Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Newsworthy House History in Woodley Park: Literally.

What are the chances of have four nationally known journalists own the same house at some point in their careers?  Rare, indeed - but one house in the Woodley Park neighborhood has that unique distinction.  We supplied the scoop to Urban Turf DC, who recently revealed their identity on the Urban Turf Blog.  Past owners of 3124 Woodley Road, NW have included NY Times writer James Reston, Tom Brokaw, Charlie Rose, and Tim Russert.   

For those of you that want the complete story, details from the house history we wrote for the late Tim Russert are below.  He gave the "house history" to his wife, columnist Maureen Orth as a birthday gift several years ago.  Let's hope whoever owns the house today is a news fan!     
Owner George Henry Dawson applied for and was granted an Application for Permit to Build #254 for the construction of 3124 Woodley Road, N.W., on July 12, 1915.  The permit was for a single family dwelling to be constructed of brick and stone.  Dawson had paid a filing fee of $7.75 at the time of the application.  His wife, Josephine Dawson, had purchased lot #16 four years earlier, in May of 1911.

According to inspector notes, construction began on 3124 Woodley Road on July 20, 1915, and was completed by November 23 of that same year.  The house had been designed by the architectural firm of MacNeil and MacNeil, based in New York City.  Robert L. Macneil (left) was a partner with his brother in the firm, and was born on December 10, 1889 in Norfolk, Virginia to a father who he later recalled was a painter from Canada.  He attended secondary school at Chifflet’s Atelier Préparatoire in Paris, France, where he went on to learn the trade of architecture. 

Owners James B. and Sally Reston

             Ellen Littlepage Hart only owned 3124 Woodley Road for six weeks, as she sold it to James B. Reston on April 19, 1951.  They would be the sixth owners of the property since its construction in 1915, and would continue to reside there until 1975.  At the time, Reston was diplomatic correspondent and columnist for the New York Times Washington Office.   

            Just one year after purchasing 3124 Woodley Road, in 1952, James Barrett Reston (right) would make world headlines when questions he had submitted to Russian Premier Joseph Stalin were answered via Russian Ambassador Georgi N. Z. Zarubin.  His picture accompanied a notice in the New York Times, illustrated at left, appeared above a caption that indicated the questions revealed that Stalin was favoring meeting with U.S. President elect Eisenhower and trying a new approach toward ending the Korean War. 

            James B. Reston was born in Clydebank, Scotland, on November 3, 1909.  He came to the United States in 1920, and became a naturalized citizen in 1927.  He received his B.A. in 1932 from the University of Illinois.  Shortly thereafter, he married Sarah “Sally” Jane Fulton, a journalist, on December 24, 1935.

            His distinguished career at the New York Times began in 1934 as a sports writer in the New York office, a position he held until 1937, when he reported sports from London, England for the following two years.  From 1939 to 1945, he reported news from the London office, before accepting a position as diplomatic correspondent in the Washington, D.C. office.  Shortly thereafter, in 1953, Reston became the Washington Bureau Chief, a position he held until 1964. 

            Reston became the associate editor in Washington for four years, between 1964 and 1968, and executive editor in New York City, for 1968 and 1969.  He returned to Washington later that year to become vice president until 1973, when he became a director of the company.  In 1971, he was one of the first American reporters allowed into China, and was subsequently remembered because of his attack of appendicitis required him to report from his hospital bed at the Anti-Imperialist Hospital in Peking. 

            His obituary in the December 7, 1995 edition of the New York Times makes reference to this point in his career, and his residence in Washington by stating “During these years the Reston’s lived in a pleasant red brick house on Woodley Road in leafy northwest Washington and spent weekends at their log cabin in Fiery Run, Va.”    

            His obituary in the New York Times December 7, 1995 edition also offers some insight on the journalist himself, and reads:

“Writing his column three times a week, Mr. Reston was a procrastinator, often filing right on deadline, to the dismay of nighttime editors at The Times.  A two-finger typist, he regularly wore out typewriters because he banged so hard on the keys, and his desk was a litter of papers, many which bore tiny black marks where a stream of smoldering matches had landed in the course of a never-ending pipe-lighting ritual.” 

            Among his numerous awards, Reston earned the Pulitzer Prize in 1945 and again in 1957, both for national reporting.  His first Pulitzer was in recognition of his reporting on the Dumbarton Oaks Conference in Washington in 1944, which laid the groundwork for the United Nations.  He authored four books during his career; Prelude to Victory, 1942, Sketches in the Sand, 1967, Artillery of the Press, in 1967, and an autobiography entitled Deadline, in 1991.            

            Sally and James Reston had three children; Richard, James, Jr., and Thomas. 
James B. Reston retired from The New York Times in 1989, and died in December of 1995 at the age of 86.         

 Thomas J. “Tom” and Meredith Brokaw

James B. and Sally Reston sold 3124 Woodley Road to news anchor Tom Brokaw and his wife Meredith on November 28, 1975, for the consideration of $150,ooo.  They resided at the address from the time of purchase until some time late in 1976, when they moved to New York City. 

            Brokaw was born in Webster, South Dakota, on February 6, 1940.  Later, in 1962, he married the former Meredith Lynn Auld, on August 17, 1962.  Tom Brokaw began his journalism career following graduation from the University of South Dakota in 1962 at KMTV, Omaha, Nebraska.  By 1965, he became the late night news anchor on WSB-TV in Atlanta.  Currently the anchor and managing editor of “NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw” he began his career at NBC in 1966, where he reported from KNBC in Los Angeles until 1973.  He has anchored the NBC Nightly News since 1983.

            Like several owners before them, the Brokaw’s continued to own 3124 Woodley Road and rent it to several tenants throughout their ownership from 1975 to 1985.  The Haines City Directory lists Frank B. Moore as an occupant in 1980.  From 1981 to 1983, the house was occupied by Richard Rymland, Billy Amy Sind and Catherine Wyler. 

            In 1983, the Brokaw’s rented the house to M. Buie and Marjorie Seawell.  He had been born on July 8, 1937 in Lumberton, North Carolina, and had obtained degrees from Davidson College in 1959, Union Seminary in 1961, and Denver University in 1975.  At certain points in his career, Seawell served as chief legal aid to Governor Dick Lamm, and served as Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator Gary Hart.

 Owner Charles “Charlie” Rose

            The Brokaw’s sold 3124 Woodley Road to Charlie Rose on January 31, 1984.  The former CBS News anchor is currently anchor and executive editor of Charlie Rose, a nightly interview program which airs on 222 PBS affiliates nationwide.  It made its nationwide debut on January 4, 1993.

            Rose graduated from Duke University with an A.B. in history and a J.D. from the School of Law.  He was born in Henderson, North Carolina on January 5, 1942.  Rose entered television journalism full-time in 1974, as managing editor of the PBS series “Bill Moyers' International Report.”   The following year, Rose became executive producer for the PBS conversation and documentary series “Bill Moyers' Journal.”  In 1976, Rose was named correspondent of the new PBS series “USA: People and Politics,” a weekly political magazine.

            Later in 1976, Rose moved to NBC as a correspondent, based in Washington D.C. From then until 1981, Rose hosted a number of interview programs, including a co-host position with AM/Chicago on WLS-TV, and host of “The Charlie Rose Show” at KXAS-TV in Dallas/Ft. Worth.  In 1981, Rose moved "The Charlie Rose Show" to Washington, D.C., where he also anchored a weekly interview show for WRC-TV. 

            During his ownership of 3124 Woodley Road, Rose anchored CBS's “Nightwatch,” the network's late-night interview series, from 1984 to 1990.  He sold 3124 Woodley Road in 1993, and divides his time between his home in New York and his farm near Oxford, North Carolina. 
Owners Tim Russert and Maureen Orth

            Tim Russert and Maureen Orth purchased 3124 Woodley Road from Charlie Rose on September 9, 1993, and continue to own it today.  Together, they are the ninth owners of the home first constructed in 1915 by George H. Dawson.  

            Tim Russert is the moderator of “Meet the Press” and political analyst for “NBC Nightly News” and “Today.” He hosts “The Tim Russert Show,” a weekly CNBC program.  Russert also serves as Senior Vice President and Washington Bureau Chief of NBC News and as a contributing anchor for MSNBC Cable.

            The late Russert was married to Maureen Orth, a writer for Vanity Fair magazine.  They met at a New York State Democratic party reception during the 1980 Democratic National Convention.  Currently, they lived at the distinguished residence along with their son, Luke.   

Copyright Paul K. Williams      

Monday, November 12, 2012

Manhattan Laundry in Washingon, DC

Many passersby are struck by the looming while enamel and glass block building at 1326-1346 Florida Avenue, NW, seemingly out of place on a short stretch of the street.  Most may have been first introduced to the vast complex of buildings when part of it served as the first location of Art-o-matic in 1999, but it’s the dramatic Art Deco façade that often causes a double take.

The complex is actually composed of three major buildings, the westernmost of which was constructed in 1877 when the area was a rather desolate area far from the urban core of Washington, DC.  It was designed by John B. Brady as a car barn for the Washington & Georgetown Railroad Company.  A steam plant was added in 1908 and a large addition in 1926 designed by A. S. J. Atkinson.  Behind the current Art Deco building that faces Florida Avenue is an original stable and warehouse built in 1911. 

The Art Deco building of glass block and enameled panels was built in 1936 at a cost of $50,000 to house the Manhattan Laundry dry cleaning and rug laundry that combined the other buildings into a vast array of storage buildings for cleaned rugs.  It was designed by Alexander M. Pringle.  Wool rugs were susceptible to moths in the summertime, as well as being too hot for Washington summers, so it was common for area households to have them cleaned and stored for the summer, replaced with woven grass matting.                    

Manhattan Laundry was founded by John W. Lowe about 1905 in the former car barn on the westernmost side of the complex.  An advertisement from 1905 is seen here.   

The bottom two floors of the Art Deco building were utilized for laundry and dry cleaning, with administrative offices on the third floor designed by Bedford Brown.  The exterior walls and interior separating walls were composed of glass block that created a dreamy dramatic effect as shadows and figures could be seen through each wall, especially at night.     

The Lowe family sold Manhattan laundry in 1973, and it moved to more modern facilities, leaving the Florida Avenue complex abandoned and soon vandalized.  It suffered a fire in 1978, and was scheduled to be razed in 1979.  Instead, it was partially restored by developer Jeffrey Cohen into an office and storage facility.

In 1999, about a dozen artists toured the building with the idea of assembling a large consortium of artists for a massive art show appropriately coined Art-o-matic.  Within a month, over 350 artists cleaned, electrified, painted and presented artwork in its 100,000 square feet with over 20,000 visitors attending the exhibit over six weeks.  

Copyright Paul K. Willaims