The house was built in 1799 by wealthy tobacco warehouse owner John Laird. The list of owners since reads like a page from an American history textbook: James Dunlop, law partner of Francis Scott Key and chief justice of the DC Circuit Court, moved into the house in 1873. In 1915, Robert Todd Lincoln (Abe’s eldest son) purchased the property. In 1936 he sold it to Mrs. Helen Burgess, the granddaughter of J.P. Morgan, who had the good sense to add the ballroom and to retain a large portion of the garden when she separated the coach house from its original property (the larger Laird-Dunlop House sits above the coach house, on N Street). In 1984, Arnold Sagalyn—one of Eliot Ness’s “Untouchables”—moved in. The current owner, a venture capitalist, purchased the house in 2004 and is responsible for the thoughtful and impressive renovation we see today.
“In a city that’s so transient, it’s remarkable that we can trace the history of this house back to its inception more than 200 years ago,” says McGrath. “And the fact that it’s only had five owners since indicates that once people got here, they didn’t want to leave.”
Upstairs, McGrath walks us through the home’s four bedrooms. The master suite is surrounded by windows that look out over the treetops and into the garden. The master bath has heated floors, a steam shower, and a big soaking tub with the same garden views. Standing in what is now a charming guest room, McGrath says, “You won’t believe this, but back in the day this space was actually a hay loft.” For proof, she points out the window to a pulley that was once used to hoist stacks of hay.
Back downstairs, a large panel painting on the far ballroom wall bears an uncanny resemblance to the old Georgetown harbor—a smart nod to the village’s history. Throwing open the doors to the garden, McGrath shows us the boundary stone that once marked the northeast corner of “original George Town, founded 1751.” It’s the last remaining of the four such stones. She points out the poolside cabana, which was once part of a smokehouse when the property housed livestock (we’d have been more surprised by this fact if we hadn’t already seen the hay pulley). And really, we wouldn’t mind grazing out here ourselves, what with the heated lap pool, the cozy spa, and the cobbled terracing placed among antique boxwoods, trickling fountains, and tall trees.
“The property is extraordinary,” says McGrath. “We have struggled to find anything else that offers so much from a historical perspective, as well as so beautifully accommodating today’s lifestyles.”
For more information on the Laird-Dunlop Coach House, view the virtual tour, or contact listing agents Eileen McGrath and Jamie Peva of Washington Fine Properties. The house is listed for $8.995 million, and is shown by appointment only.