Patterson Mansion Restored with Original Purpose in Mind


One of the last historic mansions left on Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. will soon be getting a new slew of residents.

Developer Saul Urban has effectively turned the property into a multi-family living space, complete with all the amenities a busy D.C. traveler would want (lounge, bar, social kitchen, library).

The Mansion

The housing/social scene combo made this historic renovation a no-brainer for the minds at Urban, says Dan Rigaux, the company’s senior vice president of acquisitions, development and finance.

“Going back to the beginning to the formation of our company, we were looking to merge multifamily apartment living with layering on some hospitality services like food and beverage, as well a social club aspect to it,” Urban said. “We came up with this concept maybe three or four years ago and began looking for sites.”

Soon after, they stumbled upon the Patterson Mansion, which was being sold by the Washington Women’s Club.

The mansion had been built in 1903 for then-Chicago Tribune editor Robert Patterson and his socialite wife Eleanor “Cissy” Patterson. The wanted a place that would be impressive, comfortable for them when they were staying in the city and, above all, a place where they could entertain.

Rigaux says they couldn’t have picked a better spot.

“When [the Patterson family] came here they wanted to entertain the city,” he said. “It was built specifically for that in mind, which is kind of one of the core tenants of our concept: temporary housing with a very strong social connection.”

And so, Ampeer Dupont Circle was born.

The Renovation

The mansion had been named to the National Register of Historic Places in the early 1970s, so a trip to the Historic Preservation Review Board was made. Saul Urban, in developing partnership with Rooney Properties and BedRock Real Estate Partnery LLC, were the third project proposal. After other proposals were met with disapproval over design elements, it was clear that the board had set a high bar for preserving the building's historic character.

Rigaux said he thought the biggest hurdle for the board would have been for the seven-story tower addition that’s connected to the mansion via courtyard.

“We appropriately distanced our addition from the mansion,” he said. “It’s very clear and very gentle with the color so complementary to the mansion without copying it. It just demurred to the mansion, so the board was very enthusiastic. It was very, very satisfying. The neighborhood embraced it.”

Hartman-Cox Architecture worked on the structure, which included taking the original style and palette of the mansion and reinterpreting them in a modern light for the tower addition.

“When you look at the addition next to the mansion, you see the mansion first,” Rigaux said. “The addition is in the background and it just kind of falls away. All the attention is on the mansion.”

No changes were made to the facade, though it was cleaned and restored. And while the tower’s design is a sleek imitation, it’s also a greener version of the mansion, complete with a green roof. Bio retention was also added to the landscape around the property.

The mansion was also updated to be more energy efficient. The HVAC system was replaced with a VRF system, which did require a lot of modification to the ceilings and walls, a process that Rigaux said the team spent a good amount of time on.

The first three floors were also largely untouched as the original ballroom is still used as a communal social area. The upper floors, however, were originally servants’ quarters and were changed significantly. Both interior designer Daryl Carter and the Rockwell Group worked in the space.

The biggest challenge came when the demolition the two-story addition that had been on the property, which revealed more damage to the mansion than they had anticipated.

Now, with its 92 units that range in price from about $2,800 to $8,800 (fully furnished and will all amenities included) and leases that range from three months to one year, residents will start moving in on July 9.

The motto is “sip, savor and study,” and Rigaux says the company is most proud that the project is a continuation of the historic building, not an adaptive reuse.

“The fact that the legacy of this historic mansion vibes so incredibly well with creating this new brand of housing,” he said. “I love that. We’re completely renovating and dolling this project up to go for the next 100 years.”


Tagged categories: Building facades; Historic Preservation; Historic Structures; Maintenance + Renovation; North America; Renovation; Restoration

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