- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 15, 2014

It looks just like one of the many mansions where Scooby-Doo and the gang solved mysteries. An empty knight’s suit even sits in the corner of the foyer.

Unlike most mansions in the cartoon, Heurich House isn’t surrounded by fog or a moat. Instead, this mountainous, gray sandstone structure — which once welcomed guests in carriages beneath its gargoyle-engraved porte cochere — sits about a block from the Dupont Circle Metro Station and serves as a museum.

The homeowner, Christian Heurich, operated one of the most successful breweries in the District and was once the city’s largest non-government employer. With his sizable fortune, Heurich commissioned the construction of his 11,600 square-foot home (which became known as the Brewmaster’s Castle) in 1892.

His dimly lit foyer tells of his success and his dedication to entertaining guests.

Frescoes adorn the ceiling, and every inch of wood in the room is dedicated to creating a larger design. A decorative street lamp with a story of its own sits at the base of the two-toned marble stairs. The lamp was part of the Chicago World Fair in 1893, and after seeing it, Heurich requested one for his home.

The lamp, just like the rest of his house, could run on gas or electricity.

“The technology in the house was really state of the art for its time,” said Rachel Jerome, the museum’s assistant director. “It was built with central heat, and fully electrified, which was really early for D.C. But even little things in the house were state of the art, like a self cleaning sink and a central vacuum system.”

The house also has speaking tubes that connected the kitchen to the upstairs rooms for easier communication between the Heuriches and the servants, an elevator shaft and an alarm system.

However, the oaken carvings in the dining room alone were about as expensive as a whole new house, Heurich used to say.

Wooden table legs featuring exquisitely carved roaring lions, a massive nickel-plated bronze chandelier and plush chairs bearing the initials CH etched into them all belong to a different time — one without Pier 1 Imports or HomeGoods.

Only one item seems out of out of place in the polished dining room — a frowning ceramic doll named Michael that stares at guests with paint-chipped eyes from its spot on the mantle. Heurich’s wife never wanted an unlucky number seated around her table, so she kept Michael close by and pulled up a chair for him whenever 13 people came to dinner.

The castle contains 15 fireplaces, all with one-of-a-kind cast-iron firebacks. The fireback in the foyer is a cast of Elihu Vedder’s “The Sun God,” but the most impressive belongs to the library. When illuminated by a flashlight, one can see that the fireback bears the head of a lion.

None of these beautiful fireplaces were ever used. Heurich knew the devastation that fires could cause from having lost his breweries to fires three times. Thus he set out to build the city’s first fireproof home, a fact he proudly aired with a finial of a salamander and flames atop the tower at the front of his house. (According to mythology, salamanders had the ability to extinguish flames.)

Like many Victorians, Heurich assigned a gender to each of the mansion’s 31 rooms.

The feminine rooms, such as the sitting room near the foyer where Heurich’s wife liked to entertain, display light yellow and green couches, curtains and paint; murals of angels on the ceilings; four feet of detailed, gold-painted plaster moulding and accents of gold everywhere.

The masculine rooms, such as the burgundy library, are far darker.

The house also has a majestic wooden balcony that overlooks the performing room, where sits a gold piano custom-painted for Mrs. Heurich, Ms. Jerome said.

The basement houses the Bierstube, a tap room designed in Germany.

German drinking sayings line the walls, the chairs’ legs resemble sheathed swords and traditional German blue salt-glaze beer steins rest on the table as if they were just being used. The oak mantle sitting against the wall has long, curved toes carved into its four corners, and its body is covered in carvings of knights and twisting ivy.

Opening the door across from the Bierstube reveals a railing that overlooks the two-story, drafty, old boiler room complete with twisting pipes and a small, entirely brick room for smoking meats.

Heurich lived in the house until his death at 102 years of age in 1945, making him the world’s oldest brewer. After he passed away, his wife willed their home to the Historic Society. The mansion found its way onto the market in 2003 for millions of dollars; however, two of Heurich’s grandchildren spearheaded an effort to save the house through founding the Heurich House Foundation.

Every third Thursday of the month, the museum hosts beer tastings as part of a series called History and Hops. This month’s tasting will feature the Devil’s Backbone Brewing Co. The museum also hosts a free movie series in the backyard starting July 24 and running every Thursday through mid-August.

Tours of the house are available Thursday through Saturdays. There is $5 admission fee, and donations are appreciated. So grab your box of Scooby snacks and lead your friends into the Brewmaster’s Castle.

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