Monday, December 22, 2014

Dupont Circle's Nautical Buildings - Why there is a six foot anchor at Conn Ave & Q Street


The Anchorage at Conn Ave & Q Street, NW

While few pedestrians tend to look skyward during a brisk walk up Connecticut Avenue, those that do at the corner of Q Street are likely to spot a variety of architectural details with a nautical theme on what was originally two apartment buildings, the Anchorage at 1900 Q Street, and the Moorings at 1901 Q Street.  They are the surviving set of what had originally been four apartment buildings at the intersection, owned and managed by a wealthy socialite, Marie Hewitt Williams, the widow of Colonel John R. Williams.

Williams’ daughter, Juliette Leiter, resided in a vast mansion between New Hampshire and 19th Street, facing Dupont Circle, where the Hotel Dupont is located today, and just south of the Anchorage apartment building. She started her foray into providing apartments for single and distinguished residents in 1919 by converting two large mansions on Connecticut Avenue north of Q Street that would eventually become the Galleon and the Caravel. The five-story Galleon on the northeast corner of Connecticut and Q was built in 1899 as a residence and office for Dr. Henry D. Fry. The Caravel was built about the same time to the north.

Williams hired architect Jules H. de Sibour to design the whimsical Anchorage apartment building in 1924, with a six-foot anchor on the fa├žade, nautical sconces and balcony railings, and working fireplaces in each of the 16 units. Three years later, she hired architect Horace Peaslee to design the eight unit Moorings across the street, with rope trim on the ground floor doorways and a lighthouse-shaped cupola atop the roof that remains to this day.

Q Street Facade of the Anchorage
Williams took out a fullpage ad in the 1925 Book of Washington, published by the Washington Board of Trade, that included a description of the building’s operation and a peek into its interior furnishings. It read:

 ‘The “Anchorage,” the “Moorings,” and the “Galleon,” –- three prominent, convenient, and modern apartment houses, whose nomenclature is reminiscent of the sea, but which provide safe, comfortable, and pleasant havens for the transient or permanent dweller, the seafarer or the landsman.

This triad of fine apartment dwellings, in keeping with the dignity and best living conditions of the national Capital, maintains the home atmosphere and efficiency of service so important to the tranquility of the permanent resident and visitor alike. Carrying out the allusion to maritime life found in the names of the three buildings, the walls of the apartments are adorned with pictures of clipper ships. Open fire places in the sitting rooms, where meals may be served from the private kitchen, add a suggestion of cheerfulness and warmth, enhanced by the draperies of quaint chintz.

The ANCHORAGE is divided into apartments of two rooms and bath or three rooms and two baths, charmingly furnished in maple. The MOORINGS is provided with the same unusual furnishings in apartments of two rooms, bath, and galley. A number of them have winding iron art stairways to the bedrooms above. The GALLEON is divided into similar apartments of two and three rooms, bath, and galley. On the first floor of the building, however, is located Rauscher’s famous restaurant, catering to the residents of the three buildings and the surrounding neighborhood. Long and short leases may be arranged in all three buildings. Rentals include complete care of rooms, linens, wood, and valet service.”

The Moorings at 19th and Q Streets
For many years, the Anchorage housed a French restaurant on the ground floor called Pierre’s that delivered meals to residents of all four buildings, including Williams herself. More than three dozen members of Congress called the Anchorage home while in Washington, the most famous of which would be Sam Rayburn of Texas, who lived there from 1936 to his death in 1961. Others included Robert F. Kennedy, Charles A. Lindbergh, and even Tallulah Bankhead.

In 1962, the Williams estate sold all four buildings to Clifford Hynning for $680,000. The Caravel and Galleon were both demolished in 1969 and replaced by a nondescript office building, and the Anchorage and Moorings were converted to office buildings, although much of the original nautical motifs remain
on the interior rooms.

Copyright Paul Kelsey Williams

3 comments:

Peter Kauffmann said...

Hmm... this could go a long way towards explaining the lighthouse-like protrusion on top of 1901 Q Street (which I now know is The Moorings).

I've often seen that thing glowing at night while walking home and wondered if it was somebody's really awesome reading room.

Louis said...

As you noted in your first paragraph, I have lived in DC for well over 20 years, and I never noticed the anchor. Now living in Luxembourg, I have a bit more time to read your articles and learn more about the history of DC. Thanks.

tombarnes said...

I have been trying to figure out what was on the block at 20th and Q Streets behind Riggs Bank before the Q Street North entrance to the Metro is. I have found absolutely no images anywhere which show what was on the block. Nothing. Where can I find something?