News & Politics

An Inside Look at DC’s Priciest Piece of Residential Real Estate (Photos)

Beyond the $26 million price tag, the Patterson Mansion has an impressive history, too.

The Patterson Mansion, viewed from the garden of its neighbor, the Sulgrave Club, both on Dupont Circle. Photograph by Carol Ross Joynt.

Once upon a time—a century ago—Dupont Circle was ringed with mansions that were private
homes. In the Gilded Age it was the hub of high society. Today only two remain—the
Wadsworth House, which faces Massachusetts Avenue and is home to the Sulgrave Club,
and the Patterson Mansion, which is directly
on the circle and was home to the Washington Club. The membership of the club, a victim
of changing tastes and times and rising operating costs, have put the elegant and
historic building on the market for $26 million, making it DC’s priciest piece of
residential real estate. The fact that its brokers expect to have the mansion sold before the
end of the year says a lot about the general vitality of the area’s high-end real
estate market.

The property is listed by Georgetown-based TTR Sotheby’s International Realty, and Bradley Nelson of that firm gave us an inside look. While we walked from room to room, he said there
have been “a lot of inquiries, extensively and globally.” He said they have come from
boutique hotel owners, private social clubs, investors from the Middle East, potential
diplomatic buyers, and even some individuals who would return it to a private home.
That’s a lot of home, too, with 16 bedrooms, many grand public rooms, including
a ballroom and an auditorium, and, the most important component of buying a home in
Washington, parking. There’s parking for ten cars, plus a garage that Nelson said
may be one of the city’s first.

In its lifespan, since it was designed by the firm of McKim, Mead & White in 1901,
it has had only three owners, initially the Patterson family, who owned the
Chicago Tribune, and whose daughter, Cissy, bequeathed it upon her death in 1948 to the American
National Red Cross, who sold it to the Washington Club in 1951. In 1927, it served
as a temporary home for President
Calvin Coolidge and his wife while the White House was under renovation. A notable overnight guest
of the Coolidges was aviator
Charles Lindbergh after his historic flight, who came to town to receive the first Distinguished Flying
Cross on June 11, 1927. The room he slept in is named after him.

To walk around the house now is to wish the walls could talk. It would tell stories
of parties, history, and Washington. The potential is obvious. The ground-floor rooms
are in better condition than upstairs, where a major renovation may be required. But,
as they say in the business of interior design, the bones are there. There is an addition
on the back, which the Washington Club built in 1965. It holds the large “auditorium,”
complete with a stage and an equally large basement room. Nelson said a buyer could
“theoretically tear down the addition.” But not the mansion. The original building
has a historic designation and any changes within would require review and approval.