2930 Newark Street NW ( NW11), where the wide gables of the roof and porch are offset, a simple asymmetrical composition that reinforces the expansive openness implied by the arch sunk deep into the roof gable and the Japanese-inspired construction of the porch brackets. Robert T. Head's 1898 house at 3035 Newark Street NW ( NW12) is a bold mixture of Queen Anne diamond-quarrel windows and half timbering and large, but delicately detailed, Colonial Revival swags that traverse both its wide gable and octagonal tower. Head's best composition is the Queen Anne house at 3149 Newark Street NW ( NW13); the complex geometry of its masses—steep double gables filled with half timbering set into pebble-dashed surfaces—is balanced asymmetrically by a generous wraparound porch, where curved screens of balusters hung between columnar posts echo both the linearity and curved lines of the exposed framing of the gable walls. Frederick B. Pyle's much simpler composition for the house at 3314 Newark Street NW ( NW14) of 1908 recalls the severity and solidity of some Chicago school houses of the 1890s in the rectilinearity of its single mass punctured by symmetrical tripartite windows and its Greek-columned porch treated as a pergola.

Cleveland Park is not without contemporary houses. William Lescaze's 1939–1940 Harold Spivacke House at 3201 Rowland Place NW ( NW15) is in a modified International style, with horizontal strip windows turning corners on both its brick ground story and wood second level and a broad deck on the second story above the main living area. In 1962 I. M. Pei and Associates designed a split-level house for William M. Slayton at 3411 Ordway Street NW ( NW16). A walled courtyard on the street ensures privacy, as both the entrance and garden facades are composed of triple glass-filled arches that replicate the reinforced-concrete barrel-vaulted interiors.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee

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