The 16th Street Historic District -Washington DC


16th Street Historic District
Photo courtesy of the DC SHPO

The 16th Street Historic District is characterized by the linear experience of the street itself. 16th Street, one of the most important numbered streets in the Federal City, is a major element of the L’Enfant Plan. This section of the 160-foot wide street, with its vista south to the White House, is contained between two major elements of the L’Enfant Plan-Scott Circle on the south and Florida Avenue, NW, originally known as Boundary Street on the north, and the sharp rise of Meridian Hill. The physical aspect of 16th Street, combined with the architectural quality of the buildings within the district boundaries and the historical importance of the area, constitute the essence of the historic district. The integration of scale, proportion and use add to the historic district’s strong sense of place, which is reinforced by the architectural quality of its buildings.

The buildings range in type from a small, one-story office building, to three and four-story rowhouses, large detached houses, churches, small apartment buildings, monumental apartments and institutional buildings. They generally date from c.1875-to the 1920s, and their styles, including Italianate, Queen Anne, Richardsonian Romanesque, and the many styles of the Beaux Arts, clearly reflect the eclectic character of American architecture. The street was developed primarily with rowhouses, most of which were individually designed and built. Large detached houses are also found in this district, one of the best-preserved and visually interesting late-19th-early 20th-century streetscapes in DC.

Some of the earliest houses stand on the northwest corner of 16th and T Streets. The two Italianate structures at 1900 and 1902 16th Street date from 1878. More common are the brick rowhouses with projecting bays and fanciful rooflines. An early example dating from 1875 stands at 1904 16th Street. This two-story house is two bays wide with a steep pitched gable. One of the finest examples of the Italian bracketed style still standing is the 1878 Huntley House at 1601 16th Street. Perhaps the finest of the Queen Anne houses are those in the row at 1837-41 16th Street. Built in 1890, these houses incorporate the irregularity of massing, variety of color and texture, and the round turrets of the style.

A number of Richardsonian Romanesque houses still stand such as the Sherman House at 1401 16th Street which was built in 1888 by Charles and Samuel Edmonston. The three-story Hampton P. Denman House at 1623 16th Street was designed by Fuller and Wheeler in 1886. The outstanding example of this style is 1628 16th Street designed in 1890 by Harvey Page. A house which reflects the varied sources of eclecticism is the Flemish Revival House at 1720 16th Street, which was built in 1892. An excellent example of Federal Revival stands at 1610 R Street. It was designed in 1910 by Jules H. deSibour.

Institutional uses also began to spread up 16th Street at about the same time the Beaux Arts classicism that was influenced by the 1893 Colombian Exposition began to sweep the country. The Carnegie Institution at 1530 P Street, designed in 1908 by Carrère and Hastings, and the Jewish Community Center at 1529 16th Street, designed by B. Stanley Simmons in 1920, are excellent examples of Neo-classical design.

Late Gothic Revival can be seen in the Church of the Holy City at 1611 16th Street designed in 1895 by R. Langford Warren and built by Paul J. Pelz. Gothic elements were also applied to the Chastleton at 1701 16th Street, one of Harry Wardman’s buildings. One of the district’s most unusual buildings is the Temple of the Scottish Rite at 1733 16th Street. Designed by John Russell Pope and constructed between 1911 and 15, it was modeled after the tomb of King Mausolus at Halicarnassus.

The architects responsible for these buildings include many of the most prominent architects working in DC at this time. On 16th Street, their buildings, and those of many others, work exceptionally well. The imaginative, varied facades of these buildings create a rhythmic streetscape and a continuous visual experience seldom so well preserved in the District of Columbia.

The 16th Street Historic District includes buildings fronting on 16th St., NW, from Scott Circle to Florida Ave. The buildings are private residences and not open to the public. Metro stop: Dupont Circle or U Street-Cardozo