The mansion is long gone, but the 1890 carriage house down the alley from 1809 20th Street NW in Dupont Circle is still alive and well, thanks to a top-to-bottom renovation in the 1980s that turned an abandoned shell into one of the neighborhood’s more interesting properties.
“I was in the neighborhood [before the renovation], and I can remember it was this very dilapidated brick building,” current owner Harvey Yampolsky told UrbanTurf. “You could look inside through the windows and see the sky.”
In the early 1980s, Bill Keyserling, a political consultant to presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, purchased the ruined property and turned it into a loft-like space – back when “loft” wasn’t yet a frequently used real estate term. The house briefly served as a Dukakis campaign office, with a call center filling the large first-floor space. However, the charming environs did not help the Democrats. Dukakis lost the 1988 presidential election, and Keyserling left DC not long after.
The house was rented for a few years, and then Yampolsky and his partner, Randy Wellons, purchased it in 1990. Yampolsky immediately fell in love with the home’s big open spaces. Being from New York, he was used to the loft spaces of SoHo, a rarity in city dwellings back then.
“It was the beginning of an era of open floor plans,” he said.
The large indoor and outdoor spaces do have a downside: the home is so popular that the couple’s friends regularly ask to hold parties there. (A party with 100 people can flow easily inside and out of the home.)
The men have not made any changes to the initial renovation in an effort to maintain as much of the character of the carriage house as possible. The fact that the upstairs rooms look down on the first floor speaks to the home’s history of what was likely a hay loft over the horse stalls. The couple thought of installing screens in the bedroom for privacy, but quickly adjusted to the openness.
Yampolsky acknowledges that the style of the interiors – planking on the ceilings, royal blue on the tin kitchen ceiling and in the bathroom tiles – are reminiscent of styles popular in the 1980s.
“When we moved in, everything was very trendy,” Yampolsky explained. “As the years went by, we felt like anything we changed would change the overall effect.”
However, one of the enduring effects that Yamplolsky loves to this day is the fact that stepping inside is like stepping out of the city altogether.
“People always say the same thing – when you’re in here, you don’t feel like you’re in the city, but rather some place up in New Hampshire in the mountains. It was the feeling I had the first time I moved in here.”
- 1809 20th Street NW, Carriage House (map)
UrbanTurf contributor Jennifer Sergent is the brains behind the DC By Design blog. She was most recently the senior editor at Washington Spaces magazine.