Kalorama | Mass Heights
Most people, less familiar with the District, believe the most exclusive neighborhood in Washington is Georgetown. However, it is actually Kalorama that rightfully claims ownership of this distinction. While the community is not gated or otherwise secured, residents who live here are the wealthiest, most private and most elite of the city. Most denizens find their names annually printed in Washington’s “Green Book,” the social register of D.C. Kalorama is actually divided into two separate communities. Kalorama Triangle, which is the more urban and Sheridan-Kalorama, which is more residential. However, both areas sprung from the same source – the original estate from which the dual communities received part of their names.
The Sheridan area of Kalorama remains one of the most affluent and sought-out pool of addresses in Washington. Five presidents have made the neighborhood their home. William Taft (2215 Wyoming Avenue), Warren Harding (2314 Wyoming Avenue), Herbert Hoover (2300 S Street), Franklin Roosevelt (2131 R Street) and Woodrow Wilson (2340 S Street.) Wilson’s former home is now a museum that honors the late president. And, it’s not just presidents that have sought out the Sheridan-Kalorama community. Ted Kennedy, Diane Feinstein and Donald Rumsfeld have all been neighbors. So many of the who’s-who of Washington elite have lived in the area, and, this is unlikely to change anytime soon.
The more urban side of the neighborhood, known as Kalorama Triangle, is an important illustration of the aesthetics of middle-class speculative housing during the early 20th century. Both grand architecture and modest homes create blocks of residences that are some of the most sought-after in the city. Although the Sheridan section of the neighborhood is more residential by nature, it was the Triangle area that developed housing both first and faster. This was due to the construction of two bridges (the Duke Ellington and Taft) and the fact that two major streetcar lines were closer to its proximity. It is this section of Kalorama that is more comparable to its northern (Woodley Park) and southern (Dupont Circle) neighbors.
It also is an area that experimented with architectural design. The result is a tapestry woven of myriad styles. The first house that was built, following the division of Kalorama land, was in 1893 at 2317 Ashmead Place. Designed by the owner, Thomas Fuller, it is an important representation of the influence of the English Arts and Crafts Movement on residential properties in the United States. By the end of the nineteenth century, Arts and Crafts ideals had influenced architecture, painting, sculpture, graphics, illustration, domestic design and the decorative arts. Anti-industrial, the movement stood for simple forms and often applied medieval, romantic or folk styles of decoration. (The “Prairie School” of Frank Lloyd Wright is an example of the American Arts and Crafts Movement.) In the modern era, Kalorama has sought out its past. Nearly all of the 350 houses have been refurbished to resemble the original properties as the neighborhood has sought to promote its history.
Kalorama is one of the most pleasant and charming neighborhoods of Washington. It is stuffed with mansions, embassies, chanceries, schools and other private residences. A neighborhood landmark is its version of the Spanish Steps. These steps were built at the turn of the 20th century, as the neighborhood developed, when planners faced an issue with elevation at 22nd and S streets. The steep hillside was impractical to build a road (without destroying buildings on either side) and a ramp would have been difficult for carriages and automobiles to traverse. Instead, streets were graded from above and below and a set of dual steps were inserted for pedestrian use. The steps are separated by a lions-head fountain, which was designed and constructed by the District’s Municipal Office of Public Works in 1911.
Although, Kalorama is primarily residential, it does not lack in convenience and variety. Restaurants cater to different tastes and styles. Bistros, boutiques and bars line the part of Connecticut Avenue contained in Kalorama. And, a quick, five-minute walk down Connecticut Avenue yields all of the treats and varieties of Dupont Circle eateries. Likewise, Adams Morgan is adjacent to Kalorama and offers a plethora of dining choices. Also, both Woodley Park and Dupont Circle metro stations service the Kalorama neighborhood. That means ease in traveling about town.
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