In my inaugural blog post on The Location (titled Someone nice please buy this house), I talked about my obsession with the Toutorsky Mansion on 16th and Riggs, NW. It was probably the first building I fell in love with in D.C. And since my first glimpse of its romantic old exterior, I have wished that someone would buy it and save it from its failing B&B existence. Well, someone has and maybe I should be careful for what I wish for.
The Republic of Congo recently purchased the old mansion, and has now wants to make some changes to the yard, although not to the interior of the home. Their plan (seen here) would repave over much of the front yard, and replace parts of the iron gate with mechanized ones.
GreaterGreaterWashintgon notes that the entire front yard of the building is actually public space “as the property line itself is beyond the top of the front stairs leading into the building.” Interesting.
They also explain that
Zoning decisions about chanceries are handled by the Foreign Misson Board of Zoning Adjustment, which includes the regular Board of Zoning Adjustment as well as members from NCPC and the National Park Service. The FMBZA is traditionally very deferential to embassies, sometimes gently encouraging changes but not actually disapproving applications.
According to the Congo’s attorney, the HPRB and the FMZBA would both have jurisdiction to make the decision about changes to this historic structure, which is part of the 16th Street Historic District.
I am a bit torn about the whole thing. Part of me is hopeful that a new owner will bring the crumbling-looking house back to life. Another worries that significant changes to the yard – the wonderful old iron fence and towering trees – will destroy something special and beautiful. Stay tuned, as the HPRB hearing on the issue is this Thursday. I’ll be back with an update then.