Good closet space and great light aside, sometimes when I’m sitting in my tiny one room box of an apartment, I have dreams of expansive square footage. That is why it’s lucky that I get to spend a lot of time in an enormous and lovely historic mansion, the Heurich House, and will soon be giving tours there.
Nicknamed the Brewmaster’s Castle after brewer and real estate magnate Christian Heurich, this amazing Victorian-era home is a hidden DC gem. Here are some things that make the house, and the family who lived in it, so interesting:
1. IT IS FIREPROOF: The mansion is built of reinforced steel and poured concrete (no wood) and has 15 fireplaces with intricately carved mantels and cast bronze firebacks, none of which has ever been lit. The top of the tower features a salamander, a creature that mythologically protects against fire.
2. IT WAS A VICTORIAN ERA “SMART HOUSE”: The construction implemented major innovations in technology, including: full indoor plumbing, circulating hot water heat, central vacuum system, venting skylight, elevator shaft, pneumatic and electric communication systems, and combination gas and electric lighting fixtures.
3. THE HEURICHS ARE ONE STEP AWAY FROM THE KENNEDYS: After Christian Heurich’s death and the (also fireproof) brewery was demolished, the family donated the land it stood on to build the Kennedy Center.
The most interesting modern feature of the house is Scott Nelson, its Director and custodian, who lives in the “basement”/former servants quarters with his dog, Walker. He is a cool, laid back guy who brings tourists through the halls in All-Stars and jeans, but who can quote obscure facts from Victorian-era history and make them completely fascinating.
Come and see the place for yourself and learn all about its history on August 12, when the DC Preservation League (more about them in a later post) hosts its summer “Historic Hot Spot” event there. (Full disclosure: I’m planning it!) Register here.