Sunday, December 09, 2007

Halcyon House

Kelly O and I went to her office holiday party last night (I was her date and the guys stayed with our respective kids) at the elegant and nicely decorated Halcyon House in Georgetown. I enjoyed getting all dressed up, the valet parking, the free drinks & middle-eastern-style spread, two sets of musicians (a Palestinian duo upstairs & a big-band style sextet in the ballroom), and meeting a handful of Kelly's new coworkers. My office, and AJS's for that matter, are not having decent holiday parties this year. They are both holding a mid-week, potluck-style party with cut-throat gift exchanges included as entertainment. I enjoy the big swanky parties much better; it gives me a chance to put on my evening wear!

This morning, I discovered an an enlightening entry about the Halcyon House in AJS's copy of On this Spot: Pinpointing the Past in Washington, D.C. published in 1992 by Douglas Evelyn & Paul Dickson that reads:

"Colonel Benjamin Stoddert, and established merchant and landowner, built this house in 1787, dubbing it Halcyon House. In 1973, Stoddert was one of the men who incorporated the Bank of Columbia to finance land transactions for the new capital city. He himself invested heavily in the city's early development. Called to Philadelphia in 1798 to serve as the first secretary of the navy, he helped start the Marine Corps before returning to Washington when the government relocated in 1800. Early federal and local leaders frequentedd the Stodddert house.

A century later, an eccentric owner, Albert Asdit Clemons, a compulsive renovator living in the basement with a carpenter, is said to have spent forty years in non-stop alterations. According to a Historic American Buildings Survey report, the pair evclosed the entire original building, subdividing the interior rooms, adding new stairwells, a chapel, even a theater and a ballroom, neither of which was ever used. Clemons amassed such a collection of antiques and bric-a-brac that he purchased two nearby houses for storage. He offered apartments for rent, stipulated no chidren, dogs, or electricity.

Reports were that his money came from 'New England utilities.' A Washington Times-Herald report posited that his ample means were 'provided by his wife on condition that he stay away from her.' Two subsequent occupants spent a decade apeice discovering new rooms-within-rooms and endless corridors before the building was turned into an apartment house in the 1960s. In 1991, the building is again indergoing renovation." [bolding is mine]

I'm happy to report that the '91 remodel must have gone well, because the space we were in last night was quite symmetrical and well-proportioned, if a bit meandering. There wasn't much evidence of an insane renovator gone rampant. Thanks, Kelly, for inviting me along! It was fun to have another girl's night out!


  1. Sounds like a good time. Glad you two got the break together.

    I'm loving the doling out of money to make sure the husband "stays away." That's awesome. Too bad I'm not wealthy. ;-)

  2. glad you had a fabulous night out :-)

  3. The place sounds a lot like the Winchester Mystery Mansion. It's always fun to watch what happens when affluence and mental illness collide.


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