building in an R-4 zone, and how additions to such a building are interpreted (11 DCMR §§ 401.11and 403.1). The HPO has not been able to obtain an opinion on the issue from the ZoningAdministrator. While the Board’s sole consideration is whether the project is compatible with theproperty and historic district, the HPO is recommending that the HPRB not take final action on theconcept and that the project return for further review when this issue is more definitively resolved
Evaluation and Recommendation
While each component of the proposal could be looked at and evaluated individually, the reality isthat the project as designed would rest in the historic district as an agglomerative whole, likely tooverwhelm the historic house and drastically reduce perhaps its most important historiccharacteristic: open space. The house is 29 feet wide by 58 feet deep but enjoys 38 feet of openspace to its south and 74 feet of open space to its rear. This open space, as originally provided for the1870s McGill house, is generous. So much so, that perhaps it could afford some accommodation fora single addition, or even subdivision as has been the case for many other original McGill houses inLeDroit Park. However, to give up most of both the side and rear yard to new construction appendsthe previously free-standing house to the surrounding rowhouses, both literally and visually.The one-story hyphen portion of the addition is both the smallest and weakest link in the chain. Theprimary purpose of the hyphen is to join all parts into a single primary structure so that a fundamentalzoning requirement can be satisfied (e.g. that a lot can only be occupied by a single primarystructure). However, the hyphen results in the free-standing historic house becoming visuallyattached to the new rowhouse, with the open side yard converted to dead-end courts. The situation ismade worse on the front side, where the court is sunk into the ground with a small retaining wallacross its face, bringing this landscape intrusion that much closer to 3
Street. The concept does notbenefit from the vagueness with which the hyphen is rendered. While the drawings achieve a highquality of rendering, detail, and presentation, the hyphen appears camouflaged from scrutiny. Forexample, the perspective view from 3
Street on page 6 masks the hyphen with shrubbery.The rear addition, with some revision, could result in a compatible addition. As designed, the rearaddition unnecessarily evokes the architectural ornamentation and attenuated massing of the primaryfront block of the house. As such, it is on the verge of reorienting the emphasis of the house awayfrom its east front. Rather, any new rear addition should adopt the simpler massing as already seenin the existing rear wing which has a simple gable roof and lower/wider proportions relative to thefront block of the house. The proposed rear addition would benefit by substituting a simpler gableroof in place of its complicated mansard roofs, and eliminating the cross-braced gable in favor of plainer dormers and gable windows. This would result in a clearly secondary structure appropriatefor the rear of a free-standing house.The rowhouse addition makes a good case that the lot is large enough to comfortably include a newrowhouse while still affording the historic house ample open space. This is a historic pattern of development in LeDroit Park, but there is a significant difference between historic examples and thecurrent proposal.
Historically, rowhouse sidewalls at the end of a row are plain surfaces; typicallylarge areas of uninterrupted, unpainted masonry, with the occasional punched window opening.More rarely, a side elevation may have a one- or two-story oriel projecting from an upper floor. Theeffect is an elevation that is clearly secondary, and distinctively different from the treatment of a free-
Not just historic pattern, but recent as well. In 2009 HPRB approved subdivision of a McGill house and lot intothree lots; one for the historic house, one for a new rowhouse, and one for a carriage-house like structure with nobearing on the primary street (1859 3
Street NW, HPA #09-078).