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What Does $15.5 Million Get You on R Street?

8 bedrooms, 13 fireplaces, 11 full baths, and a hydraulic elevator

This house on DC's R Street was remade into an artist-themed residence.

When questioned about the cost of maintaining one of his yachts, J.P. Morgan replied, “If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it.” But if you’re curious to know what $15.5 million will buy you, look at 1824 R Street, Northwest, a 10,000-square-foot mansion with 8 bedrooms, 13 fireplaces, Toto toilets in all 11 full baths, and a hydraulic elevator.

If the property, on the market since November, sells for close to its asking price, it will be the highest sale since Steve Case’s former home at 1714 Massachusetts Avenue, Northwest, which the AOL cofounder sold to the government of Trinidad and Tobago for $12 million in 2009; it had listed for $14.9 million.

The R Street mansion was once the home of DC’s highest-paid female public-company CEO, Martine Rothblatt—who reportedly made $17.6 million in 2009 as founder of United Therapeutics and Sirius Satellite Radio—and her wife, Bina Aspen Rothblatt, whom Martine Rothblatt immortalized in Bina48, a robotic avatar capable of interactive conversation. Previously, the home belonged to the Embassy of Singapore.

The Gerace family bought the property from Martine Rothblatt in 2003 for $3.5 million and invested more than $5 million in gutting it before reopening it as the Artists Inn Residence, a B&B outfitted with 18th-century limestone floors, hand-forged iron railings down a grand master staircase—whose risers are “carved” in trompe l’oeil with a passage from The Odyssey—and a blast-resistant “safe” room.

Even though the house has a 950-square-foot master suite, it appears that the price might be too steep for those who normally don’t need to ask. A diamond merchant from Rome showed early interest, but few other potential buyers have toured the property.

Bina Aspen Rothblatt—in human form—came to check out the renovations. No word on whether she appreciated the addition of the bunker.

This article first appeared in the March 2011 issue of The Washingtonian. 

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