News & Politics

Hey, This Doesn’t Look Like a Boarding House

Does Ralph Nader live here? Photograph by Jennifer Molay.

Ralph Nader, the full-time populist and part-time presidential candidate, says he lives in a low-rent apartment near Dupont Circle. Some news accounts suggested that his home for many years was a DC boarding house with a communal phone.

Though the image of Nader waiting in line to talk on the phone is a helpful one for a soak-the-rich crusader, some residents in DC’s affluent Kalorama neighborhood question it. They say he lives among them—in a century-old house worth around $2 million.

The rowhouse was bought in 1971 by Nader’s late brother, Shafeek. Now, according to DC tax records, it’s owned by his sister Claire, former chair of the Council for Responsible Genetics.

Joe Lockhart, President Clinton’s former press secretary, lives a few houses away in a $2.6-million home. Other nearby VIPs include former George Washington University president Steve Trachtenberg and Senator Ted Kennedy.

Kalorama residents say they often see Nader on the street. “He was just walking along in a baggy suit,” says one.

No one can prove that he beds down there. When I walked the Kalorama neighborhood asking about him, one resident said, “Leave him alone. You’re harassing his neighbors.”

Author Justin Martin wrote in his 2002 Nader biography that several Nader associates believe he lives at the Kalorama house at least part-time.

Martin described one neighbor’s experience when a car with Nader in it pulled up to the house, then idled at the curb.

“I am sure he knew me from the neighborhood,” the man told Martin. “So I thought, ‘Fine, I’m just going to play this waiting game.’ Finally, he got out of the car, put a briefcase on the side of his face, and dashed past me into the house.”

This article is from the May 2008 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from the issue, click here.

More>> Capital Comment Blog | News & Politics | Society Photos