- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 9, 2005

When political columnist Joseph Alsop designed and built his home in Georgetown in 1949, local residents were horrified and mystified by the bright yellow cinder-block exterior, with its second-level entrance off a black metal staircase and balcony.

A far cry from the genteel Georgian and Federal-style brick homes that line the streets of this exclusive Northwest enclave, this modern home stirred some controversy.

According to Mr. Alsop’s May 20, 1950, article in the Saturday Evening Post, he built the house because he enjoyed being an amateur architect and wanted a modern house. He did not believe in re-creating a Georgian house, a practice he considered “fakery.”

Time — and extensive landscaping — have softened the look of the home. The Alsop house has become a regular stop on the Georgetown home and garden tours.

A Georgetown landmark that has changed hands only once before, this soft yellow home at 2720 Dumbarton Ave. NW is now on the market for $3,650,000.

Deceptively small from the street, this unusual home has six bedrooms, five full baths, a swimming pool and an interior courtyard with wisteria-covered loggia, boxwoods, a fountain, and lush landscaping that overflows the multiple levels of brick patios and seating areas.

The turquoise-painted wood loggia and the surrounding yellow cinder-block and brick walls create a Mediterranean-style setting for the garden, which has a square heated swimming pool tucked between the master-bedroom wing and the brick walls that define the rear edge of the property.

Through the years, additions have extended the home, resulting in a labyrinthine layout that allows for charming and unexpected rooms and endless corners for books and artwork to be displayed.

The most striking characteristics are wood-burning fireplaces, built-in bookshelves in every possible location — including along the stairwells — curving staircases inside and out, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the exotic courtyard from all sides.

In spite of the modern design of this home, the property has the aura of the quintessential Georgetown house, filled with books and plenty of secluded bedrooms for overnight guests, and with a lovely garden conducive to contemplative thought and elegant living and dining rooms for entertaining diplomats, politicians and Washington’s social elite.

Perhaps the aura comes from the knowledge of distinguished past guests in the home, including President Kennedy, who visited Mr. Alsop for a light meal and champagne after the inaugural balls in January 1961.

Mr. Alsop and his wife, Susan Mary Alsop, became known as the hosts for a Georgetown political and social salon, giving dinner parties for the Kennedys, President and Mrs. Johnson, Averell and Pamela Harriman, and countless others, according to a 1974 Washington Post column by Sarah Booth Conroy.

Buyers interested in establishing a 21st-century Georgetown salon will need only to supply the guests, who can be welcomed in the entrance hall with an eye-catching tile floor resembling an M.C. Escher painting.

To the left of the entrance hall is the 36-foot-long living room, entered through sets of double doors from either the hall or the dining room.

The living room has two tall windows overlooking the street, plus a 10-foot ceiling and walls of built-in bookshelves.

An antique marble mantel over the fireplace provides a focal point for the room, which also features elaborate moldings resembling gold picture frames over the windows.

At one end of the living room, narrow floor-to-ceiling bookcases create a frame for a sunroom with three sets of floor-to-ceiling windows and a glass door to the courtyard.

The formal dining room includes two sets of these 9-foot windows, along with a glass door to the courtyard and Chinese-style red lacquer walls. This elegant room can easily accommodate 24 seated guests, and for larger gatherings, the adjacent breakfast room can seat another 12.

The breakfast room, perhaps the most dramatic room in the home, has a two-story ceiling with a beamed frame surrounding a royal blue dome at the top painted with delicate gold stars. Tall transoms around the dome fill the room with light, and one wall consists of floor-to-ceiling windows and a glass door to the courtyard.

Wainscoting on the walls, built-in shelves and a raised-hearth fireplace complete the room.

Just beyond the breakfast room is a double office, with each room including built-in bookcases and cabinets and windows overlooking the serene courtyard. A powder room has been added between the two rooms, and one office has an iron stove for winter warmth.

The main level also includes a large kitchen accessible from the dining room and the front hall. The main portion of the kitchen includes a professional-quality Vulcan six-burner stove with a griddle, a broiler and two ovens and a built-in grill.

The kitchen also has a Sub-Zero refrigerator and a second catering area with a pantry, additional counter and cabinet space, and a second sink.

The opposite wing of the home, accessible through double doors off the living room, includes a charming library with a glass door to the courtyard and a transom, another floor-to-ceiling window framing a courtyard view, plus another window with a deep window seat overlooking a smaller courtyard accessible from the lower level.

Floor-to-ceiling shelves and a raised-hearth brick fireplace fill the remaining walls of this room, which can also function as a master-suite sitting room.

Double doors link the library with the master-bedroom wing, which includes a rear staircase lined with books that curves to the lower level near the sauna.

Along the hall to the master bedroom are several closets and the master bath, which has a linen closet, a large window and a deep tub.

The master bedroom has a raised-hearth brick fireplace, a glass door that opens onto the courtyard, tall windows looking into the garden, two built-in wardrobes and three additional closets hidden by floor-to-ceiling drapes.

Curving staircases from the master-suite hall and the main hall lead to the lower level, a maze of bedrooms, baths, sitting rooms and closets. From the main staircase, a turn toward the front of the home leads to a guest bedroom, a full bath, and a foyer entrance from the one-car garage with open shelving and closets for storing extra coats and boots.

On the opposite side of the stairs is a central sitting room, a cozy space with wainscoting on the walls. Nearby, a hall leads to two additional bedrooms at the front of the home and a full bath. Off this hall, a closet opens onto a wine cellar with a stone floor.

Toward the back of the home, a long hall has been lined with closets with wood shutter doors and automatic lights, most with pantry shelving, some with open space for larger items and one functioning as the laundry room.

At the end of this corridor is a foyer with brick flooring. Two additional bedrooms are nearby, including one with a glass door leading to the courtyard, a raised-hearth brick fireplace and built-in bookcases. Nearby is a large bathroom lined with closets, including a cedar closet. The back door of this bathroom opens onto a utility room, which also includes a large sauna.

When Mr. Alsop built this Georgetown home, it may have been scandalously modern, but today, the residence seems as natural in its setting as if it has been in place since Colonial days.

Address: 2720 Dumbarton Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20007

Community: East Village, Georgetown

Age: Built in 1949

Price: $3,650,000

Size: 5,623 finished square feet on lot of 7,380 square feet

Taxes: $14,804 in 2004

Exterior features: Contemporary-style yellow-painted brick and cinder block with second-level entrance from curving aggregate stone and black metal staircase with black metal balcony draped in wisteria vine; attached one-car garage

Interior features: Six bedrooms; five full baths; two half baths; long entrance hall with closets; formal living room with sunroom alcove; formal dining room; breakfast room with tile floor, domed two-story ceiling with transoms; two offices; pantry and kitchen with Vulcan stove; library with fireplace, bookcases, glass door to courtyard; main-level master suite with bedroom fireplace and glass door to the courtyard; aboveground lower level with five bedrooms, winding corridors with closets and access to small hidden courtyard.

Amenities: Mediterranean-style courtyard with fountain, brick terraces, lush garden; heated swimming pool; five fireplaces; sauna; wine cellar; four heating and cooling zones.

Close by: Shops, restaurants of Georgetown, Rose Hill Park, Dupont Circle, Kennedy Center, downtown Washington

Open house: By appointment

Contact: Realtors Jamie Peva of Coldwell Banker at 202/471-5263 or Michael Sullivan Jr. at 202/965-5697

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