62

The old City Bank.

This article was published in June 2010 as part of UrbanTurf’s Unique Spaces series, where we take a look at properties that could be considered “one-of-a-kind” in the DC area. If you have a home that you think fits the bill, send an email to editor2012@urbanturf.com. See all of our past Unique Spaces articles here.

In 1993, Dr. Gary Mintz made an unusual home purchase: He bought an old bank in Capitol Hill and set about renovating it. After it was finished, the home, formerly a branch of The City Bank, received dozens of published accolades for its architecture and gardens surrounding it.

63

Dr. Mintz’s home today, courtesy of Google Maps.

It’s been about seven years since the house was featured in a print publication, yet to tour it today, you’d never know the renovation took place 17 years ago, aside from the fact that the fully mature gardens nestle it so well that you might miss it passing by.

When Mintz moved to DC from Philadelphia, he initially rented an apartment in Dupont Circle, but his eyes were always set on searching for an old commercial property that he could convert. Philadelphia has a history of adaptive re-use as developers have taken hospitals, old YMCA’s, foundries, factories of all kinds, and schools, and turned them into apartments.

“It didn’t have to be a bank,” Mintz told UrbanTurf, noting that he had previously lived in a former candy store.

The agent who rented him his Dupont Circle apartment tipped Mintz off about the bank. It had languished on the market (and was trashed, according to Mintz), and the bank parking lot was now row houses.

“It seemed to be the right size to make into a small house,” he remembers. “And it had space outside for a garden.”

67

The bank’s old night deposit box now serves as the mailbox. When the regular postman is on vacation, Mintz says the substitutes sometimes don’t know where to put the mail.

It must have been fate that the landscape firm he chose—the nationally renowned Oehme van Sweden Landscape Architects—has its offices in the former City Bank headquarters at 800 G Street SE.

“When I discovered that their offices and my house were related, it became almost obligatory,” Mintz said.

4 right vertical

Mintz was intent that the remodel not change any of the exterior walls or architecture, so he hired his friend Philadelphia architect Michael Hauptman and Glass Construction, which specializes in historic restoration, to execute the project.

The result is a thoroughly modern interior that hides behind the old bank’s neoclassic façade. What used to be the bank lobby is now the living room and the dining room is the former bank vault. The main area of the second floor was constructed within the bank’s original walls, with a floor made of perforated metal. It contrasts with the historic window trim and moldings at the ceiling (see photo below). For the fireplace in the living room, Mintz and Hauptman made several drawings, inspired by the designs of noted Swiss architect Mario Botta

Mintz’s modern art collection, which includes works by Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Josef Albers, Ellsworth Kelly, and Frank Stella, is displayed throughout the house. 

65

Mintz has opened the doors for house tours twice – in 1995 and 2005 – but probably won’t do so again, because visitors were disrespectful of his belongs, picking up valuable ceramics and sitting on the furniture. Despite that, Mintz relishes living on Capitol Hill, where there is a strong sense of community, and the novelty of his project has evolved into a comfortable existence. 

68

Looking down on the dining room. The colorful squares are a series by Josef Albers.

“People ask me if I am going to do anything else,” Mintz said. “I don’t think I can do any better than this!”

UrbanTurf contributor Jennifer Sergent is the brains behind the DC By Design blog. She was most recently the senior editor at Washington Spaces magazine.