458 C Street, Washington DC

Date added: November 01, 2010 Categories: Washington DC House

Isolated amidst a parking lot this L-shaped brick building stands with its neighbor as the only remaining small-scale buildings that once characterized this area. The building, consisting of a main block and an ell, occupies a small rectangular site near the northeast corner of the block, across the street from the new Federal Courthouse. The site measures 25' wide by 65' deep and slopes gently to the south. The main block of the building is rectangular in plan, three stories high (plus basement and attic) and is capped by a gabled roof. The narrow shed-roofed rear wing is also rectangular in plan but only two stories. This wing and the adjacent building to the east encloses a small three-sided court at the rear.

The main or C Street facade is divided into three equal bays. It contains an elaborate eccentric arched entrance on the west. The entrance features an ornate cast iron stair. The disposition and slender proportions of the openings in the facade suggest a late manifestation of the Federal style. A proper judgment, however, is made difficult by the extensive later alterations to the doorway, cornice and perhaps the entire facing of the wall.

The non-contemporaneity of the facade brick and the arched surround of the entryway is evident from the different mortars used. The arch voussoirs were laid in a black mortar and the bricks associated with the arch have been toothed Into the surrounding masonry using the same black mortar. The remaining facade masonry is laid in white mortar. Further proof of the arched opening as later construction lies in the fact that the door frame has only seven layers of paint, whereas the one on the adjacent building has twenty-two. The window frames of both buildings, however, have similar paint seriations.

The interior framing consists of 3" x 12" wooden joists spanning north-south. The layout is straightforward: a narrow stair hall running along the west wall serves a front and a rear room on each floor. On the first floor some interior finishes typical of the late Nineteenth Century still remains. Seen in the context of the facade changes, it would appear that the building underwent a massive renovation in the 1890s. This, however, is not confirmed due to sketchy permit records.

The former dwelling house was used as a boarding house. It was vacated for demolition by the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation.

The main facade is of hard-pressed brick, laid in running bond with very thin joints pointed with a light-colored mortar. The three-story facade features windows of equal height at the first and second stories, with shorter ones at the third. All windows are one-over-one double-hung. Lintels are of 8" high stone. Ornamentation occurs at the elaborate eave cornice and on the arched entryway. The entry consists of a large round arch with molded terra-cotta keystone and impost blocks in a foliage design. The arch proper features a round-edged row of brick voussoirs to smooth the transition between the plane of the facade and that of the intrados. The extrados is marked by projecting, round-ended brick headers that form a continuous semi-circular molding. The entrance is also accentuated by an elegant cast iron stair and stoop. The curvilinear wrought iron balustrade spans between newels ornamented with a floral relief and ball finials. The steps rest on open stringers with decorative perforations. This theme is further elaborated by a basket-weave design on the risers.