Brewmaster’s Castle—one of Washington’s most unique Gilded Age mansions
The Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington DC remained largely undeveloped until after the US Civil War. Then, during what is known as the Gilded Age, wealthy families began building large mansions to house them during the social season, which for Washington was spring and fall when Congress was in session. By the 1920s, many of these mansions were sold to be used as foreign embassies and the headquarters of civic organizations rather than demolished. Only a few mansions were constructed as permanent homes to be occupied year round. One exception is the Christian Heurich House, built for the owner of DC’s most prominent brewer and largest single private employer. The house is also unique in that it stayed in the family of the original owner until the 1950s, when upon the death of both Christian Heurich then later his wife, the house was donated to the Columbia Historical Society (now the Historical Society of Washington, DC).
The historical society adapted the 3rd and 4th floors of the house to their office and research library and although they retained the furnishings and architectural details on the basement, 1st floor and 2nd floor levels, did not really until the late 1990s, when, in a highly controversial move, they listed the house for sale on the open market. The Heurich Family Foundation was able to purchase the family to return its use as an historic house museum. The current museum staff has developed a number of unique programs to help support the mission of the non-profit, including renting the upstairs office space to preservation-minded non-profit organizations and developing cross-programming with them, hosting an annual “Pride in Preservation” event that simultaneously celebrates the National Park Service’s LGBTQ Heritage Initiative and acknowledges the museum’s location in Dupont Circle, long associated with DC’s LGBT community, and its extremely popular “History and Hops” series which combines history lectures with beer tastings.
(Photo credit: Difference engineer)
By Jennifer Barger
The Washington Post Magazine
July 14, 2016