News & Politics

Georgetown’s Halcyon House Unveiled by Its New Owners at a Gala Dinner (Photos)

Ryuji Ueno and Sachiko Kuno hosted the party for their S&R Foundation’s annual awards.

Photographs by Carol Ross Joynt.

In 2011 there was much hubbub when biotech entrepreneurs Sachiko Kuno and Dr. Ryuji Ueno bought the two biggest and most expensive homes in Georgetown, Evermay (for $22 million) and Halcyon House (for $12.5 million). Were they his-and-her mansions for the rich founders of Bethesda-based Sucampo Pharmaceuticals? The answer is no; the couple remained in their Maryland home. So what happened with Halcyon, long one of the most popular DC rental spaces for weddings and other parties? They had big plans. The couple made over Evermay and Halcyon into the headquarters of their S&R Foundation, a nonprofit that supports the arts and artists in a variety of ways. On Saturday night they unveiled Halcyon, and its glamorous new ballroom, for their foundation’s annual awards gala.

The newness of it all was apparent, not only in the scents of fresh paint and carpeting but also in the oohs and ahhs of guests who poked around the large back lawn that overlooks the city and the Potomac River or who snuck downstairs to check out the revamped ballroom. That particular party room, the size of a basketball court, was a stunning sight, especially for those who remembered the garage-like space as the studio of the former owner, sculptor John Dreyfuss, who also leased it out for soirees. It’s nothing like a garage now. It has elegant columns, beautiful ceiling moldings, and rock-crystal chandeliers. On Saturday night, the floor-to-ceiling windows exposed a bright red Ferrari, too, parked outside to tempt auction bidders.

Ueno and Kuno stood in the main entrance hall welcoming guests, which included their mothers, Toshiko Ueno and Yuko Kuno. Once the mothers arrived, the couple stayed respectfully near them until they were seated for dinner. Then Kuno moved from table to table, embracing friends and posing for photos, including with the Japanese ambassador, Kenichiro Sasae. She’ll be with him again on Saturday night, when Japan hosts the 2014 Opera Ball. Kuno is the co-chair.

When dinner began, Kuno took to the stage. “I’m so excited to be able to say this next sentence­—Welcome to Halcyon House,” she said to applause. “It’s hard to believe that renovation work at Halcyon House began in January. This included removal of load-bearing pillars in the center of this room. Work on the house will resume after tonight to finish the other spaces in time to welcome our first class of social entrepreneurs.”

From that moment on, the evening was about art on the stage, where four of the five award winners performed; on the plate, chef Eric Ziebold of CityZen designed dishes to complement the music; as well as the artful skills of an auctioneer who had six packages to sell, including a trip to a rare car auction in Carmel, California (thus the Ferrari come-on), and a private concert dinner at Evermay, with Ziebold doing the meal. In addition to the performances by the honorees, a pair of dancers from the Washington Ballet, Maki Onuki and Tamas Krizsa, performed a pas de deux from Swan Lake. The award winners were pianist Tanya Gabrielian, cellist Tim Park, guitarist Soichi Muraji, and Michael Djupstrom, a pianist and composer. Ryu Goto, a violinist, was out of the country.