Tricks and Treats of D.C.'s Architecture cont.d

To finish up this week long celebration, here is a short list of other haunted sites that almost didn't make it on the blog....

Have A Safe and Happy Halloween!
Blair House
The ghost of President Woodrow Wilson has occasionally been seen in the bedroom rocking chair.

Catholic University -Caldwell Hall
Mysterious lights and the ghost of a priest who fell to his death, following his discovery of one of the last books on performing exorcism is said to be seen in the attic window.

Ford's Theatre
John Wilkes Booth's footsteps have been heard running up the back staircase towards the presidential box.

Fort McNair - Building 21
John Wilkes Booth (even though already dead) and conspirators were hung in the attic of this building following Lincoln’s assassination. The carpenters who renovated this building reported hearing footsteps in the attic and feeling like someone was always following them. Mary Sarat who was convicted for her part, has been seen wandering the building officers trying to convince guests that she is innocent of the crime.

The Hay - Adams Hotel
This hotel was built in 1927 on the site where the mansion of Presidential Advisor Henry Adams had lived. The wife of the original mansion owner, Marian Hooper Adams, appears to haunt the hotel. At night, the scent of Mimosa is in the air on the eighth floor and the housekeeping closet on the 6th floor will NEVER stay locked after repeated lockings with the key by security. You will also notice that the chandelier of the hotel's lobby constantly sways.

Kendall Green – MSSD
MSSD is located in the back part of the campus of Gallaudet University on a hill facing Rhode Island Ave -- MSSD was founded in 1969 and Gallaudet was founded in 1857. The students at MSSD would feel hoof beats going through the campus, possibly the route taken during the Revolution War going towards Pennsylvania.

Marine Barracks at 8th & I
The lower parking garage is haunted by the spirit of a young child that was killed by a vehicle coming up the ramp. Every now and then marines have seen a red ball rolling down the ramp to the upper parking and heard a child's voice calling to them in the early hours of the morning.

Treasury Annex
A woman has been observed on the second floor of the Treasury annex. Workers have reported footsteps and voices after work hours. A late working worker, reported seeing the woman glide in front of her office. She went to report the incident to her supervisor, he was coming out of his office because he thought someone had peeked in his door; that was followed by the ruffle of a dress, similar to when a person is walking.


Tricks and Treats of D.C.'s Architecture cont.d

National Theatre

On Pennsylvania Avenue, three blocks from The White House, is the National Theatre, "The Theatre of Presidents." Almost every great stage performer of the past century has appeared here.
Almost since it’s construction, the National has been haunted by the friendly ghost of actor John McCullough, supposedly shot and killed by a fellow performer. A rusty pistol, perhaps the murder weapon, was unearthed under the stage in 1982, near where McCullough's remains are rumored to lie.
  • On the opening night of a new show, the silent ghost can be seen in various parts of the theater, making sure that all is in order.
  • Some reports tell of McCullough dressed as Hamlet, or his most famous role, the ill-fated Roman centurion, Virginius.
  • One startled performer, who had known the deceased personally, said he saw McCullough seated calmly in front of the audience.
  • From time to time, doormen and others report their encounters with the ghost in backstage hallways, on staircases, in dressing rooms, and on the empty Washington stage which he performed on.

St. Elizabeth's Hospital

The campus of St. Elizabeth’s sits on bluffs overlooking of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. It opened in 1855 as the Government Hospital for the Insane. During the Civil War it was converted temporarily into a hospital for wounded soldiers. In 1916, its name was officially changed to St. Elizabeth’s, the colonial-era name for the tract of land on which the hospital was built. Built in the Gothic style by Thomas U. Walter, who also designed the Capitol dome, the building itself has long drafty halls within its fortress like appearance. The campus and stories behind it manifest into it being known as a truly haunted asylum.
  • Assassins and would-be assassins were confined at St. Elizabeth's. The man who tried to shoot President Andrew Jackson, the man who did shoot President Theodore Roosevelt and, the man who wounded President Ronald Reagan all ended up there.
  • During renovations records, photos, and medical equipment have been discovered revealing experimentation, torture, and autopsies taking place in spaces that were condemned.
  • There were always stories of staffers hearing noises from parts of the building which had long been since abandoned. Moans and groans, along with footsteps and numerous cold spots forced some to avoid that building at all cost.


Tricks and Treats of D.C.'s Architecture cont.d

The Octagon House Museum

The Octagon House was designed for John Tayloe III by architect William Thornton, the first architect of the United States Capitol. Built between 1799 and 1801, this was the first house to be completed "in the neighborhood" of the White House.
  • One of Tayloe's fifteen children either fell to her death through the center of the grand staircase. Stories include a strange candle-shaped shadow on the staircase and the faint sound of a falling scream.
  • A second daughter, while pregnant, died in the house by throwing herself from the top banister upon finding out her father had done away with her soldier lover, whom he disapproved of. Her ghost is said to roam the halls.
  • Occasionally visitors have claimed to seen John himself walking the halls of the home along with slaves performing their daily routines.
  • A somewhat more pleasant ghost, reported to have been seen dancing and enjoying the lilacs, is assumed to be Dolley Madison who adored her stay in the house.
The Octagon House Museum Web Site

Healy Hall-Georgetown University

Officially, the fifth floor of Healy Hall does not, and never did, exist. The high Victorian design of the building, which was constructed in the late 1870's during the presidency of Patrick Healy, lends itself to speculation about secret sealed-off floors and ghostly inhabitants.
  • One story of how this floor came to be haunted dates back to when Georgetown was a liberal arts college. A young Jesuit student accidentally opened the Gates of the Underworld when reading forbidden chants in a book about exorcism within a secret room in Healey Hall that is now sealed off.
  • A second tale involves another Jesuit, who was crushed to death by the hands of the clock while working in the clock tower and now wanders the floor moaning in pain.
  • Other Georgetown ghost stories tell of trapped spirits in the University's underground tunnel system.


Tricks and Treats of D.C.'s Architecture cont.d

Eisenhower Executive Office Building

Next to the West Wing of the White House know as the Old Executive Office Building before it was renamed in 1999 and rededicated in 2002, is the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. The building design, based on an addition to the Louvre, is in an ornate style that is known today as the French Second Empire Style, built between 1871 - 1888 (17 years total). As one of the most grand buildings in D.C. the Eisenhower Building has witnessed accidental and natural deaths, as well as a few suicides, possibly leaving a number of souls wandering the halls.

  • Staff members working overnight in the building have reported seeing ghosts in the halls, especially in the early morning hours, but never in the offices. Who wants to work in the after life anyway…
  • On the ground floor beneath the northeast monumental stair is the location for two accidental deaths, a White House Historian has said to have witnessed evidence of activities that he can't explain, which has caused many to think that spot is haunted.

Stephen Decatur House Museum

Celebrated Naval hero, Commodore Stephen Decatur, Jr., and his wife, Susan Wheeler moved to Washington, D.C. in 1816 and purchased a plot on Lafayette Square for their new house. Benjamin Henry Latrobe designed their Federal style home to reflect their high class and prominence in social circles. It was the first private residence built on the President's Park, neighboring the White House. The couple moved into their grand house in 1819 and hosted a number of extravagant parties. Soon after, a thirteen year quarrel ensued between Decatur and an old college friend, which finally resulted in a duel where Decatur was fatally wounded and died several hours later at his home.

  • Near by residents have claimed the home is haunted by Stephen Decatur, whose spirit can be seen as a shadowy figure gazing out of the second floor window or stealthily leaving the house from the back door. The numerous sightings have caused the windows to be covered to prevent gawking.
  • There is an unexplained sound of mournful weeping many stories attribute to the ghost of Stephen's widow, Susan, who moved out of the house following the death of her husband.


Tricks and Treats of D.C.'s Architecture cont.d

The National Building Museum

Only a few blocks from Capitol Hill, in Penn Quarter, lays an example of an Italian Renaissance Revival, The National Building Museum. A sought-after spot for gala events, including many Presidential Inaugural Balls, and the site of multiple ghost sightings. Originally the National Pensions Building, it was renamed when converted into a museum in 1980.
  • There have been multiple reports of a soldier on horseback with his sword, identified as civil engineer and Army General Montgomery C. Meigs who designed the building in 1881.
  • Among the tops of the eight 75-foot Corinthian columns, ­ among the tallest interior columns in the world ,­ visitors claim to see swirling unrecognizable faces.

The White House

On October 13, 1792, construction of The White House began of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the late Georgian style. President John Adams and his wife Abigail Adams were the first to live in the Executive Mansion in 1800. In 1814, during James Madison’s presidency, the British burned the building. The building was immediately repaired and repainted and was called The White House from that point on. When Thomas Jefferson moved into the home in 1801, he, with architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe, expanded the building outward, creating two colonnades which were meant to conceal stables and storage.

  • Many presidents have felt a connection to past presidents while living at the White House, especially to President Lincoln. Lincoln's ghost has appeared most often in the area of the Lincoln Bedroom and second floor corridors. There have been reports of a pacing spirit, pensively posed with his hands clasped behind his back. Winston Churchill refused to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom after he witnessed the ghost of Abraham Lincoln walking the room. Footsteps and knocking in the night have been reported by both staff members and visitors. Mary Todd Lincoln, held several séances in the Green Room to try to contact her dead son, Willie. Following the murder of her husband, she sought contact with him and claimed she had succeeded.
  • White House members of staff have seen the spirit of Abigail Adams cleaning her laundry in the East Room.
  • When the wife of President Woodrow Wilson, First Lady Ellen Wilson, wanted to dig up the rose garden the spirit of former First Lady Dolley Madison supposedly told the workmen not to ruin the garden.
  • Some claim to hear Andrew Jackson laughing loudly in his former bed chambers, the Red Room
  • A menacing British soldier has been spotted trying to set a fire with a blazing torch, possibly the same soldier from The Capital building?
  • A version of the story of Washington's Demon Cat, place the phantom cat in the White House basement.

See videos about some of these encounters at the White House Web Site.


Tricks and Treats of D.C.'s Architecture

It doesn’t have to be Halloween to be spooked. Washingtonians have been altering their routes after dark for years due to the haunting characteristics of homes and buildings in the area. In honor of the upcoming holiday we will be posting the a list of DC’s most well-known architectural sites whose style and history have invited legends, ghost stories, and strange visitors….

The #1 tourist destination in Washington DC is the United States Capital. Like many other buildings in Washington, DC the U.S. Capitol is based on ancient Greek and Roman designs reinterpreted into a Neoclassical style. Construction of the Capitol building began after President George Washington and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson chose the winning design of William Thornton in 1792.
  • Legend tells that during the construction of the Capitol building, an irritable carpenter smashed the head of a stones man and buried the body in a wall. The stones man has allegedly been spotted walking the halls.

  • In 1814, the British tried to burn the Capital building down. Damage was sufficient that congress had to relocate to a hotel. One story tells of a British soldier who runs the halls with a torch, evidently he doesn’t know the war is over.

  • In 1890, Congressman William Taulbee was shot by Charles Kincaid, a reporter, on the marble steps of the Capitol building. Taulbee died 11 days after the incident but the bloodstain can still be seen today on the marble steps leading up to the House Press Gallery. When reporters pass that area, they sometimes trip, which is said to be caused by Taulbee enacting his revenge.

  • In the late 1800's General John Alexander chaired meetings in the Military and Militia meeting room of the Senate’s wing. At 12:30 am, everyday, the General is said to appear outside this room looking upset.

  • The cast-iron dome, replacing the original wooden structure, was constructed between 1855 and 1866. The ghost of a worker killed when he fell from the dome has been reported floating around the rotunda carrying a tray of tools.

  • During the Civil War the Capital served as a hospital to treat soldiers. On occasion visitors have claimed to see soldiers dashing through the halls. One story tells of a man who appears and salutes, then vanishes.

  • The Library of Congress once inhabited the rooms to the west of the Rotunda. A male librarian allegedly haunts the area, looking for $6,000 he stashed in the pages of some obscure volumes. (The money was found in 1897 when the collection moved to the Jefferson Building.)

  • The best known legend is of D.C., Demon Cat, who lives in the basement of the U.S. Capitol Building, possibly in the room known as the Crypt. When it appears a national disaster is likely to occur within a short period of time. Some versions of the story, warns that while the Demon Cat may first appear as a helpless looking kitten, it grows in size and becomes threatening as people approach him.

  • When guards walk through Statuary Hall, which used to be the early meeting place of Congress, they claim to be followed by footsteps. Guards have admitted to trying to outrun the footsteps, but are tackled by someone unseen. Some guards say theyt have seen John Quincy Adams leading a session of Congress, circa 1850, who died in that hall.


A remodeling trend that can change the way you live: Master Suites

I get a kick out of being an architect who specializes in remodeling because I like helping people change their lives. Most of our clients, each in his or her way, are seeking to improve life by remodeling their homes. These days many homeowners are changing and improving their lives by creating “master Suites”

The very words convey the importance of the space. The term “master” (a person with power to control) and “suite” (a series of connected rooms used together) connote a series of linked spaces for the exclusive use of the people who hold the power in the space. Who wouldn’t want to hang out in their own private suite?

Your master suite should contain a number of components; think them through and mix them with good design. You will have the ingredients for your master suite: Adequate space, Bedroom (optional sitting area, Private bath (as large as practical), closets (Walk-in preferred), and dressing area.

Reconfiguring to create adequate space
Your home may have sufficient space to create a master suite, but often it’s not immediately apparent. With creative design, it’s possible to reconfigure existing space, for example, taking over one or more closets, redoing a bathroom and, occasionally, incorporating an extra bedroom to form a master suite. If your design professional says that reconfiguring space doesn’t work, you may have to build an addition which could be more expensive than reconfiguring. Consult an architect before deciding which way to go because your neighborhood may have zoning restrictions that preclude an addition.

Planning your bedroom
Your bedroom is a personal space and its design should enhance your life in every way possible. When planning a bedroom think about function, aesthetic and emotional needs. Think of how the space design of the hall outside affects the design of the bedroom. Know the kind of furniture you want to accommodate: queen or king size bed, night stands, dressers or chests. Do you need work space for a hobby or desk? Can you replace some of the furniture with more efficient built-ins? Will you need a sitting area? Do you watch TV or read in bed? Does your home have southern light or a view that can serve as an amenity?

A dedicated bathroom
A dedicated bathroom, that is, one restricted to your personal use, is the most important ingredient for a master suite. A simple bathroom can be achieved in a 5’x 8’ space. If it’s dedicated to the suite, that can be enough. If your home has extra space, you can add the luxuries: separate shower stall, soaking tub, vanity with double sinks, bidet and even a separate compartment for a toilet.
Plan your lighting carefully because it’s essential in a bathroom. You will usually want overhead lighting and also lights that flank the mirror or walls sconces to reduce shadows. Be sure to install a separate light in the shower and another in the toilet area. It’s a good idea to have several light sources at a vanity. You should have natural light from a window or skylight somewhere in the bathroom; and you may prefer natural ventilation even with an exhaust fan.
Your bathroom's budget will be greatly influenced by the finishes you select. Flooring can be hip looking, economical ceramic tile, or you may prefer stone tile or even wood. Counter top materials have equally as great of range.

Closets should be adjacent to the bathroom for easy access. Their proximity will reduce the distance you have to walk and be less disturbing to your significant-others sleep. Walk-in closets are best if space allows room for them and should be at least 6’ wide to accommodate clothes hanging on both sides. If your space won’t accommodate a walk in closet, use long closets with large doors that provide easy access. Double rods and shelves will maximize storage. I recommend using a closet specialist to maximize the space.

Mirrored Dressing area
A dressing area can be small or large, but should be adjacent to the closets. Built in chests are an efficient way to store clothes and often times we design niches for dressers. IF space allows, a small chair or bench is preferred. Plan for mirrors, full length or wall hung in the dressing area.

Setting a realistic budget
If you want a master suite you need to set a realistic budget. Each house and homeowner has different requirements, but a realistic range is $100,000 - $200,000 depending upon what’s to be done. The bathroom will probably be the most expensive piece of you new master suite. But most of the cost of an addition bathroom can be recovered upon the sale of your house.
Most often the people who create a master suite are couples who see it as a way to enhance their home and in turn their relationship. A fast paced work day life brings out a corresponding desire for a private, secluded place after work. A master suite can become such a safe haven. It can be a bit glamorous, a bit sexy and above all restful. These are the essentials.


A Townhouse Update

Not surprisingly a 19th century home often has had numerous kitchen and bath incarnations during its life. It’s not unusual to update a kitchen or bath every 20 years or so. The technology and fashions surrounding kitchens and baths change the quickest. Most homeowners remodel their kitchen or bath because the equipment and materials wear out, or the new modern products are so tempting that they choose to upgrade.

Our example home, a four level townhouse built in the 1890’s, was remodeled in the 1970’s in a way that was, then, considered up to date. Although the 1970’s design was not ideal, the concept was good because the lower two floors were set up as an income rental unit, and the upper two floors were dedicated to the owner’s residence. For 15 years this served well. Fast-forward to 2004, and the desire for a more stylish and modern home sent the homeowner hunting for a design/build team to make a transformation.

Like many townhouses remodeled in the 1970s the living space was compartmentalized. The living room was at the front, kitchen was in the middle, and a dining room at the rear. It was not well suited for entertaining. The small kitchen was placed within a walled off cube (about 11’x 8’) not suitable for entertaining, and required carrying food around to the sole dining area; so small it could only seat six.

On the upper floor, the front space, designed as a bedroom, was used as a home office. A rear master bedroom with insufficient closet space, opened onto a rear roof deck. Wedged in between the front and back bedrooms were a compartmentalized bathroom and several closets all inefficiently arranged and unattractive.

The goal for the overall design was to create a functional and stylishly modern living space for a work-from-home woman. The homeowner was open minded about having a design that was a bit ‘edgy’ as a way to express her desire for a more hip urban look. We also discussed her willingness to explore designs that were open and loft-like.

The living space was gutted and opened up. The old partitions came down. Instead of walls defining space, the new kitchen space is zoned by the placement of cherry cabinets and a lowered ceiling. The new kitchen is larger than the old, and is the visual and working hub of the living space. A new island accommodates the sink, dishwasher, ample cabinets and seating for four, and creates a visual working centerpiece. Honed black granite countertops provide a sculptural statement and pendant lighting highlights the stone. The dining room, no longer limited by walls, ebbs and flows to accommodate entertaining and the new island is often used as a central buffet. Oak floors flow uninterrupted from front to back to unify and visually expand the space. Nifty features like a stainless steel backsplash, frosted glass cabinet doors, and a column painted red give pizzazz to the design.

The upper floor bath and bedroom complex make a strong departure from the 1970’s design, toward a loft-like solution. Again, the entire floor was gutted and reconfigured. The design concept treats the new bathroom as a sculptural element placed within the larger space. Or, as some designers would say, “A room within a room.” The design scheme has two walls forming a point where they meet which is located at the top of the stairs. The pointed wall is further embellished by a vertical glass panel that admits natural light into a circular shower stall. The angled walls visually direct people toward the rear sleeping area or toward the front space used as a home office. The new design flows beautifully while having defined functional spaces for work, sleeping and bathing.

The new bathroom was cleverly laid out with a cylindrical shower stall tiled in a mosaic glass to enhance the sculptural form. Symmetrically opposite the shower stall was placed a large granite vanity flanked by cherry storage cabinets. A large wall mirror, framed in glass mosaic, visually enlarges the space and reflects the unique shower. A unifying feature is the large-scale porcelain floor tile chosen to complement the other finishes and minimize maintenance. For visual privacy a full height sliding barn door was custom detailed to screen the office space on those rare occasions when needed. However, from the master bedroom side it was agreed that no door was required to screen the bathroom.

With the many custom features, beautiful materials, and thoughtful planning the new open and loft-like spaces met the goals for the town home. The homeowner was so thrilled with the result that she hosted a party in her newly remodeled home to thank all involved.


Lorrie Browne, Guest Blogger

Caption: This room by Emily Bishop is featured in the Fall 2008 Washington Design Center Show House.

Today's article is from our first guest blogger, Lorrie Browne, a licensed Interior Designer and founder of MyDesignSecrets.com. Based in South Florida she established Lorrie Browne Interiors, Inc. in 1996 focusing on high-end properties in new construction, major renovations, grand estate homes, and unique studio apartments. In 2008, My Design Secrets was launched as a new outlet Lorrie could help people discover budget friendly design solutions.

Fall is here and now is the perfect time to start thinking about interior and exterior home decorating projects. Whether you are aiming for a landscape that is the epitome of Autumn or looking for some indoor decorating projects as the weather gets nippy, there are plenty of shows and events to get you motivated and inspired. Here are a few ideas I found for the DC Metro area:

The Maryland Home & Garden Show runs from October 17th-19th in Timonium, Maryland. They are featuring guests from HGTV as well as some great seminars on everything from green building to updating your kitchen. Visit the site for complete details and take advantage of the $2 coupon off regular admission price.

Historic Ellicott City, Inc. Presents Homewood Farm - The 24th Annual 2008 Decorator Show House from September 20th through October 19th, 2008. Centrally located in Howard County, just north of Route 108 and the town of Columbia, this classic brick home is an ideal palette for the area’s best designers, who have been inspired to create tableaus rich in ideas for visitors to adapt to their own homes.

The Washington Design Center’s Fall 2008 Design HouseCasa Couture runs from September 26–December 13, 2008
The Fall 2008 Design House, residing within The Washington Design Center, provides lifestyle-conscious consumers an entrée into the world of high-end home décor. The theme, Designers in Vogue, features eight sensational rooms, each inspired by interior design trends from across the globe.

Once you are inspired come visit me at My Design Secrets, the premier Do-It-Yourself interior design Web site, with comprehensive home decorating resources and ideas, expert solutions, and a searchable database of over 500 online retailers.


A "Bold Move" in Kitchen Design

Alice Liao at K+BB magazine posted "Bold Move", an article about one of Wentworth, Inc.'s award winning kitchens. Be sure to check it out as it highlights one of the area's up and coming Interior Designers, Sarah Krautwurst, and the process of over coming limitations to meet a client's vision and needs.