Hugh Jacobsen

Hear Hugh Jacobsen’s humorous recollections of moving into Georgetown, raising a young family and starting his now international architectural firm over a delicatessen in the early 60’s. You’ll be in awe of his knowledge of Georgetown’s architectural styles and history, how he changed the look of so many Georgetown homes with his modern approach, and how his DC practice took him all over the world. In his interview with Annie Lou Berman, Hugh Jacobsen has many stories to tell, friends to roast, and books to refer to – you will find this a most entertaining oral history!

Interview Date:
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Annie Lou Berman

October 7, 2009

Hugh Jacobsen: … agreed to that, where each and take the doors and the ceiling, and put in more glass. Want me to stop?

Annie Lou: No. I’m just making sure that we’re still on target.

Hugh: So we got rid of the Republican

Annie Lou: [laughs]

Hugh: Who put in bookcases and things like that. And it was just a great event, moving in where each boy had his own room.

Annie Lou: What was it like with the three boys in the first house at 2735 P?

Hugh: They were very small. When we bought that, our oldest boy was, I think, five. And along came Matthew, who brought him home from the hospital to that house. And then Simon came along in ’65. So we were in the new house then.

Annie Lou: And I guess you had a lot of space with Rose Park, because that was…

Hugh: No, we were still in the old house when Simon came home.

Annie Lou: You could send everyone over to Rose Park?

Hugh: Yeah.

Annie Lou: To stretch their legs?

Hugh: I remember one time Robin went down to get something for dinner, and they’re all out there. And Simon was then playing baseball. And two city toughs would come along, looking around for [laughs] Simon. And this kid says, “See that guy with the white hair, don’t mess with him. He’ll crawl right up your head.”


Hugh: And that’s our darling little boy. [laughs]

Annie Lou: That’s hilarious. Now, at this time were you working in the house still, or had you opened that office?

Hugh: No, I opened my office then above the delicatessen. And one time I was…

Annie Lou: The one right down?

Hugh: Yeah. Griffin Market.

Annie Lou: OK.

Hugh: And I was opening up bids, and there must have been, oh, 15 people up there. And one of the neighbors called the cops because I was breaking the zoning. And I had to get out of there.

Annie Lou: Oh, you’re kidding?

Hugh: Just at that time the rental space came up above the dry cleaner, where we were then a block east. And one time, if you’re going to drop a name, drop a honey, but Bunny and Paul Mellon, I worked with for about nine years. And Paul came up those stairs one time above the dry cleaner. And he said, “Hugh, we all know we’re going to the cleaners when we come to see you.”


Hugh: [laughs] That was a neat line.

Annie Lou: Oh, that’s great.

Hugh: But I got up to 10 people there. We were busy. The thing is that happened with my career, I saturated Georgetown. And there was no elan of anybody hiring me to do another. And thank God at that time I got a house to do up in Martha’s Vineyard, and for Georgetown people, Ben and Violet Toran.

Annie Lou: And where on the Vineyard was that?

Hugh: In Seven Gates Farm.

Annie Lou: Oh. OK. Yeah.

Hugh: And Torans were such an old family. Chris was my closest friend, their son. He died at age 41.

Annie Lou: Oh.

Hugh: Yeah. It was very tough. Anyway, at least I had some work. And by working out of town, I began to realize that it’s such a terror to neighbors, because they think inspection is police action. And it’s not, it’s a helpful task. You’re building. And so once I had one out of town, it took the fear out of practically everybody else.

Annie Lou: [laughs]

Hugh: And I started working all over the world. We work in 28 states and 11 foreign countries.

Annie Lou: Wow.

Hugh: Isn’t that incredible?

Annie Lou: It’s amazing.

Hugh: Yeah. That’s incredible.

Annie Lou: And did you… I guess it sounds like you sort of felt relieved from having lived in Georgetown, having your offices in Georgetown, actually conducting work in Georgetown.

Hugh: Oh, no.

Annie Lou: Now just sort of going all over.

Hugh. No. If I didn’t like to travel, I would have gone broke, you know?

Annie Lou: Right.

Hugh: But Robin, at our 50th anniversary, said, “This is all a lie. He’s been gone 25 years.”


Hugh: No, it’s when you think what I have built, and you’ve seen my books.

Annie Lou: Yes.

Hugh: It’s just incredible. There’s another book coming.

Annie Lou: Oh, amazing.

Hugh: It’s so marvelous. Simon and I, on July 1, changed the name of the firm, to Jacobsen Architecture.

Annie Lou: I noticed that.

Hugh: And Dan, he plays the piano at the Prime Rib. He is Mark Russell’s brother. But God, he’s so funny. Anyway, at this party, he sang this marvelous song with all the other too many people in Simon’s house, about 100 people. They were our best friends, our best neighbors, and our best clients.

Annie Lou: [laughs]

Hugh: And it was just marvelous. And Dan stood up and he sang this song, [singing to the tune of “God Bless America”] “Hugh Newell Jacobsen, F.A.I.A. Stan would lead. [?]”

Annie Lou: [laughs]

Hugh: And he said, no. [singing] “You and Simon, better timin’, going forward two for tea. Jacobsen Architecture LLC.”


Annie Lou: That’s great.

Hugh: Isn’t that neat. I tried to get the office, like IBM, to stand up and sing it. They won’t do it.

Annie Lou: [laughs] I love that.

Hugh: So by working away from town, I was, up until about four years ago, I was on an airplane two days out of the week.

Annie Lou: Oh my goodness, that’s…

Hugh: I smelled of jet fuel.

Annie Lou: [laughs]

Hugh: But, you know, Christ.

Annie Lou: It’s a considerable amount of travel.

Hugh: A lot.

Annie Lou: But you could also offset it by having your offices so close to home that you don’t have to commute anywhere.

Hugh: Just imagine, I mean walking a block and a half. And I look on the news there, the Beltway, the kids that work here, an hour and a half each way. Just think how many years of my life I’ve gotten back.

Annie Lou: I know. I know.

Hugh: God.

Annie Lou: It must be incredible to go…

Hugh: Oh, it is. When you can go home and come back down here and work on it, without having to get the car out and do all of that stuff. Now just between being in 28th and then 29th, and now 26th, it’s my turf.

Annie Lou: It sounds like, well, the fact that you were walking barefoot from your house to work with.

Hugh: Which we still do.

Annie Lou: The neighborhood must have been very different then?

Hugh: No.

Annie Lou: You think it was quite the same?

Hugh: Matthew came back. He lives in L.A. And that’s a long time ago. That’s Matt, and that’s Simon, and that’s my son John.

Annie Lou: Oh, how wonderful.

Hugh: He lives in L.A. And he came here, and one of them, I think “The Georgetowner” interviewed him, and said, “What’s changed since you grew up here?”

He said, “Nothing.”

Annie Lou: [laughs]

Hugh: He said the only thing that’s different is that it’s a little more upscale. There are no weeds growing between the bricks anymore.

Annie Lou: [laughs]

Hugh: But it’s true. It hasn’t changed a bit.

Annie Lou: And it hasn’t changed in my memory, but you know I just don’t know.

Hugh: Oh, I know. You’re a kid.


Hugh: When we moved into P Street, the whole block was black. There was another white family out of the 15 row houses. And that changed very rapidly. There’s still three or four in there that my kids all grew up with.

Annie Lou: Oh wow.

Hugh: Yeah.

Annie Lou: And did it feel more or less residential or commercial, or was it really very much the same?

Hugh: Well, P Street is one noisy street with the buses and the traffic and everything. And those houses are not what you’d call “Georgetown Houses.” They were called, their respective houses built in 1904, and they were called Tuscan Villas. Isn’t that marvelous?

Annie Lou: [laughs]

Hugh: And they were designed for bus drivers‑‑streetcar drivers. The streetcar used to go right up there. And that’s most American doctors and drivers of streetcars that moved there.

Annie Lou: Why? I didn’t know that?

Hugh: That came out of that Georgetown Library up the street.

Annie Lou: Wow, that’s really amazing. And did you do, as most of your socializing and shopping and all that kind of, did really your whole life take place in Georgetown?

Hugh: No. The things is, Robin has this marvelous story. A friend of ours, Ann Vanderpool lived on one of the great houses on M street. And she divorced, and Stuart remarried, and moved in on Prospect Street. And Ann later on married Wynant Vanderpool, a very good architect from Philadelphia.

And so were asked over to meet the architect. And he and I were discussing the prose and music trade in the front of the drawing room. In the back, Robin and Ann were talking, and Ann’s “So how’s it…” Robin’s then “How’s it going?” Ann said, “just terribly.” She said, “every time I go out I see Stewart and that awful woman and those dirty‑faced children, if it gets any worse we’re going to have to move.” And Robin said, “to Philadelphia?” “No, no, the other side of Wisconsin Avenue.”

Annie Lou: [laughter]

Hugh: Now isn’t that a Georgetown story?

Annie Lou: Oh you’re kidding, that’s so funny.

Hugh: No, everybody we know, basically, we walk to dinner, my car is twelve years old, I may have 30, 000 miles because we walked all around, I walked to work.

Annie Lou: Wow.

Hugh: …and occasionally, someone over there will ask us to drinks and dinner and I’ve got to get the car out, check my passport, I can’t find a place to park, and they’re different, you know what I’m saying, they’re different over there, the houses are a bit smaller, you know,

Annie Lou: That’s so funny. What, and did your children go to school in Georgetown were they.

Hugh: Yup, they all started off at play school on N Street, the pre‑school.

Annie Lou: Sure,

Hugh: where my grandson is now,

Annie Lou: Oh how nice.

Hugh: And then there was one up where on 28th Street, where my first son went, that was a pre‑school in that beautiful Greek revival house that Rob and Eileen West live in, and then they all went to Beaufort, one of them went to St. Albans another went to More and Simon with his dyslexia which I gratefully gave him, he went up to what’s the name of the school, it’s up in Connecticut? Where they took dyslexic kids and normal kids, so, which was very important.

Annie Lou: Oh absolutely.

Hugh: You know, when you’re at the lab school, he just hated that place, he was there for eleven years, and he always felt like some bug being in lab.

Annie Lou: Oh no.

Hugh: he was so isolated all the time, the guys, you know had emotional problems or something other than just not being able to read, well, he could always read and write, which was the same thing with me.

Annie Lou: Right, right, so that was sort of probably the furthest you went out of the neighborhood it sounds like, to school, to go to school.

Hugh: Right. I remember going shopping, you know, out to Lord and Taylor or whatever it was, with the kids to buy more clothes, and everyone was saying as we’re driving way the hell out in Bethesda, “oh, my school bus goes by here, ”

Annie Lou: [laughter]

Hugh: they’d pick him up at dawn and drive all over hell.

Annie Lou: …drive back over, oh, that’s so funny. Now, only one of your sons is in Washington, is that right?

Hugh: Mm‑hmm. He lives across the street.

Annie Lou: OK, now, when did you move into these current offices.

Hugh: Here?

Annie Lou: Mm‑hmm.

Hugh: ’85.

Annie Lou: In ’85, OK.

Hugh: I bought the building because my wife was very smart. She found, it was a dry cleaner.

Annie Lou: Another dry cleaner?

Hugh: Mm‑hmm. And the, and two gay decorators lived up here.

Annie Lou: OK.

Hugh: We bought it and change in the zoning. Well, I had, it was alright to have a professional office but I couldn’t have a commercial thing downstairs. So we, that was very easy to do and you know it was just, it’s just a marvelous place.

Annie Lou: Absolutely.

Hugh: We’ve had twenty five people in here at one time,

Annie Lou: Oh wow.

Hugh: When I started, I rented it out to some lady interior designers.

Annie Lou: Yes, one of them was my mother in law, Michelle Berman.

Hugh: Ah, yeah, of course.

Annie Lou: So that’s, it’s such a small world.

Hugh: No, they all split up.

Annie Lou: Yes, I believe they did.

Hugh: Yeah.

Annie Lou: Now did you find, sort of going back to the houses that you worked on, early on in Georgetown, did you find that everybody sort of wanted, obviously they wanted your style, you know, and your expertise, but did they have ideas of what they wanted to do or did they just kind of see one another’s houses and say.

Hugh: It was curious because the more I was at it, I didn’t have to pitch so hard because they knew what they were going to get before they hired me.

Annie Lou: Right.

Hugh: And I’ve never, Lou Kahn I quote him too much, but he said, when you, he said, how do you do a beautiful building for a rat? He said you don’t. He said when they’re interviewing you, no, you are interviewing them.

Annie Lou: right.

Hugh: And when he turns and takes a piece out of your leg, be more angry at yourself that you didn’t see that little piece of ca‑ca in the corner of his mouth.


Annie Lou: yeah.

Hugh: Actually, I’ve been able to choose my clients for over 50 years.

Annie Lou: That’s very nice.

Hugh: And it makes, it’s a wonderful life, Jesus.

Annie Lou: Absolutely.

Hugh: Now I remember an Irish poet I met when I was working in Egypt and he taught us, he introduced us.

Annie Lou: What was his name?

Hugh: Desmond O’Grady.

Annie Lou: OK.

Hugh: And he’s still doing the [Inaudible 13:42], he’s in Rome now, but he was from Cork. Anyway, he said to live a full life, you have to leave some record. And you know, women, piece of cake, they have kids.

Annie Lou: Right.

Hugh: we’ve got to jump up a lot on concrete and granite, you know. But the body of my work is just incredible, what I have built.

Annie Lou: It’s phenomenal.

Hugh: And you know, all of those clients are my friends.

Annie Lou: Right.

Hugh: You know, I’ve only had one bad case.

Annie Lou: And did they especially the ones in Georgetown were they friends and then clients or clients and then they became friends?

Hugh: Clients who became friends.

Annie Lou: That’s wonderful.

Hugh: Yeah.

Annie Lou: Did you, were there any houses in Georgetown that you really didn’t want to work on you know because of the size or because of the style?

Hugh: No. You know, there’s a service an architect brings and if they can’t rearrange the trinity of the WC, the tub and the sink in a new, creative way, then for Christ’s sake, let the plumber do it.

Annie Lou: Right.

Hugh: You’ve got to earn your fee. You know, these guys, you know when I was younger most of my work was here and I had an army of contractors and subcontractors that I could bid and talk to and I learned so much about how to build that I didn’t know when I started out.

Annie Lou: I can imagine. Was it difficult, it must have been tricky working with all these old structures that had sort of unusual fixtures or plumbing.

Hugh: You know, going to Yale, it’s a design school which all good architectural schools are, I got out and I got my license after being in the Air Force where I did my apprenticeship, I didn’t know that a two by four was not two inches by four inches.

And holy Christ, every night at 4:00 I’d run out of that basement to all the construction sites and measure things to see how, oh that’s how that goes on here, I didn’t know anything. I’m just winging it.

Annie Lou: Wow.

Hugh: got away with murder.

Annie Lou: So did you go, I mean were all these construction sites in this neighborhood or were they all over the city?

Hugh: I just went around, you know.

Annie Lou: Did you feel there was equal building by the way going on in different neighborhoods. You know was everywhere sort of changing at the same rate?

Hugh: The thing that was so much easier then, because we had a lot of work up in Capitol Hill too, and there was no architectural review board.

Annie Lou: So you could sort of.

Hugh: It didn’t make any difference.

Annie Lou: Right, right.

Hugh: you know, you don’t shout at your neighbors. You don’t go and do an all glass building in the middle of a 19th century row.

Annie Lou: Right.

Hugh: and when they got on a historic district like DuPont Circle, it was no different, everybody behaved themselves pretty well.

Annie Lou: Oh that’s good. What were some of your favorite houses in Georgetown to work on?

Hugh: First one, or favorite?

Annie Lou: Favorite, both well what was your first one?

Hugh: Mine. 2765.

Annie Lou: Your own. About how long did it take the process to…

Hugh: About four or five months.

Annie Lou: That seems quick compared to today’s.

Hugh: Ugh, I hired the contract driving up Massachusetts Avenue and he was in this tumbled down truck, guys on the back, “are you busy?”, “no, ” “follow me.”

Annie Lou: Oh really? That’s great.

Hugh: He had so many liens by the IRS on him, I had to pay as cash that would accrue as cash every Friday night, because the IRS was right there and if I gave him any money, they had to take it. You know.

Annie Lou: Oh wow. And when you saw that first house, did you have kind of an initial reaction that you knew exactly what you wanted to do or did it take some time?

Hugh: No it, whether it’s a remodeling, an addition or a new house from scratch, the site is the most influential thing you’ve got.

Annie Lou: Mm‑hmm.

Hugh: even more important than their program or the budget is to how do you make this thing work so that you don’t walk through the kitchen to get to the powder room and dumb things like that and where do you put the Christmas tree and all the stuff? If you put away all their stuff,  then you can become an architect. But if they’re still hiding things under the bed, you’re going to have a hard time selling that glass wall.

Hugh: Remember that awful souvenir with the bridge and little ivory elephants running across it?

Annie Lou: Yes. [chuckles]

Hugh: Well, yeah, but it’s on the coffee table. There’s your treasures from your travels. And then what is all that glass? Put all this stuff away.

Annie Lou: Right. Right.

Hugh: Right. Right. [chuckles]

Annie Lou: And so now, after your house, what were some of the other … that you really loved or…?

Hugh: Of course, the Lee house, that one just opened up so many doors. Oh Christ, they’re all over the map.

Annie Lou: And what year were you working on … that was the…?

Hugh: Lee?

Annie Lou: Yeah.

Hugh: Mmm. I could look it up. [sounds of pages turning] God. memories. [more sounds of pages turning] Lee was ’61.

Annie Lou: OK.

Hugh: Boy, that is early. Whee.

Annie Lou: It must have been very refreshing to bring this new sensibility to such an old neighborhood.

Hugh: Well, if you look at‑there’s my first building. And it had no windows, no furnace.

Annie Lou: Mm‑hmm.

Hugh: All those things slid, like in Japanese houses, sitting on top of Mount‑it burned down.

Annie Lou: Oh, no.

Hugh: Yeah. Lightning thing hit the fire way down below, came up, and it destroyed it. But this was out in Chevy Chase. It was right next to a house that Frank Lloyd Wright had designed for his son and the joke was that people stood on the hill and “There’s the Wright house and there’s the wrong.”

Annie Lou: [laughs]

Hugh: But anyway, this was next door to that.

Annie Lou: OK.

Hugh: This guy, he had four kids‑

Annie Lou: This was the Tager house?

Hugh: [corrects her pronunciation] Tager.

Annie Lou: Tager.

Hugh: They went to live in Rome for a year. And he hired me. And he never saw it ’til they came back from Rome. Boy, was I spoiled rotten?

Annie Lou: [laughs] That must have been an amazing way to work.

Hugh: This is Robert Nathan.

Annie Lou: Mm‑hmm.

Hugh: It was a T‑shape house. And this is out in Cleveland Park.

Annie Lou: Oh sure.

Hugh: No! That’s Lee. And that’s Cleveland Park.

Annie Lou: This one. The Carter house.

Hugh: Mm‑hmm. Oh, incredible. They’re all dead. [chuckles]

Annie Lou: Well people assume now … you said the neighbors were very supportive. Was everyone sort of trying to go in a …?

Hugh: Oh no. I would get calls, “You got away with murder on that house up on R street!”

Annie Lou: Oh really, so people were a little bit…

Hugh: Oh, Jesus! If you’re hooked on a center hall colonial, I’m the enemy.

Annie Lou: Right. [laughs]

Hugh: Eva Hinton was a very famous woman here in Georgetown.

Annie Lou: Mm‑hmm.

Hugh: And she really just stood up at every architectural review board and say, “Why do you have to use so much glass?” One time we were in a receiving line at a wedding or Society of Cincinnati, and here was Mrs. Hinton. I’d never really met her. I touched her, as my mother taught me, on the elbow. She turned around and I said, “Mrs. Hinton, you and I have never met. I’m Hugh Jacobsen.” She withdrew her hand and left the party!

Annie Lou: You’re kidding!

Hugh: No, that’s right!

Annie Lou: Oh, my goodness!

Hugh: [laughs] Whee!

Annie Lou: So, some people then, I guess, had a very strong reaction. Well, as anywhere in the world…

Hugh: Aw. I mean you would think ….

Annie Lou: …to modern sensibility.

Hugh: Yeah, it still is hated, you know? I mean more people now‑‑you look at who is winning awards?

Annie Lou: Mm‑hmm.

Hugh: I mean, I’m just embarrassed. You know, Bob Stern was 10 years after me at Yale, and he does all that stuff. I introduced him‑we’re very good friends. You can always tell male friends, because they never say anything nice to each other. They say things you would never say to an enemy.

But I introduced him one time as the “Ralph Lauren of architecture.” [laughs] He‑we were on the same platform‑oh never mind. But he, Lou Kahn would have an absolute stroke if he looked at what Stern was doing. As he calls it the architecture of accommodation.

As I refer to it: Sell out now and avoid the rush. It’s just hard, you know. Lou’s great unit of measure, whenever you show him something, he said, “After 2, 000 years of Western Civilization, is that the best we have to offer?”

Annie Lou: Oh.

Hugh: [makes whooshing sound] Whoo. Whoo.

Annie Lou: That’s very tough.

Hugh: Discipline.

Annie Lou: As many houses as you’ve done in Georgetown, it seems like people were really ready for something new and really, and craving kind of this lightening of what were such heavy building materials in kind of an older outlook …

Hugh: Yeah, well, it’s like, if I could get off the street, I could blow the rear end and most of them all have all glass in the back.

Annie Lou: Right.

Hugh: And it’s just to let the light in. The townhouses can only get their light from the front and the back.

Annie Lou: Right.

Hugh: So, I made a lot of skylights and shafts going through, so you could get some light in there. Like this Trentman house down here with the bay windows overlooking the tennis court on 27th Street.

There are two silos in there, 10‑feet diameter, and the stair goes up and you cross here and the stair goes up. And up on top, there are two 10‑foot diameter bolts that I bought in Texas and it just brings light all the way down.

Annie Lou: Oh, that’s …

Hugh: You only have little slits in there. You know, I was so smart then.

Annie Lou: And still are. That’s obviously something sort of unique to this neighborhood, is you only are getting the light are getting the light from the front and the back. Were there‑‑

Hugh: The only reason that house is so modern is that Gordon Bunshaft, who designed the Lever House, and was a partner in Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, and he was on the Fine Arts Commission here‑and he pulled me aside, along with Bill Walton, who used to live up on the corner, who was Chairman, and they said, “We’d like to see a modern house in Georgetown.”

Annie Lou: Oh.

Hugh: I couldn’t anymore get that house through today.

Annie Lou: I can imagine.

Hugh: My God! If you just cleared your throat that way, they would try to get your license. It was such a house!

Annie Lou: So, do you think that there’s a little more experimentation or willingness to try something years ago?

Hugh: Oh yeah! Oh sure! Sure! Because it was tolerated. That house, is just‑you see those circles? They go all the way up.

Annie Lou: That’s wonderful.

Hugh: And they bring light all the way down.

Annie Lou: Ah! I love it!

Hugh: And see that is in back. You know?

Annie Lou: That’s wonderful.

Hugh: That railing is red, red plastic.

Annie Lou: Really? Oh, I love that! What a phenomenal house.

Hugh: Yeah.

Annie Lou: And so now what year was this completed?

Hugh: Six … early … I’ve got look back.

Annie Lou: This is the Trent‑‑

Hugh: Trentman.

Annie Lou: Trentman.

Hugh: Stephen Trentman. Wheelock live there now. I must say, they understand it.

Annie Lou: That’s so nice to have people‑‑

Hugh: 63.

Annie Lou: So, in ’63 then, it seems like people, it seems like that was a more experimentation and excitement about it.

Hugh: Well, there were three street demonstrations against that house.

Annie Lou: Really!?

Hugh: ‑huh. Pitchforks, and …

Annie Lou: You’re joking!

Hugh: Because the guy who lived in that house‑the house was condemned on that site. So, Trentman bought it and‑‑because it was condemned‑to tear it down to build a new house.

Annie Lou: OK.

Hugh: Well this guy moved next door. He just hated the idea that we were going to tear down his marvelous house. And he organized all of those guys‑I mean there were really a 100 people out there shouting, ‑‑

Annie Lou: Really?

Hugh: “Down tear it down. Don’t tear it down.” You know, like we were just terrible people.

Annie Lou: Wow. I don’t believe that. Oh my goodness. That’s amazing.

Hugh: ‘Twas there.

Annie Lou: And how did you finally‑did you have to do anything to sort of calm everyone?

Hugh: I had to go before Eva Hinton and the Fine Arts Commission and you should have heard her on that building.

Annie Lou: How did you actually get it passed?

Hugh: Because I had‑the court was loaded. Gordon Bundshaft and the chairman of the board.

Annie Lou: So they were able to sort of help get it through?

Hugh: You bet.

Annie Lou: Well after it was built for people was the reception positive?

Hugh: It was better and people were no longer yelling at poor Emmy Trenton.

Annie Lou: Right and they could still see that it was within scale to everything and you do think having that house successfully built prompted others towards wanting the same thing?

Hugh: In a way. I let the word out I wouldn’t build in Georgetown ever again. And I never should have said that because I lost a lot of provisions. But it’s just tough, between the ANC and the Georgetown Board, they don’t want you to build anything. They want to keep it just as it is. We’ve never built the perfect building yet, if we did I’d be out of work.

Annie Lou: : I know, I always have to keep trying for the next one. Well do you think, you were talking about the light, especially that you are only getting the light from the front and the back and that’s why you need to have skylights.

Did you find that there was any other way that people in Georgetown were living or using their space that was really unique to Georgetown? Whether it was the way that families were sort of conducting their day to day life or whether it was something unique to the actual structure?

Hugh: I look at the work of my colleagues and I just don’t understand because if you don’t find a place for the stuff and you don’t work out the traffic or you have to walk through one room to get to another, you are really screwing somebody.

And that’s a basic thing, when watching my colleagues like Frank Ghery who I admire so much. He is so good because he works out the Goddamn plan. So the Corchran, his scheme, everybody hated it for his triumphant waving outside. But I was on that board for 12 years and it was just a mess of goods coming, goods going.

Protecting the art from the water coming in. And he solved all of that and then of course they came out of the woodwork because it’s not exactly red brick.

Annie Lou: I know, I know, I know, it’s a struggle in Washington to do that.

Hugh: It is. I think it’s beautiful, they call it new brutalist, it’s about as new brutalist as my Chevy. But the Church of The Christian Science at 16th and L.

Annie Lou: Yes, absolutely.

Hugh: And they want to tear it down. And the Washington Post’s idiot wrote, it should be replaced with a nice Georgian office building. George one, George two, George three. Let me get back to life here, every year, while we lived on P Street, and then we moved where we now are. Every year I put up a Christmas tree in the bay window. And it takes me four days to get it up.

Annie Lou: Really?

Hugh: It goes up December one and I take it down New Year’s Day. But there is a piece that appeared without my name, without my address celebrating that tree every Christmas.

Annie Lou: Really?

Hugh: And it was in the “USA Today” or something. Probably, no that’s not it. And I was so proud because there’s this old guy, no I didn’t say that. But there’s this man who just wants to share the spirit of Christmas every year. And he puts this tree up and people come from miles around to look at it. Boy, is that gratifying and then he says of course one day it won’t be there.

Like hell it won’t. Anyway I can’t find it. It was a very nice piece.

Annie Lou: I’ll have to look that up.

Hugh: It’s around here somewhere.

Annie Lou: Christmas trees are my favorite. My birthday’s on Christmas and I am particularly partial to Christmas.

Hugh: How old were you when you figured out they weren’t celebrating your birthday?

Annie Lou: I still haven’t figured that out. So Christmas trees really have a special place, I actually had a business where I decorated people’s houses for Christmas for awhile.

Hugh: Oh you did?

Annie Lou: Yes. And I didn’t know of anybody with.

Hugh: Did you ever see my tree?

Annie Lou: No, I mean I must’ve seen it and remarked, and been like “oh,” but I’ll have to really make it a point to look for it.

Hugh: There are four thousand ornaments. 1200 lights.

Annie Lou: Really?

Hugh: All the ornaments are wood, and toys,

Annie Lou: Oh wow.

Robin and I have collected for years you know.

Annie Lou: Oh that must be.

Hugh: There are dates on some of them. 1916.

Annie Lou: That sounds amazing.

Hugh: Oh you know, to decorate it, it’s, to get the lights on, it’s good for two days. But then hanging the ornaments takes one day.

Annie Lou: At my parents’ house, I still go back to decorate their house at Christmas.

Hugh: Yeah.

Annie Lou: And they have two trees there.

Hugh: I used to go to my parents’ house and then come down and do mine.

Annie Lou: It’s fun, it really gets you in the spirit of things but there’s some.

Hugh: I just adore it.

Annie Lou: thing about a Christmas tree. So do I.

Hugh: I just adore it.

Annie Lou: Our company was called “Jingle Belles, ” B‑E‑L‑L‑E‑S, because I employed my younger sisters and their friends. So we would go to houses and come up with a scheme for the exterior and the interior.

Hugh: It’s really.

Annie Lou: You know, it’s really.

Hugh: just terrific. You know, Christmas Day, and we don’t open our presents on Christmas Eve, we had, oh, on Christmas Day we had all the other too many people in for champagne.

Annie Lou: Which is what makes it great.

Hugh: Yeah. And we don’t even, cards printed there’s no date, it just says Christmas Day. And it just fills up with people and we do the same thing at Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving our neighbors and Christmas our neighbors and friends who live elsewhere.

Annie Lou: Oh, that’s nice, so you have your, did you say you open your presents on.

Hugh: Christmas Day.

Annie Lou: Christmas Day.

Hugh: Christmas morning.

Annie Lou: OK.

Hugh: And put all that stuff away before twelve o’clock because they’re coming in.

Annie Lou: Everybody’s coming in.

Hugh: And then we have a great big dinner coming up at three o’clock and I have to get them out of there.

Annie Lou: That sounds wonderful. That’s what it’s like at my parents’ house too, we sort of it seems there’s always something going on every single minute of that day.

Hugh: Yeah.

Annie Lou: You know, people coming in and out.

Hugh: These sort of frames I design and they’re extremely dangerous and oh, a couple of years ago, I was in the library and Jim Lehrer was sticking me because I had all my books laying out and he said, “that’s just the most vulgar display, ” and just then somebody backed into this thing on the wall and you heard [crash] and Lehrer went, “don’t worry, there’s nothing of value in the entire house.” [laughter] Isn’t that neat?

Annie Lou: Oh, that’s hilarious. Well they, you know I think that’s important especially in Georgetown with everything, you know there’s not as much space as some other places, you have to really take into consideration everything that someone has, where do you put the Christmas tree?

Hugh: That’s right.

Annie Lou: I know in my own house, even before we moved in I was like, “where will I put a Christmas tree in this house?”

Hugh: No, when I design a house I know exactly where the hell the thing is going to be. When we first moved in we put the Christmas tree under the bay window in the back of the house, well…

Annie Lou: Nobody can see it.

Hugh: Comes in, “your Christmas tree borders on the rim of vulgarity.” [laughter] It’s great fun.

Annie Lou: When, now, have you been doing this for a long time, having neighbors in and?

Hugh: Oh yes. Yeah, yeah, forever. And we used to have caroling parties.

Annie Lou: Oh wow.

Hugh: where we’d all have mulled wine at our house and colder than hell, all carrying candles, ruining their clothes with wax getting it all over everything.

Annie Lou: Actual candles, wow?

Hugh: Mm‑hmm.

Annie Lou: I’m very impressed.

Hugh: and our number, Rice, he used to be at Morgan Pharmacy and we were caroling across the street and he said the next day, what was that drunken mob, shouting at? Well.

Annie Lou: It’s too bad there isn’t still caroling. That would be great if you would resurrect that party.

Hugh: Yeah. They come by with a megaphone with a record on a sound truck and they do it for money.

Annie Lou: Very different feeling.

Hugh: Yeah.

Annie Lou: Do you still, do you know if there are a lot of, I understand Georgetown was very vibrant even from then to now, in terms of socializing with neighbors, and everybody would.

Hugh: Yeah, yeah, and you know, walking around as I do, you get to this age you know who lives there and well I did that house and they’re dead, and I mean when you lived in it taking this walk for fifty one years, you begin to catch on what your neighborhood is.

Annie Lou: Right.

Hugh: you know, the garden party and the house tours and so forth., it’s just very nice.

Annie Lou: And the garden parties and the house tours are nice, because it really I think, lets people see…of course, people are curious and nosy and want to see what their neighbors’ houses are like.

Hugh: Of course.

Annie Lou: But it really gives a sort of inside feeling of what the whole neighborhood is like.

Hugh: Yes.

Annie Lou: Because each house is so different.

Hugh: And the big thing with the Georgetown house is that almost all of us come right off the hot street.

Annie Lou: Right.

Hugh: And the garden is the surprise.

Annie Lou: Right.

Hugh: That’s why you came in that front door.

Annie Lou: Right.

Hugh: And so you’ve got to take advantage of the garden, and most houses do.

Annie Lou: Right.

Hugh: The gardens are very super.

Annie Lou: Have there been any gardens that you’ve worked on that are particularly…that you particularly are fond of?

Hugh: Yes. I’m no good with flora and fauna, but I design spaces with flora and fauna. The nursery man tells me that it will die like something else.

Annie Lou: [laughs]

Hugh: We do all of our own gardens, yes.

Annie Lou: The pictures I’ve seen of your son’s house, the garden in the back of his house, I really…it’s so open, yet so intimate.

Hugh: When you tear down one house and you put…oh, you don’t, you put the two together. You suddenly have a very big house.

Annie Lou: Yes, and big space out back.

Hugh: And you have a yard that’s 34 feet wide? I mean, my God.

Annie Lou: It’s really nice. It’s such a feeling, though, of, you really feel like you’re in the city, but you have breathing room, which is nice.

Hugh: And then there’s that damn willow tree that lives next door. It’s so beautiful, and it has crunched his sewer pipes twice.

Annie Lou: Oh, no.

Hugh: Yes. We’d love to poison it, but no, I wouldn’t want…

Annie Lou: [laughs] Well, do you…what was I going to ask? Are there any things that you think today in Georgetown you would do sort of differently, or any places that you would really want to change? Maybe everywhere.

Hugh: Well, I used to come in and gut it. Take out all that 18th century molding. I don’t think I’d do that anymore.

Annie Lou: Really.

Hugh: I mean, people…when you are doing remodeling or additions and things, you have to respect the original architect. You don’t erase him. I mean, if it’s lousy molding, I’ll take it out, but if I’ve got 18th century moldings…We did a couple houses on N Street that were build in 1755. I pulled it.

Annie Lou: [laughs]

Hugh: Someone’s going to talk to me later on.

Annie Lou: [laughs]

Hugh: The thing with watching houses change and different families move in…Lou Kahn used to say, “A house is a treasury of spaces.” And that they are just spaces, and only Mother can make a home. Architects don’t make homes; they make houses.

And if some mother says, “Well, this is the kitchen,” then that space becomes the kitchen. It may be another space over here. It’s just a brilliant way of freeing you out of all of the symbols that you’re going to date yourself, and it won’t work.

Annie Lou: Right. Right. And it is, I mean, even with…when we moved into our house, we were like, “Where should we put the kitchen?” It’s sort of this feeling, like, “How do you operate within that space?” But remodeling, I guess, or building an addition is very different from building from scratch, so I have to…

Hugh: It is. It’s different contractors. People that do that wouldn’t know how to build a new house, and same way the other way around. John Richardson, who’s done a great deal of my work here, and he’s so damn good. He’s so honest, and somebody tore into him last year for all the wrong reasons. It’s just depressed him. He doesn’t really want to work anymore.

Annie Lou: Oh, no. That’s unfortunate.

Hugh: Because he was working with friends.

Annie Lou: Right. Sure.

Hugh: And this guy took him to court and beat him up.

Annie Lou: Oh, no. How horrible.

Hugh: Yes, yes. You know John?

Annie Lou: No, I mean I know his work because I see his signs…

Hugh: Even though he went to Harvard, he’s a very nice man.

Annie Lou: [laughs] well, why don’t we pause now?

Hugh: No, no, I can go on forever.

Annie Lou: Oh, you can. OK, well then, we’ll continue. The first house…I’m just trying to go slightly chronologically…after doing the Lee house, I guess, what was your next step?

Hugh: I did a house, I think, on N Street for Chester Bowles.

Annie Lou: OK.

Hugh: Yes. They had just come back from India where he was ambassador, and they painted the drawing room ‑ it was a double drawing room ‑‑ emerald green.

Annie Lou: Wow.

Hugh: It was just spectacular.

Annie Lou: I can imagine.

Hugh: I mean, I do everything in white. And green, we all looked like hell in front of it, but, Jesus, the room is really happy with the…

Annie Lou: Really?

Hugh: Yes.

Annie Lou: And what sort of project was that on that house?

Hugh: It was their house.

Annie Lou: Did you do a partition?

Hugh: Oh, yes. I did a kitchen, new bathrooms, and decorated and changed some of the windows on the back.

Annie Lou: And is that what most people want? They want the same sort of…they want a new kitchen and living…

Hugh: Some people will say, well, “We want to keep that sofa,” and you say, “I don’t think the Goodwill would take that sofa.”

Annie Lou: It’s funny what people are attached to.

Hugh: You must have some memory that happened on that sofa [laughs].

Annie Lou: Right [laughs].

Hugh: And sooner or later, the architecture just moves it out. Like, well, if this picture doesn’t belong, then there’s a thing that…let’s talk more about Georgetown design philosophy. My children, which is really quite a wonderful thing since we’ve lived in that house now for 44 years, and Simon’s three when we moved in, and the one lives in Seattle with his family and the other one lives in L.A. They come back three times a year. Not so see Mummy and Daddy ‑‑ they’re coming home.

Annie Lou: To see the house, right?

Hugh: And all their friends, and all their memories. I moved a lot as a kid, and it’s just a big myth that it doesn’t damage you. I was a wreck.

Annie Lou: [laughs]

Hugh: Changing schools, it’s always a very, very hard to do.

Annie Lou: Oh, certainly, and it’s nice to know…I think that is one of the nice things about Georgetown, too, is that even if the houses change, or you move from house to house, the neighborhood is so much the same, and you can really feel at home and comfortable and sort of secure, which is a nice way to live.

Hugh: I’m so glad the black families are there. That’s part of our urban heritage.

Annie Lou: Right. Well, it’s changed. A lot of people have moved out since you first moved in.

Hugh: Because of price. I mean, there are people that have been living there, the blacks, since it was built. Their mummy and daddy…and they’ve left it to them. And all of a sudden, the house…mommy and daddy bought it for $4, 000, and all of a sudden someone offers them $100, 000, and the ones that are there, they just don’t want to move into the ghetto.

Annie Lou: Right.

Hugh: I mean, they’re second and third generation Georgetown.

Annie Lou: Right.

Hugh: And most of them have taken the money and ran. It’s too damn bad.

Annie Lou: I know. It’s such a…

Hugh: But it’s really a sacrifice to look somebody in the eye and say, “You want to pay me what for the house that are now going for, like, one million, three in that row?

Annie Lou: Wow. That’s really hard. Well, now, in Chester Bowles’ house, did you keep the drawing room? Did it stay emerald green?

Hugh: No, I widened the opening between the first and the second room.

Annie Lou: OK.

Hugh: They entertained a lot, and I knew that guys like me always have a drink in the doorway and don’t even come through.

Annie Lou: [laughs] And after that, where did you move on to?

Hugh: Well, we were doing houses, you know, suburban houses as well at that time, and our Georgetown houses, they were… There’s usually a playroom in the basement, which the ceiling height was six foot two, and better closets, better bathroom, powder room, and always a new kitchen.

And very rarely could you get it on to really being with architecture, because you were just trying to solve the traffic of where you put the stuff.

Annie Lou: Right. Did any of your Georgetown clients come to you with a notion or an idea of what they wanted that really…

Hugh: They all do.

Annie Lou: They all do. That couldn’t be worked on, I guess.

Hugh: No, I’ll tell you, what is just incredible, but people will come, and they’ll have a bushel basket of articles that they’ve been tearing out for 20 years.

Annie Lou: Sure.

Hugh: wanted, really they all do. They couldn’t be worked on I guess.

Hugh: Ill tell you what is just incredible that people will come and they will have a bushel basket of articles that they been tearing out.

Annie Lou: Sure.

Hugh: For twenty years and they say well we put these together that over half of them you have done.

Annie Lou: [laughing]

Hugh: Which is very nice?

Annie Lou: Absolutely.

Hugh: Yeah, it’s a… Georgetown you know I was watching people move in and how they get it you know. A lot of the houses are 12 feet wide like the ones in Simon’s Row. And they were all for common laborers, you know, carpenters, brick layers who were working on the big houses on N street, and things like that.

I know in my garden when we did it digging it up there was just nothing but broken blue and white china.

Annie Lou: Really.

Hugh: Yeah, all broken in smithereens and oyster shells holly Christ oyster shells. To try in garden in there I had to take out 14 inches and bring in topsoil there was just nothing.

Annie Lou: Really.

Hugh: It was called Herring Hill over here; it was because we were so close to the river. When Simon did his house he found some planks from a boat.

Annie Lou: You’re kidding?

Hugh: Na ah, and the rafters up there still had bark on them.

Annie Lou: Wow!

Hugh: Yeah.

Annie Lou: Have you found things like that in most of the spaces?

Hugh: Yeah, something’s is always scaring things looks good and you start ripping it out and there been a fire. And all the joists are black and weakened enough to tear the house down.

Annie Lou: Really.

Hugh: And they just paint over it.

Annie Lou: Make everything look like it’s secure.

Hugh: Yeah.

Annie Lou: Oh wow, so now in terms of the businesses sort of that kind of thing going on in Georgetown. Did you, what was the feeling when you first moved here? You know to operate sort of I guess in a commercial areas?

Hugh: Well there…

Annie Lou: Wisconsin Ave. or no?

Hugh: No please you know as they said the neighbors threw me out above the delicatessen.

Annie Lou: Right, right, right.

Hugh: And you know one time I rented down stairs out to another decorating firm. And they left the lights on and they sort of had this blaze in the window two doors down the guy call the police, lawyers and so forth.

Annie Lou: Really.

Hugh: I was breaking the zoning; I had to ask those guys to turn the lights out.

Annie Lou: So over here people definitely didn’t want…

Hugh: Yeah, I mean they think there property is going to go down.

Annie Lou: Right, right.

Hugh: You know.

Annie Lou: But so everyone really wanted to keep it on Wisconsin Avenue and X Street?

Hugh: Yeah, there’s the Georgetown Circle when we moved in up the street coming over from Dupont Circle. Robin came home one night and I was having a drink with some of our neighbors she said it’s all over in Georgetown. And I said what she said it’s going to hell. She said Mary Chest just opened a store on Wisconsin Avenue.

Annie Lou: [laughing]

Hugh: Remember then it was barber shops and hardware stores.

Annie Lou: Right.

Hugh: Yeah, it was just a tall different then Little Caledonia, you know.

Annie Lou: Right, I remember Little Caledonia going there with my mother. So I guess everything slowly….

Hugh: Got upscale.

Annie Lou: Going upscale?

Hugh: You know when you finally have all those chains you know?

Annie Lou: I know.

Hugh: That are elsewhere but where holding up pretty well and Ralph Lauren moved.

Annie Lou: Right, true [laughing] true. What would the response of the neighbors to all this change you know?

Hugh: Oh there values of there property was going up you know. Like we bought ours for 85 and sold it for 129 we didn’t make any money in that time. Inflation was at nine percent I think I lost.

Annie Lou: Oh no, so people were sort of I guess were excited their property values were going up.

Hugh: Oh yeah and moving out.

Annie Lou: Oh OK.

Hugh: Leave town go to Bethesda.

Annie Lou: Really?

Hugh: Oh yeah.

Annie Lou: So there were more do you feel there were more people?

Hugh: Just getting out for the money.

Annie Lou: Wow.

Hugh: Because you know they could get a bigger house with a yard. [Snorted]

Annie Lou: Driveways, that sort of thing.

Hugh: Yeah, but my parents were very upset when I bought that house.

Annie Lou: Really.

Hugh: Oh you’re going to take that little baby in that urban ghetto?

Annie Lou: Well they must of changed their minds once they saw what you had done with it.

Hugh: They were so funny. My father who was a very funny man, he said your mother and I are inordinate, I love that word, inordinately proud of you but we don’t know how anyone could live in one of those damn things.

Annie Lou: Well perhaps it takes a different kind of person to, you know …

Hugh: Yeah it does, you know. Everybody, I mean we did a very famous house, that telescope house and the owner died and he left it to his son. He has hired us to make that into his house and not his father’s house. I said should we paint it red?

Annie Lou: Yeah, right.

Hugh: I mean we are changing the toilets and the sinks and the faucets.

Annie Lou: Wow, that is great.

Annie Lou: Have there been any houses in Georgia that you have gone back to, to work on again?

Hugh J: A whole lot. .

Annie Lou: Really?

Hugh J: Um‑hmm..

Annie Lou: Wow, what kind of, which houses or what kind of work?

Hugh: Well there are so many but there is one that we put three together and then they…

Annie Lou: Which one was that?

Hugh. It is on… it is a very nice house. The people who own it now had me by for drinks and I was so pleased to be getting into that house again. He was an American and a writer and he was the heir, no he was Brit. His father was the editor and publisher of “Manchester Guardian”…

Annie Lou: OK.

Hugh: And he was over here as a stringer for them. And he brought his American, his British wife over and moved into that house and she, one, was in culture shock and just hated America.

Annie Lou: Oh no.

Hugh: And especially hated that house, yeah.

Annie Lou: Oh no.

Hugh: Yeah. And they divorced. Better living through architecture. It is a yellow house. It is on N. M, I think no, it is one way. Not N. Pole,

Annie Lou: Dunbarton?

Hugh: P is going that way.


Annie Lou: Dunbarton, I think. Does that go through?

Annie Lou: It is one way out, yeah.

Hugh: And it is coming this way.

Annie Lou: That’s right.

Hugh: And it almost at the corner of the 34, it is yellow and you can see the windows that I brought to alter to the floor and there is a great stairway inside. You would think it would be in here.

Annie Lou: And so you had gone back to work on that house?

Hugh: Yeah and along came another one and we put a second floor on the thing and made it much bigger.

Annie Lou: This was with the same family or the new owners?

Hugh: No, they divorced and went home and this guy bought it and they had a lot of kids so we just leveled it off. It used to go like that and we filled that in and painted it yellow.

Annie Lou: Well great.

Hugh: Screwy. I mean there are quite a few if you go back. There was a little one I just saw in here that Gus Schumaker used to live in. That is the Cafritz house.

Annie Lou: Oh yes, of course.

Hugh: That was everything but hairdo. Life magazine ran that thing and there were about 40 pages of that, of how we really gutted that house and added the windows in to the formula.

Annie Lou: It is so amazing. It is so great how you get so much light in to..

Hugh J: That is what you have to do is get light in to…. There is a little guest house that I did.

Annie Lou: Oh, I love that.

Hugh: That is the, the Swedish residences are there. It is on O street just two doors away from me, huh.

Annie Lou: Oh really. So are you ever able to pop back in there?

Hugh: Well, they are so nice, you know, and they come at Christmas and I go over there but it hasn’t changed, they kept it which is always flattering. I just saw a house, where is it, that’s Schumaker.

Annie Lou: Have most of the house that you have worked on in Georgetown that have had subsequent work done to them been done by you or have some people brought in other people and you sort of walk by and wonder what is going on?

Hugh: There is a house on 28th street between P and…. [Mumbles] It is black with white shutters and my client bought that house and they had been living in it. And I turned it all around and I put, the whole back was glass so I moved in 8′ so that they could have a balcony.

Annie Lou: Was that recently for sale? I think I have been in there.

Hugh: Yeah and the builder ripped out everything I had and put it into a dopey molding, colonial house.

Annie Lou: Oh, no!

Hugh: And it’s just totally erased. God!

Annie Lou: [laughs]

Hugh: God, did that burn me up. That was one of the best things I did.

Annie Lou: Oh, no!

Hugh: I can’t find Shumaker. A little teeny house. Maybe if I can stop reading upside down.

Annie Lou: [laughs] Was there other work going on in Georgetown?

Hugh: At this time?

Annie Lou: Yeah.

Hugh: Yeah. During the Kennedy years it was the hot spot to live, and all the Republicans never did move here. They moved out into Bigotsville, which we call Spring Valley. It just filled up with every liberal in town. Have you ever met Malcolm Peabody?

Annie Lou: No.

Hugh: A charming guy. And his wife was, oh, just terrific. They live over on . Back in the Reagan years my wife was a Republican. He’d come by and he’d say, “Could I talk to your wife?” “Why?”

Annie Lou: [laughs]

Hugh: He said, “I’m from the Republican Party.” I said, “Where do you go after you talk to my wife?” He said, “There’s one out in Spring Valley.”


Hugh: He’s a very nice man. He’s now a Democrat, too. Ha, ha, ha. You know, it’s a curious thing. I’ve never asked my clients what their politics are. I’ve only had one Republican.

Annie Lou: Ah. OK.

Hugh: That’s right up here.

Annie Lou: Yup. Absolutely.

Hugh: It’s all glass in the back.

Annie Lou: Oh, how lovely. That’s really wonderful.

Hugh: I think I hit that house maybe three times. Did the garden one time, put in the deck, and then we knocked the wall out. And look at that. Those aren’t my bookcases. That was before I invented bookcases. That was ’74.

Annie Lou: There’s a little house around the alley off Q Street if you were to go right up Q. Go up 27th Street, and you cross Q and you sort of go behind the apartment buildings. There’s a little white house back there, and it has this style of bookshelves.

Hugh: Simon did that.

Annie Lou: Ah, OK. I fell in love with that house. I was desperate to live in it.

Hugh: You know what he did? It was so clever that he took out all the partitions. It’s a very small house.

Annie Lou: Very small.

Hugh: And by doing that he picked up another foot. Then he put in frosted glass.

Annie Lou: Yes.

Hugh: So there was light inside, and you got space.

Annie Lou: It was really an amazing house, and I loved it. My husband rightly said it’s too small for us.

Hugh: Well, the new guy that’s in there has a kid about this big, and he’s with NPR. He’s the one we did the first one with. He says when he gets the money, because that kid’s getting bigger, he thinks we can put another floor on it. I don’t think we can.

Annie Lou: Really? That would be amazing. You can’t do it, you think, because of…

Hugh: Zoning. Under zoning we can. It’s just trying to get the ANC and the neighbors to not yell and scream, “You’re going to take my natural light and my air.”

Annie Lou: Right. Right. How do you sort of calm everyone’s nerves when they…

Hugh: Well, most people think, “Well, it’s my house. I can do whatever I want.” And I have to point out that I’m really only 25. I look 96…

Annie Lou: [laughs]

Hugh: …because I’m George born. I said, “You have to listen to those guys. They have so much power. You just shout it down. You can’t do that.”

Annie Lou: So you have to be extra clever in the way you then get your designs into the space.

Hugh: Yeah. I said real estate people will lie to you to sell the house. “Oh, you can do that. Sure.” And you find out you can’t do a goddamn thing.

Annie Lou: Right. Even with windows. It’s difficult, too, to replace windows and that sort of thing.

Hugh: Where do you live?

Annie Lou: I live on Dent Place on this side of Wisconsin between Avon and 30th. And we did some work, too, very minimal, just opening up the kitchen a little bit for light. But it’s hard to get it approved and luckily we did.

Hugh: It’s almost impossible. Even when you’re working on the inside now, they get upset.

Annie Lou: I know. It’s got to be tough. One of the nice things about walking around Georgetown is that you can walk through the streets and look. There are so many houses next to another that you can peek in the windows.

Hugh: I know. My bay window comes right to the floor, and I trimmed the shutters horizontally. I very rarely see anybody looking in when I’m inside. However, when I come home and work…[laughs]

Annie Lou: Everyone’s standing out there looking in.

Hugh: And Simon’s house, they’re always peeking in Simon’s house.

Annie Lou: Oh, I can imagine.

Hugh: He has four windows.

Annie Lou: Everyone’s always tried to get a good idea of what’s going on.

Hugh: Of course, Rex is giving them hell if they do that.

Annie Lou: Well now, he’s not too far. He’s on the other side of Wisconsin Avenue.

Hugh: No, he’s across the street from me.

Annie Lou: Where is the picture that I saw?

Hugh: In a magazine?

Annie Lou: Yeah. I’ve gotten my streets all mixed up. Yes, it was just recently done. Yes, yes. So that must really make the neighborhood feel like a small town when your son is right there with you.

Hugh: You’d think it would spring open to a page. Just imagine that. That guy isn’t an architect; he’s an ad‑man. Can you imagine? He bought this thing from the country of France, and they had put that slate roof on. But inside, I know ‑ because I worked a lot in France to restore this spot ‑ he had put in 10 baths, two kitchens, air conditioning, and heating.

Annie Lou: Wow. Putting in air conditioning alone must have…

Hugh: He was the richest cat in the world.

Annie Lou: I can imagine.

Hugh: He’s got 16, 000 square‑feet. But isn’t it just incredible? This dopey magazine. And that sofa came from his L.A. house.

Annie Lou: Now that you have been working in France and other countries, do you find a lot of the things that you’ve worked on in Georgetown? Everything obviously relates to it.

Hugh: Influenced by France?

Annie Lou: Yeah.

Hugh: Oh, you bet. Andre Le Notre was the greatest landscape architect that ever lived. I remember when we did Evie Nef’s house and garden up in Massachusetts. Her neighbor and very good friend, and a pretty good landscape architect, van Sweden. He was so mad because I kicked him off and I got the job to do the landscaping with my house. He said: “You plant everything in straight lines.” That’s right. That’s what we do.

Annie Lou: Oh, that’s so funny. Now this was the July issue…

Hugh: September.

Annie Lou: …September issue of “Architectural Digest”.

Hugh: There it is.

Annie Lou: Oh, I love it. The white floors are perfect.

Hugh: It was this, and this one looked just like that. And the goddamn Architectural Review Board made me recall if that was once a door, like I didn’t know how to infill a door and make it look like a window.

Annie Lou: Oh, wow.

Hugh: And that is so dumb. Christ. It was like the movie theater, which is now a CVS. They had to keep it so it looked like a movie theater.

Annie Lou: Yes.

Hugh: It was designed as automobile showroom.

Annie Lou: Really?

Hugh: That’s what it originally was.

Annie Lou: That’s so funny. That was like the Walgreen’s that is moving in Cleveland Park to the Yenching Palace. I think it’s going to still look like the Yenching Palace.

Hugh: Are they going to keep the Blue Mirror?

Annie Lou: Apparently, that’s what I’ve heard. But I’m not an expert, so I’m not sure. But I didn’t realize that before it was a movie theater, it was a showroom.

Hugh: It was built as an automobile showroom for Packards.

Annie Lou: Really?

Hugh: Yeah.

Annie Lou: So the businesses along that street of Wisconsin Avenue…

Hugh: Have always been there.

Annie Lou: Really?

Hugh: Sure.

Annie Lou: It has such a different feeling, not so much housewares and clothing.

Hugh: Pottery Barn is a great family store. We used to do all of our shopping down there.

Annie Lou: Oh, wow. What else was there?

Hugh: Mom and pop. Up above was where the family lived that ran the store.

Annie Lou: Because there was a family store,it looked like there had been door on the side.

Hugh: On the side. That’s how you got up to the family apartment.

Annie Lou: OK. OK.

Hugh: That’s always been there, but it wasn’t that color. You know?

Annie Lou: Right. Right.

Hugh: They painted it Pottery Barn colors.

Annie Lou: What were some of the other businesses?

Hugh: Oh, oh I … You know, I miss Nathan’s. That’s such a terrible …

Annie Lou: Isn’t that so sad? I know. It really is.

Hugh: God, she’s a marvelous person! She is so smart!

Annie Lou: Hopefully, she’ll come up with something great next that we’ll all …

Hugh: Well, apparently, she’s got‑someone’s got her to do her TV Q & A again.

Annie Lou: Oh great! That’s great news.

Hugh: But she had to get out of there. They raised the rent. She would always be congratulating if they didn’t call it Joint’s Joint.

Annie Lou: [laughs]

Hugh: It was a nice place.

Annie Lou: Right. Oh, yeah!

Hugh: Good food.

Annie Lou: It was nice also to have a locally‑owned business‑‑

Hugh: Absolutely. Right.

Annie Lou: ‑‑right there on the corner to sort of anchor.

Hugh: For Weaver. Jimmy Weaver. You can imagine how long they’ve been on that location. His father and his grandfather, who started Weaver Hardware. I remember when I was starting out, they had a fire‑you probably weren’t born then. But where they now are, the building was gutted, and that was where Weaver Hardware was.

Annie Lou: Wow.

Hugh: They were selling hardware on the street off picnic tables‑‑

Annie Lou: Really?

Hugh: Yeah, while the building was being restored and put back together again.

Annie Lou: Wow, that’s pretty amazing. Were there other businesses as you continued on M Street? Did you feel that there were as many new restaurants as there are?

Hugh: We did Clyde’s‑the first one with Stuart. Stuart‑did you ever meet him? No.

Annie Lou: No.

Hugh: He was a very rich cat. He was an heir to National Cash Register. His grandfather lived up there next to the library in that great Victorian house.

Annie Lou: Oh, OK. I’ve always wondered about that house.

Hugh: Mm‑hmm. He was a General, his grandfather. National Cash Register was where all the bread came. Stuart was with the CIA for a while.

Annie Lou: OK.

Hugh: But, like all the guys in the CIA, I could never understand why they were CIA agents, because they were usually drunk.

Annie Lou: [laughs]

Hugh: Stuart, he knew how to run the saloon. He had done so much research on it. It had sawdust on the floor and a stepped‑up bar. We put all that mirror and did the little garden behind and put in the kitchen and the bathroom and all of this.

Every time I’d come down there, I’d always have a free lunch. So, I made it quite a bit. Stuart, if he had a glass of champagne‑‑which every time you came in, he would open it up and you’d all have champagne‑you’d watch and his eyes would cloud over. The next sip, he’d start throwing things.

Annie Lou: Wow.

Hugh: He was the just the most awful, violent drunk I ever met in my life.

Annie Lou: Oh my goodness!

Hugh: So, I stopped having lunch.

Annie Lou: I can imagine.

Hugh: It was just terrible. But he died a few years ago. At that time, when we did that, his head waiter was a student at Georgetown. That’s of course Nathan, Ginger’s husband found. He then had an afro of blond hair.

Annie Lou: Really? Oh wow!

Hugh: He took over and now owns that empire. My God!

Annie Lou: Oh, wow.

Hugh: Is he good at it!

Annie Lou: [laughs] No kidding. So funny.

Hugh: You met them‑‑

Annie Lou: No, I know of them, but.

Hugh: Ginger is outstanding. Just imagine them being nice people to talk to. You don’t know how many drunks have been in there.

Annie Lou: [laughs] Good stories!

Hugh: I remember when we got in there, we were tearing‑they bought this little thing next door‑we did this room. It was published in “Architectural Record.” It was really a neat thing. Stuart got very drunk one night and he took an axe to it.

Annie Lou: Oh!

Hugh: And we had the tractor seats I got out of the John Deere Museum and had them brass‑plated. They were really terrific and pow! He threw them all off of Key Bridge.

Annie Lou: You’re kidding?!

Hugh: Mm‑hmm. And the next morning he was so embarrassed, that he never really liked talking to me much after that.

Annie Lou: [laughs]

Hugh: I was really, really teed off. It was a nice job but when we went into the store next door, they were ripping things out. And holy God! Under the floor there must have been 100 rats.

Annie Lou: My goodness.

Hugh: John Richardson was the contractor. He was trying to find high ground.

Annie Lou: I can imagine. Oh, my goodness.

Hugh: Along that line, the streetcars were going in and out, and then the CIA took that over as their parking garage and communications center. I just used to love the streetcar tracks going right into the CIA. That’s always been a very funny thing. They don’t do it anymore, but what do you do? “Oh, I work for the government” or “I raise orchids.”

Annie Lou: What were some of the other real neighborhood hangouts?

Hugh: Well there’s always Billy Martin’s.

Annie Lou: Of course.

Hugh: I was there when two of our babies arrived.

Annie Lou: Really?

Hugh: Yeah, and I had to hurry it and get the hell downtown. The Women’s Lying‑In Hospital, which is now Columbia, is now an apartment house.

Annie Lou: Yeah, it’s where my husband was born. And my sister too was born there.

Hugh: Two of our kids came out of there.

Annie Lou: It’s now an apartment. So there’s Billy Martin’s, of course. And what about some that are no longer around?

Hugh: It’s always sad to lose them. Well there was the Carriage House ‑ that was Billy Martin’s ‑ down the hill. They owned Martin’s on the corner, the tavern, and then they had a tablecloth restaurant down there that I used to lunch in.

Annie Lou: And where was that?

Hugh: It’s where Timberlake is.

Annie Lou: Oh, OK.

Hugh: It was quiet with black shutters on the side and a little porch. Do you remember the name, Chloethiel Smith?

Annie Lou: No.

Hugh: I introduced her one time as the most successful woman architect in the United States, and she body‑checked me right off the platform practically. She said: “What do you mean in the United States?” Anyway, she was a marvelous piece of work. She was a partner.

Annie Lou: And she was here in Georgetown?

Hugh: Yeah. Her husband was with the State Department, and she was on the Fine Arts Commission. And I remember when she was elected to the Fine Arts Commission ‑ appointed by the President ‑ I was in New York.

No, I was at a job site, in Baltimore and the Post caught me up there and said: “What do you think?” Don Lethbridge, who I used to work for, and was her partner for a while said: “Chloethiel possesses everything to be a great architect but talent.”

Jesus Christ. Chloethiel called me before the paper was out and just started yelling. I said: “I was quoting!” She said: “Like hell! That sounds just like you.” We still ended up friends.

Annie Lou: That’s lucky.

Hugh Yeah, what a terrible thing to say. There were barbershops where that eatery is. Where the eatery is. You go down half a level now; that replaced the barbershop. And that was a pretty good ‘working man’s’ restaurant. When that closed, all the contractors that used to eat there said: “We can’t go to the Four Seasons.” Meenehan’s Hardware was a first rate hardware store.

Annie Lou: And what was that location?

Hugh: It was on Wisconsin Avenue, right across the street from Clyde’s. And you could buy nails and hammers and things. Weaver now is an exclusive bath shop…

Annie Lou: Right.

Hugh: …Looking like a bordello. The Little Tavern…my God.

Annie Lou: Of course.

Hugh: Remember their sign? Maybe it wasn’t the Little Tavern, over at 1000 sold. I think that’s a ‘Golden Arches’ that said that. But they used to sell hamburgers about this big, and they would go about ten cents. We called them ‘death balls’.

Annie Lou: Really?

Hugh: But whenever there was any party with the kids, you’d go up and get two‑ dozen death balls.

Annie Lou: Luckily, that’s still a place to eat, which is nice.

Hugh: Yeah, the holidays, are not bad. I hate the sign outside. I would never get away with that, as an architect.

Annie Lou: No, but it’s hard when things are totally taken out of context. It’s nice to have something still there.

Hugh: On the corner, there was really just a great restaurant called the Reeve Goche. It was right on the corner of Wisconsin and M., where the Banana Republic is.

Annie Lou: Yes, I’ve heard of this, but never…

Hugh: That was a serious restaurant.

Annie Lou: Really?

Hugh: Oh. Yeah, everybody, they were all French in there. The manager and his wife would seat you, it was hard to get in, you had to book way ahead of time ‑ half of Washington was in there.

Annie Lou: Really?

Hugh: Great people watching.

Annie Lou: I can imagine. Even with being in the neighborhood, you still have to…

Hugh: Oh, Christ, it was always an event if we were going to the Reeve Goche.

Annie Lou: Really. Then I guess there was also ((name of place where 5 guys is now)) I remember.

Hugh: Yep. God, that was so long ago.

Annie Lou: No, I actually worked there once.

Hugh: I went in there with Five Guys. What a travesty in there. The smell, it was awful.

Annie Lou: I know, it’s so sad.

Hugh: The oil that they cook in, makes you cry.

Annie Lou: I know, it’s a very different feeling than it once was.

Hugh: It’s such a neat place. I used to eat outside.

Annie Lou: Yeah. What about…

Hugh: Town Liquor’s been there. The nice guy that used to own it, retired to play golf and some Koreans took over and raised the prices. I don’t go back there anymore.

Annie Lou: So you could really do everything you needed to do right here, which is…

Hugh: Yeah. It’s always annoyed me that, to go to a movie, I had to get the car out. Because that was before this thing opened, or to buy children’s clothing, we had to go out to Best and Co., which we seemed like we lived in.

But now, I remember going in [laughs]. Simon, when he was a teenager, wanted a black leather jacket. To me, that was thuggery. I remember reading my horoscope, and it was something like, “get off your high horse and listen to your children.” So, I put on my coat, went up to ‑ what’s that Cmdr. Salamander?

Annie Lou: Yeah.

Hugh: I walked in. “Hey, pop, what can I do for you?” I said, “I’m looking for a black leather jacket.” “For your grandson?” “No. I didn’t come in here to be insulted, just sell me a black leather jacket.”

Annie Lou: Did you get it?

Hugh: Yep.

Annie Lou: Was he happy?

Hugh: Very.

Annie Lou: I can imagine.

Hugh: It had buttons and zippers all over.

Annie Lou: When I was little, we used to play ‑ you know when you used to play store as a child?

Hugh: Yes.

Annie Lou: We would play Commander Salamander, because our friend’s older sister shopped there, so we thought it was very cool.

Hugh: Very cool.

Annie Lou: That, of course, is still there.

Hugh: Well, I miss the movie theater. When that became that awful emporium.

Annie Lou: The jewelry store.

Hugh: Yeah.

Annie Lou: Yes. Did people use to go there all the time? Was it popular?

Hugh: Oh yeah. They used to run a movie, they were always old movies, but they owned a copy of The Informer, with Victor McLaglen.

Annie Lou: OK.

Hugh: It was usually there, we had all seen it maybe 17 times.

Annie Lou: But you still went?

Hugh: But anyway, because that was the only act in town. It was like being in a boxcar, it was maybe eight seats wide, and two aisles, and it went down just like that so the sightlines, and how they leveled it off and then that form stone facade is just awful.

Annie Lou: I know.

Hugh: Where was fine arts when you that came along? They made them keep the sign, Georgetown.

Annie Lou: Yes. The other movie theater then, opened down on M. Street. The CBS. Was that after?

Hugh: It was after Georgetown closed. That’s why it became the only act in town again, but they had really very good movies.

Annie Lou: I remember that being open.

Hugh: Yeah, it was very nice. I can’t remember what I saw there.

Annie Lou: It’s hard. Were people, in Georgetown, walk up and venture up into the upper parts of Wisconsin Avenue? Or did you feel like everything was more localized?

Hugh: If they had to walk ‑ to go to the Le Peak, was almost like you were leaving town.

Annie Lou: Right, on the very edge.

Hugh: I’m sorry. The Safeway, good grief… I remember Nick Sadalie and I met with him and said, “don’t put the parking lot in front of the building.” He said, “oh, that’s why people know that they’ve got parking.” So now, they’re tearing the damn thing down and putting the parking lot in back.

Annie Lou: They should have listened the first time.

Hugh: I know.

Annie Lou: My husband is very excited that they’re bringing the facade up to the street.

Hugh: It certainly helps the street.

Annie Lou: Absolutely. Before the Safeway was there, you did your shopping in the store where the Pottery Barn was, is that correct?

Hugh: What was that little store down where Pottery Barn is? That was our store. Of course, the Griffin Market on the other side, across the street, which was a deli. When we moved there, it was really quite busy.

Then they sold it to, oh, just a charming couple, they both have awful tattoos [crosstalk]. The guy that sold them that thing said, “oh everyone here, shops here.” They didn’t. It was more of a specialty store, like it is now. This couple went under.

Annie Lou: Oh, no.

Hugh: Then the Griffin guy bought it and started making sandwiches. All of my children, at one time or another, made sandwiches there.


Annie Lou: That’s nice that everyone is living in and employed in the neighborhood.

Hugh: Yeah, that’s right. Dean Atchison lived kitty‑corner. That fence is made out of the rifle barrels of the war of 1812. Alice was just a marvelous person. She always had kids in for Thanksgiving, I mean for Halloween, with cookies ‑ then a dime.

Annie Lou: Did people ‑ you were saying you had spent a lot of time in Rose Park, with the children when they were young, were the parks used by the neighbors a lot? Falter park and Rose Park and Montrose?

Hugh: It’s such a nice place, that the poor kids in the ghetto, is a hell of a better playing here than it is over there. Some of the Nazi’s in our block would go down there, “go back to your own neighborhood.”

Annie Lou: Oh, you’re kidding?

Hugh: Imagine it.

Annie Lou: Oh, that’s horrible.

Hugh: Isn’t that just awful?

Annie Lou: Yes, that’s really horrible. It was in a busy…

Hugh: It wasn’t what the neighbors paid for that.

Annie Lou: To have the pipeline…

Hugh: The maintenance and the planting and the fence and the signage is so good and they maintained it so that the baseball diamond, it never was that.

Annie Lou: Really.

Hugh: There weren’t even any bases. We always had to draw it in the sand, so we know it’s first‑base.

Annie Lou: It’s a wonderful park, I eat in there all the time. It’s really loved by everybody.

Hugh: Now our grandchildren are running around there.

Annie Lou: When was it first started being taken care of by the neighbors?

Hugh: About five years ago. It was pretty recent.

Annie Lou: So for a long time, it was just left on its own.

Hugh: Sandlot baseball.

Annie Lou: Right.

Hugh: The thing I thought would never, ever happen, that anybody would pick up their dog’s poop. Isn’t that just incredible?

Annie Lou: Yes.

Hugh: We had just the dearest friend, he was with the Brazilian Embassy and she was French, and they had these great big black lab, they were kind of crazy with a [laughter].

Annie Lou: It’s a problem with the little kids.

Hugh: You bet. I remember somebody writing about New York. That to survive in New York, you have to have an eyeball on the ball of your foot.


Annie Lou: It’s nice that now everybody’s taking care of it. Should we pause here? I’ll turn this off.

Hugh: I’ve got to go home. I’ve got to go down…

Annie Lou: Thank you so much, I really appreciate this, this has been wonderful.

Hugh: Well, you’re very good at it.

Annie Lou: That’s very kind of you to say. I’ll turn this off. [cuts off]


October 15, 2009

Annie Lou Berman: This is Annie Lou Berman with Hugh Newell Jacobson at his home on October 15, 2009, and this is our second session of the interview for the CAG Oral History Project. So, Mr. Jacobson is showing me – this is “Searching for Georgetown on its 250th Birthday”. I have not seen this.

Hugh Jacobson: Well, it’s Len Cameron who died, made that.

Annie: Yes, yes. I wonder if the office has a copy of this.

Hugh: You may borrow it.

Annie: Oh, thank you. This really looks amazing.

Hugh: I’m just going to run through these things.

Annie: Sure.

Hugh: This is a book called “Walking through Georgetown”. It was published, I think, in the ’60s. On a rainy day – ’66.

Annie: OK. There’s the buffalo.

Hugh: I’m walking around our neighborhood. That’s me.

Annie: That is really you.

Hugh: Yeah.

Annie: Oh, now did you know the person taking this picture, or did you just happen to be walking down the street?

Hugh: I was walking up to Morgan’s Drug Store.

Annie: Oh, that’s great. That’s a really great picture.

Hugh: There’s some really neat pictures in there. A lot of the houses have disappeared.

Annie: And now, this book came out in ’66.

Hugh: ’66. Written by a Georgetown lady.

Annie: That’s wonderful. And now the author is…

Hugh: That house was totally restored, at gigantic fees.

Annie: Mary Mitchell.

Hugh: She was a very active person.

Annie: Yes. Do you know anything about this house that you’re…

Hugh: Walking in front of?

Annie: Now, is this 2819 P?

Hugh: That’s P and 28th.

Annie: 29th, right around the corner. Who lived in this house?

Hugh: Well, there were three houses built by three brothers. One is on the corner of P and 30th. One is a great big house that the good journalist lives in, on Cox’s Row, on Q Street, and this is the third. They’ve all had hands laid on them in some way, but this thing has survived pretty well. They all had the same architect, interesting.

Annie: That is because now this house has a screened in front porch, doesn’t it, or is it the same? They just took off the…

Hugh: They kept the wrought iron, and I think it may be screened. I don’t know who would ever want to sit there and look at the bus. But the architect was the architect for — well, his name was Calvert Vaux [French pronunciation], but he preferred to be called Calvert Vaux. It was very French, but he worked with the great landscape architect-it’ll come to me, it’s here-Frederick Law Olmsted.

Annie: Oh yes, of course, Central Park.

Hugh: He did most of the park buildings, Olmsted did, for across the United States.

Annie: Oh, really. Oh, wow.

Hugh: He was very good. He was very good.

Annie: Well, that’s fascinating.

Hugh: But it would be fascinating if you could track down that little book made in the ’60s.

Annie: You know, I haven’t seen this book. I’ll have to ask around the office.

Hugh: I’ll lend you all of these. It’s only my life. This was, oh, the Georgetown Waterfront Board. I don’t know if you want to read any of that. There are no pictures, but it’s when the Citizens Association had one of those.

Annie: Oh, yes, from 1980.

Hugh: Yeah, “Georgetown Houses of the Federal Period”.

Annie: Oh, yes. Now that book, I think I even have a copy of that.

Hugh: I’ll put that over here. “Boundary Markers of the Nation’s Capital”.

Annie: You know, I just read an article, an article just came out maybe in the spring issue of The Historical Society’s magazine. There was a whole thing on markers.

Hugh: Yeah, one that you can see at the very southern tip of Alexandria, and that was almost in the water. There’s a fence around it.

Annie: Oh, you’re kidding. This article said that some of those that were around Westmoreland Circle, and some that actually had been placed there as part of a celebration. One was an original, but they weren’t all.

Hugh: You can see what shape they’re in after 250 years.

Annie: Are there any in Georgetown?

Hugh: I don’t think so. There’s a map in there where they are.

Annie: This was a book put out by – “National Capital Planning Commission” by Sentinel Report. This is when, I guess, they put out some of the reproductions.

Hugh: Did you ever meet Tanya Beauchamp?

Annie: Excuse me?

Hugh: Did you ever meet Tanya Beauchamp?

Annie: No, I don’t think so.

Hugh: She was on the staff of the Historic District Commission when I was on it for 10 years, and she wrote this little book. And really, it has some interesting pictures of old Georgetown houses, those that face the canal and some are still here like that little row.

Annie: Oh, yeah. So, the Dodge Warehouses, 1000 to 1008 Wisconsin Avenue.

Hugh: Do you remember the Francis Scott Key Book Shop?

Annie: Yes, vaguely.

Hugh: There it is.

Annie: That’s so funny.

Hugh: And now it’s a house.

Annie: So someone is living there, it’s a private residence now.

Hugh: A Latino, she’s with the World Bank. She tore off everything that looked like a store – rather dumb.

Annie: Oh, and now here’s a picture of 3009 to 3001 M Street showing it as just little shops on the avenue, yeah, right on the corner with dwellings above. This must be – it says the corner grocery is a long tradition in Washington. Now, is this the one that you were telling me about?

Hugh: The corner grocery is practically on every store.

Annie: I can’t tell. Is that the Pottery Barn building?

Hugh: No.

Annie: It’s a block down.

Hugh: You’re over there. That’s it, 31st. See there’s that house again, another Dodge house.

Annie: Oh, yeah. It’s quite a big house.

Hugh: Now, you see there, that’s another one of the Dodge boys. That’s the one on the corner. Now that’s Tudor Place.

Annie: Now here is another picture of Tudor Place, of course.

Hugh: Which really hasn’t changed.

Annie: From my understanding it doesn’t look like it’s changed, but has it not?

Hugh: No, not a bit. When the Peters lived there — when you go through it, it’s such a

remarkable house, but it has about six generations of their stuff so there’s a lot of 20th century, 21st century, some 18th century.

Annie: Right, right.

Hugh: When that was built, you could see the White House under construction, according to people writing about it.

Annie: Really?

Hugh: It was so high on the hill and everything had been timbered down there.

Annie: Now, it’s true you can see across also to the Lee Mansion.

Hugh: Oh, yeah.

Annie: They’re very welcoming over there to everyone in the neighborhood, especially to children.

Hugh: It’s a very good place.

Annie: When we were there last Christmas, as part of their Christmas, and they had out some of their collections of cards and letters that I guess the Peters had sent and received. They were really pretty interesting.

Hugh: Well, it’s just a remarkable house. I don’t know if you know it, but that beautiful – when you walk in there’s that bay window underneath that beautiful dome. And if you look on the side, the panes vary in width so that when you come in the mullions turn so it looks like it’s all equal because it wouldn’t be equal on a curve, because on a curve they go like that.

Annie: Very clever.

Hugh: Not bad, God.

Annie: And that house became, the last Peters moved out, when was that?

Hugh: 10 years ago.

Annie: 10 years ago.

Hugh: They were there quite awhile.

Annie: That’s what I thought.

Hugh: Armistad.

Annie: Now did you say on Cox’s Road, no. That there was the same architect who had built that house on.

Hugh: Yeah, Calvert Vaux, he built all three of them for the Dodge boys.

Annie: OK, and here’s a picture of it. This is a great little book, “Georgetown Historic


Hugh: So is this.

Annie: And that’s a “Walking Guide to Historic Georgetown,” when I was in high school, Visitation, we read that.

Hugh: You read that sight of the Union hospital.

Annie: Oh really, that’s really funny.

Hugh: General Hawke. The Sign of the Indian King, do you know what that is?

Annie: Well, the City Tavern Club, but.

Hugh: We always called it the “Shitty Tavern Club.”

Annie: [laughter] How did that, how did it get that sign, do you know?

Hugh: Well, they had it painted from records, you know, because it was an inn.

Annie: Was it always an inn straight up till the time it became a club or did it switch hands in between there?

Hugh: No, it was offices. And a lot of it had gone and Walter Peters restored it.

Annie: When was that?

Hugh: Oh, the ’60s I guess. It was built in 1796 and was restored in the early ’60s by a group of Georgetown preservationists. That big arch is where the carriages drove in. And there was a courtyard in the middle and a stable in the back. And so that all of the rooms at the inn were here facing the courtyard or the street and the stable and staff and everybody were back there.

Annie: Oh OK. It’s similar, there’s a building on N Street, I guess, between seventeenth and eighteenth—The Iron Gate Inn–that also has that similar arch that still you can actually go through into a courtyard.

Hugh: That’s right, that’s right, you can walk through there. That’s the — God, no that’s no longer there.

Annie: I think it is.

Hugh: Iron Gate?

Annie: Yeah.

Hugh: Really? You used to eat outside and see.

Annie: My grandmother liked going there a lot, I think. She used to tell me about it but it was, as recently as you know just a few years ago it was there, so I expect it’s still there.

Hugh: I don’t think it’s there anymore because I remember eating there all the time with my parents. And on top was this skylight facing north, huge, like the hole, like in France. And my father, when he found out that I wanted to become a painter, arranged for me to paint with this guy. And he was a portraitist of — most of the things in the White House and the Capitol are done by him. And I put up my little easel next to him and was painting a still life with this guy, he was painting, at that time, a full-length portrait of General McAuliffe, who was the hero of Bastogne. You know, all those medals, full sized portrait, huge painting, and there I am making mud over here, more and more embarrassed.  And he asked me, he said, “Don’t answer now, I want you to think about it, but let’s say you’ve got a painting, and control is very important, you know, you start in order from your darkest dark to your lightest light, and you’ve got all those values going. And he said, “A friend of yours knocks on the door, and says, ‘there’s a great party down the hall, want to come?’ Now think about it, what would you do?”

And I came to him in the morning and I said, “I’d go to the party.”

He said, “Quit now.” I did.

Annie: Really?

Hugh: Yeah.

Annie: That was very good advice then. [phone rings]

Hugh: Damned good. Hello?

Annie: I’ll actually interject very quickly, as we’re talking about these buildings. I notice up here on your bookshelves that you have Anne Truitt’s book “Prospect.”

Hugh: Her big show just opened.

Annie: I was actually thinking-I was reading that article and I had interviewed her a

couple of years ago for the “Archives of American Art.”

Hugh: She’s smart!

Annie: She was a phenomenal person to interview and we did it for hours and hours over the course of a few months. So we became friends. I was so honored that she would talk to me. She was a fabulous woman.

Hugh: We had two, you know. One is across the street, with that white-on-white over the fireplace is hers.

Annie: Ah, really?

Hugh: And I just found this thing this morning. It just came out yesterday from the show.

Annie: Oh, I’ll have to find it. Oh, great.

Hugh: Isn’t this neat?

Annie: That’s real – oh, wow. Now did you know her when she was living in Georgetown?

Hugh: Very well. And her husband was the first editor of Style section. They didn’t get along very well.

Annie: That’s what I understand.

Hugh: He was a dreadful drunk. He dropped — I think he was jogging and went down. That’ll teach anybody to stop that.

Annie: Right. With her and some others, did you feel that there was a real, sort of …

Hugh: Well, we used to see her socially. She was a very close friend of Kay Graham’s. And when she had her show-Kay Graham had a big part for her at “the house.” And she was a close friend of Susan Merry and Lenny Stern, who is still with us, thank god. And she was just — I remember sitting in there and when we hung her picture, we were both admiring how much it made the house look shabby.

Annie: [laughs]

Hugh: She was really just a very nice person.

Annie: Yes, she was very, very wonderful. I was so happy I got to know her.

Hugh: This is many pictures of Georgetown and houses that are — some are gone. And it was published in …

Annie: And which are some of those that are gone?

Hugh: You’ll know it, unless you want me to mark it?

Annie: No, no, I can look and see.

Hugh: Oh, that was a public market. It no longer looks like that.

Annie: Oh, yes, now Dean and DeLuca.

Hugh: Yeah, and there was the Shitty Tavern. You know, Burnt Row, and most of them are here. Visitation.

Annie: Yes. My alma mater.

Hugh: Oh, did you go there?

Annie: Mm-hmm.

Hugh: [coyly] You can’t be a Sacred Heart girl.

Annie: [laughs] We had a walking tour club. So, we would walk around Georgetown using a similar book, looking at things. —

Hugh: Oh yeah? Using this?

Annie: You know, it looks like the same book, and now I can’t remember.

Hugh: This is — what year is this?

Annie: The one that we used, I think, was slightly narrower. That is “A Walking Guide to Historic Georgetown.”

Hugh: It doesn’t say. God I hate that. Look, here’s a map, and the famous Gun Barrel Fence. Six publications listed below were prepared by the Commission of Fine Arts and the Historic Building Survey. They are: “Georgetown’s Commercial Architecture” in 1967; “Georgetown Commercial Architecture-Wisconsin Avenue” in 1967, the first one is M Street; “Georgetown Architecture-the Waterfront, ” 1968; “Residential Architecture-Northeast.” I have that. “Georgetown Architecture-Northwest”; “Georgetown Architecture, ” 1970. Would you like to borrow that?

Annie: Oh, that would be wonderful! Oh, it looks just like the dog from your office on the cover.

Hugh: Yeah, that’s — let me see, could be Rex. Yeah. No, I don’t think so. All Jack Russell’s tail stands straight up so the owner can pull them out of a hole.

Annie: Really? Is that true? I had no idea.

Hugh: That’s what they’re bred for. Yeah. If they didn’t clip that tail, it’d be about five feet long. Look at that. Isn’t that just incredible I haven’t seen that for quite awhile. [?]

Annie: Now this is a picture, wow, now that’s a barge.

Hugh: That’s Georgetown University.

Annie: On the Potomac at Georgetown in the back. And very little else around it. Hugh.

Hugh:No.Well, there are a couple houses along the canal.

Annie: Now that book is called, “Georgetown…”

Hugh: “… 1751 to the Present.” It was written by Donald Stetson Davis, in collaboration with Scott Hart – oh, I don’t think too much –in 1965. You know that famous painting.

Annie: Oh yes.

Hugh: Now, when you think, 1751 really wasn’t that long ago. When you think of what was going on in world, Napoleon died that year.

Annie: Really?

Hugh: 18. I’m sorry. He died in 1821. He was in his Italian campaign just knocking the hell out of them. This town — I’m sure you’ve seen that. That building is still there.

Annie: That’s a great picture of the corner. Wisconsin Avenue at O street. And you can see the streetcar being pulled by a horse.

Hugh: Yeah.

Annie: Now is this Metropolitan Railroad? Oh, interesting. And all the…

Hugh: Lots of names.

Annie: And there’s a grocery right there.

Hugh: This is a very good book.

Annie: Oh yes. I’ve seen this in the office. “Black Georgetown Remembered.”

Hugh: Yeah. Here’s the “72nd Annual Georgetown House Tour.”

Annie: This is great too. That has a chronology of Georgetown events.

Hugh: One time they had a house tour, and on the tour were nine of my houses.

Annie: Really?

Hugh: Yeah.

Annie: That’s really amazing.

Hugh: Well they said, because my first book had came out, she who must be obeyed, Frieda, made sure that was working. And it was very flattering.

Annie: People must have loved that.

Hugh: She still runs that thing, you know.

Annie: I’m going to actually speak with her on Sunday. I’m looking forward to it.

Hugh: Well, if you can get it out of her in an hour, you’d be very good.

Annie: [laughs]

Hugh: And what is this? Advisory Neighborhood Council. Oh, this is — more people say they live in Georgetown than they live, for Christ’s sake, live in Burleith or some place. And the boundaries, that puts this out so the boundaries of Georgetown are S Street, and the park, and the river, and Georgetown University.

Annie: A lot of people don’t quite know the neighborhoods. I’ve run into people who have never…

Hugh: If you’re in real estate, everyone wants to be here.

Annie: Right. Of course.

Hugh: [reading] “The boundaries of Georgetown were mandated by Congress in 1950.

There is no unclearness or confusion about Georgetown boundaries.”

Annie: [laughs]

Hugh: Wanna bet? And there is the law. I hadn’t seen that.

Annie: Oh, wow. [laughs]

Hugh: And “Washington History, ” my goodness.

Annie: That’s from the Historical Society.

Hugh: Do you have that?

Annie: Quite a few of them. They’ve gotten a little thicker recently, I think.

Hugh: Tonight I’m going to a ball at Hillwood tonight. And way back in the ’70s, for some reason, Marjorie Rutherford invited Robin and me to a black tie dinner. And we

went out there. I don’t know why I was there. But there was Dina Merrill. And down came Marjorie Merriweatherpost, who had a waist about like that.

Annie: Oh, wow.

Hugh: And she was truly like that. And she came down. She was very beautiful. Her hair was pulled up, and she had all -god, I never saw so many real jewels in my life. And Robin and I kept saying — I didn’t know anybody on my right or my left, but I had to earn my dinner. [laughter]

Annie: That must have been a great party.

Hugh: Well, I mean that house is such an incredible house. Oh look at that. My God. That’s the Sulgravee Club. The way it used to look. You know, when it opened — have you ever been in it?

Annie: Yeah, but not in several years.

Hugh: There’s where the front door is. Originally you drove your car in there and you came back out, and you got up and went up those steps and you came into the house. And you went this way, you went in to the staff quarters.

Annie: Oh, wow.

Hugh: [laughs] Isn’t that something?

Annie: Yeah.

Hugh: And now it looks like that.

Annie: That’s amazing. What a difference.

Hugh: Yeah.

Annie: Oh, my goodness.

Hugh: But that’s not part of Georgetown.

Annie: Close by, though.

Hugh: “Georgetown Historic Waterfront.” Do you have that?

Annie: Yes, I’ve seen this, which is great.

Hugh: And I think we’ve done this.

Annie: Mm-hmm.

Hugh: Planning. God, we tried so hard to get a tunnel under there.

Annie: Along the waterfront?

Hugh: Underwater.

Annie: And what?

Hugh: Money.

Annie: Really?

Hugh: Yeah. And everybody agreed that the Whitehurst Freeway was a temporary structure.

Annie: [laughs]

Hugh: And all this traffic analysis that it wouldn’t make any difference if they were on the ground. And it still is true.

Annie: Right. Right. I guess there’s no tunnel coming.

Hugh: And you’ve seen that, I think.

Annie: But what, is this the…?

Hugh: That’s my guide.

Annie: Oh yes.

Hugh: Probably edited years ago.

Annie: This is a guide to architecture of Washington D.C. Now what year was this?

Hugh: ’65.

Annie: ’65. OK.

Hugh: You know the name Marty Johnson?

Annie: I don’t think so.

Hugh: She ran the Francis Scott Key.

Annie: Oh, really?

Hugh: Yes. And she gave me this in 1981, and it’s called, “Washington Doorways.” You

know what that is?

Annie: Absolutely. The Old Stone House.

Hugh: Oh, it’s very nice.

Annie: How long has that been, do you know, run by the Park Service? It’s something I can easily look up.

Hugh: When it was no longer a bookstore?

Annie: Let’s see, the Stone House. So that was a bookstore?

Hugh: No. The Francis Scott Key was a…

Annie: Oh. Right, right.

Hugh: And Marty Johnson ran it. And when I moved here, the Old Stone House, they

were selling used tires. And the tires were hung all over the outside of the building.

Annie: Really? Wow.

Hugh: I didn’t know about it.

Annie: And how long was that gone?

Hugh: Well, we moved here in ’45, and that probably was here until ’60.

Annie: Really? And what was happening in the garden?

Hugh: Nothing.

Annie: Just sort of an empty…

Hugh: Weeds.

Annie: Really? It’s so beautiful now.

Hugh: Kids smoking pot.

Annie: Oh, my God.

Hugh: Here’s an old house on Canal Street. I mean, if you’re looking for that stuff, there are lots of pictures in here of the way things used to be.

Annie: Oh yeah. That’s a great one.

Hugh: You have that.

Annie: Mm-hmm. Yes.

Hugh: OK. And here’s one called “Aspects of Georgetown, ” by Edie Schafer. Do you know Edie Schafer?

Annie: I know of Edie Schafer.

Hugh: She writes very well. Not many pictures. But she has lived here almost as long as we have.

Annie: Really?

Hugh: Yeah. No pictures. But she lives up on 30th Street in a first-class Greek Revival house. But the head of the AIA Ned Purvis used to live in, and his widow. His widow is so marvelous. Every woman I knew wanted her old clothes when she died. You know. [laughter]

Annie: That’s quite a compliment.

Hugh: Yeah. I would think so. So, you have some questions?

Annie: Yeah. So these are really pretty amazing, so it seems like there has been so much written about Georgetown and there are still so many questions. You know that everybody sort of has about what is going.

Hugh: Well there are a lot of myths about Georgetown too. George Washington obviously never stayed at home, he slept in every house in town.

Annie: Right. I know, he’d have to do a lot of sleeping.

Hugh: I remember it being said the reason he was the father of our country is that he was the first one to own a bicycle.

Annie: What are some of the myths you have hear a lot?

Hugh: Let me think about them, other than George. Jefferson coming by all of the time and you know that apparently the story is, and I have no reason to doubt it, they met L’Enfant, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson in the saloon, no it was an inn. And they were on the second floor. It use to be Sunny’s Surplus Shop and then it became a biker’s bar west of Wisconsin Avenue on the south side of the street. It was right next door to where Francis Scott Key’s original house was, but it got tore down to get out to the Whitehurst Freeway. And the moldings are still in that building, the original stuff. .

And they would go upstairs and they would look out the window, the three of them and said, “can you build anything out there?”. That’s how the story goes, and I’ve never heard of anyone denying it.

Annie: Sounds like a pretty good one to me.

Hugh: Yeah. You know, when you collect books you need to remember where the hell you put them.

Annie: Well with your bookshelves, it seems like it is pretty easy to find them. They are so pleasing to look at.

Hugh: It makes it work, you move things around without having everything falling down.

Annie: I really love them.

Hugh: It give such a nice wall of color.

Annie: When did you start building this type of bookshelf?

Hugh: This one here? I opened my office in ’58. I was then in the basement of my house.

Annie: Right, Right.

Hugh: I started working here.

Annie: So that was when you started…

Hugh: I did the bookcase the year Simon was coming. In 1965.

Annie: They’re really, really great!

Hugh: They went into the other house first, the one where the Cutlers live. And there I cut out a great big hole, because I had a painting, a hard-edge painting of DiDi Rankin. It was a triptych, it sort of folded. It was very trendy at the time. It was red and blue, a big blue zero and hard-edge red, it kind of vibrated. It was really terrific, I don’t know what the hell happened to it. I don’t know where it is.

Annie: Well, this is house is, I love the floor to ceiling windows.

Hugh: Most people do.

Annie: I love sitting next to it. I love look at them.

Hugh: It just seems so natural to let the floor go out there.

Annie: Absolutely.

Hugh: Why have that little bump on top? I was so amused at the Russian Embassy, the ceilings were 20 feet tall and the doors were 19.6. Why didn’t they go all the way up? Was that such a Soviet experience?

Annie: It was. That was really quite amazing. But this is really phenomenal.

Hugh: Yes, that slides in the pocket, that door. And the screen fits in there too, and otherwise you would be sitting with door swings over your art or in your face.

Annie: That is such a great design. Now this is a piece by…

Hugh: Josef Albers.

Annie: Wow, what is it called?

Hugh: “Homage to the Square.” I’ve got an oil in the other room.

Annie: Really?

Hugh: That’s called “Astonished.” But I have the most incredible story of how we bought that. He a course at Yale called “Color.” He was one of the professors at the Bauhaus – genuflect, genuflect — and Yale brought him over. He had this course — and there were I think six of us in it — called “Color.”

The textbook was a stack of construction paper. No kidding. Every color” red, black, yellow, blue. Opening day he said, “Would you please select your favorite color.” So I held up blue and he said, “How do you like your blue now when I drag it across this grey? How about when I drag it across the red? It is no longer blue. He would say color is only color in relation to another color.

Annie: Yeah, my sister and I love doing Albers Squares, where you put the two pieces of paper together. It is such fun exercise.

Hugh: Well, these things, the oil, Robin and I in about 1961 dumped the kid with his grandmother and we went up to New York to see some friends, and there was also an opening at the Janis Gallery, of “Homage to the Square.” Which I wanted to see and Robin wanted to see. So we went early on a Tuesday, when they were setting up for the crowd for the opening. You know, setting up the flat trestle tables with bad wine on it. And here were all of these incredible paintings, they were the oils, not the lithos, around this room. There was one, and Robin and I were standing there staring at it, this little red dot on it, and out came Sydney Janis, who had a reputation for screwing every artist ever known, just cheating them.

And he came out of the office and said, “Why do you look so sad?” He had seen us there before, but he didn’t know who we were.

I said, “We’ll never be able to afford a thing like that.”

He said. “How much money do you have on you?”

I said, “What?”

He said, “How much?”

I had like $46, which was the equivalent of like $200 then. He said, “Give me $10 and take the picture, but I want to hear from you every month or I’m going to come and get it. You can make it 50 cents or pay it off, but I want to hear from you every month.”

Annie: Really? What an amazing story.

Hugh: The most I ever paid – the average painting was $40-$50 – and one painting I paid $1,500. And I got the certificate that I owned it. Now his son was so furious when he heard about that — and very few of the artists ever believed it. Isn’t that incredible?

Annie: That is really incredible.

Hugh: And it’s the most valuable thing we own. It was only $5,000 and at the Palm Beach Art Show it was appraised at one mill.

Annie: Wow!

Hugh: Wow. So what do you do with it? You’d never sell it.

Annie: Of course not! That’s amazing. You also have Ann Truitt. Do you have any other Washington artists?

Hugh: Gene Davis. In the dining room there is a big neat Gene Davis.

Annie: It looked like it.

Hugh: It’s striped, but it doesn’t go all of the way around. The strip begins and it ends. We knew Gene quite well, and his wife. And we went out to his studio one afternoon, and it was sort of built half-underground, half-above ground. And then of course the battleship linoleum floors were a staple. There were two pictures staked up on the floor and then there was this one on a stretcher leaning against the wall. I really liked his work, and of course Ken Nolan and the rest of the guys all considered him a hanger-on. But anyway, what did Ken know? He had just been a teacher at AU. What a terrible thing to say. [laughs]

So we walked out and I said, “What’s the name of that?”

And he said, “That’s Number 46. That’s Monday afternoon.”

And I said, “What about the one on the wall?”

And said, “Oh, that’s called Robin.”

“That’s my wife’s name, do you want to sell the picture?”

Annie: Yeah, no kidding.

Hugh: I’ve never regretted buying that. It’s just heaven.

Annie: Well that’s amazing. So there was a lot – now he didn’t live in Georgetown?

Hugh: No, he lived off of Massachusetts Avenue, back in the Apex and Albemarle Street because Albemarle comes down.

Annie: OK. Were there a lot of painters in Georgetown, in addition to Anne Truitt?

Hugh: Well, I’ve got to think.

Annie: I know there was Marcella Comes Winslow, who painted in Mrs. Macy’s.

Hugh: There was this gallery, run by the smartest woman. She finally opened after being over there in back of off Connecticut Avenue and then she moved over here on P Street, just the other side where that dreadful hotel is. The Gres Gallery, G-R-E-S, that was her last name, and it was really a serious gallery. Then she opened up on M Street.

Annie: Now when did she move there would you say?

Hugh: Oh, we’re talking about the ’60s, ’70s, and the late ’70s and ’80s, she left Washington and opened a gallery in New York.

Annie: Oh, with the same name?

Hugh: I don’t know where she is now. Her last name is Gres. She was a very charming lady.

Annie: And were there other galleries, or that was pretty much it?

Hugh: Well, that was you know, THE one, you know in those days, we never missed an opening, you know. All of the young kids were there, getting their free glass of bad wine. And I was on the board of the Corcoran then, and we never missed an opening at the Corcoran either, and you know, Didi Rankin, who lived in Georgetown with several houses around town, was a painter, sculptress, not really very good, but she was such a dear friend. And she kept giving me these things and finally I had to tell her like, “Oh, God.”  Sheila Eishen, who really was a terrible painter, she kept giving me these things, I finally had to say, “I’m never going to hang it, ” and she didn’t talk to me for several years.

Annie: Oh no. So that was, that was pretty much the art scene that went on.

Hugh: Well, it was very active. Sheila didn’t live, here but her husband lived in Moscow and in China, with the State Department. He just died as a matter of fact, but they moved up to Long Island where my colleague Charles Moore did their house.

Annie: Oh, OK.

Hugh: After I did two of them here.

Annie: Oh wow, and which houses were those?

Hugh: One is on the other side of DuPont Circle, and the other one is you go way out to Massachusetts just before you get to the circle and there’s a little dead end street and they’re on the end of it.

Annie: Oh OK. Now what about, there’s a lot of writing going on.

Hugh: Yeah, you know, Susan Merry, Joe Alsop and his brother.

Annie: And they also have a collection, you’re saying, quite a vast….

Hugh: Joe’s collection is just really, I think, I think the National Gallery got most of it.

Annie: Really? OK.

Hugh: But it was really serious, heavy stuff, you know. A lot of Turner.

Annie: and it’s all in their house on Dumbarton there?

Hugh: Yeah, the one that looked like a television repair shop. It was just cinder block walls, just an incredibly terrible house until Joe’s stuff got in there.

Annie: Did he build it to with the intention as you know a gallery for this work?

Hugh: No, he bought it — well, he wanted a place to hang it ’cause he still kept buying it. But he thought himself an architect and he wasn’t and he designed this mess. But when his art was in there and his books, it was just incredible.

Annie: That’s what I’ve heard.

Hugh: And he was always there with a bottle of champagne late at night, you know.

Annie: Sounds like a nice place to visit.

Hugh: Yeah. He was such a character, my god.

Annie: And was that the only house that he was in in Georgetown?

Hugh: Well he did live right across the street first.

Annie: OK.

Hugh: And it’s really clever, he saved the 18th century doorway, and as you open it up, you’re not there yet, you have a little open four corners, as you go through this formal door.

Annie: Ah, OK.

Hugh: and then you take a right, it’s like a rabbit warren. And Bob Bauer, who is no longer with us, bought it and opened the corridors wider than two feet, which Joe was big on, and put in a glass living room in back and a swimming pool. I don’t know who’s there now, but it’s very nice house.

Annie: And then he had just moved across the street.

Hugh: Yeah.

Annie: Were there a lot of other big collectors here in Georgetown?

Hugh: Well, you had the Harrimans.

Annie: Oh, yes, of course.

Hugh: I lit that picture – when they were all in… What was her name, his first wife? Maria. They were all in Paris arranging the round table for the Vietnam Peace talks. And I put in all of these Edison-Price lights to light their collection. You know, there’s that Wax Sparrow, they had three of them. Oh, Jesus, Van Gogh. That’s a very serious collection. And I came back and we were asked over for dinner, it was very nice. And all my lights were gone.

Annie: Really?

Hugh: They didn’t like them because they hung down. They kept one. I wish I’d been in the alley when they threw them out. They cost about $400 a piece. But I remember when Pam married the governor, they had me over and put on a screened porch and lit it and lit the garden. And she said, “Hugh, when you have a bill, cut it by two-thirds and you’ll still have a fit. I’ll pay the other, but just don’t tell him. Why upset him?”

He was just an outrageous penny-pincher. There’s a marvelous story that Bill Walton told me. He had a secretary that was taking care of the bills and so forth. And he came in one morning and he said, “I want to tell you I’m going to marry Mrs. Churchill. The widow.”

And he said, “Oh, that’s very good. Congratulations, sir. I guess we don’t have to send her $20,000 a month anymore.”


And they’d been doing it since WWI. [laughs]

Annie: Oh, that’s hilarious. What a great story.

Hugh: Yeah, he had a fit. [laughs] Funny stuff. Writers. Hmm. Well, there’s Ed Applewhite? Did you ever know Ed?

Annie: No, I didn’t.

Hugh: He wrote a wonderful book called, “Washington Itself.” And it’s just – he kept a file on people.

Annie: Really?

Hugh: He was the most charming guy. And, really, one of us.  Here we go. “Washington Itself.” I have a paperback if you’d like to borrow it.”

Annie: Oh, that would be great. You have such a wonderful collection of books here. It’s really an amazing library.

Hugh: That’s the pre-publication issue.

Annie: Ah, “Washington Itself: An Informal Guide to the Capital of the United States.” E.J.Applewhite.

Hugh: It’s a great read.

Annie: It looks like it. Oh, wow.

Hugh: Do you know Lynn and Robin Nicholas?

Annie: No, I don’t.

Hugh: They live over here on 29th Street. She wrote a book. He was “diplomatique” and they lived in Brussels with the UN for about six years. And she came back, she’s one of us, mother of a kids at the playground. She came back and she put out a book about the Nazis stealing the artwork and the money. The first one. It was a best-seller, and it’s perhaps one of the best. And I remember we always used to go, “Whoever knew she had a book in her?” Like she’s sort of – lumps.

And they made a television show of that book this last year. Of course I missed that. I was out of the country.

Annie: Oh, no. You know, I think I might actually have seen some of that show. I’ll have to look into it.

Hugh: Boy, is she bright.

Annie: That’s really good to know. I’m going to turn this off here.

Hugh: That’s the Harriman house.

Annie: Ah, the dog.

November 12, 2009

Annie Lou Berman: It is November 12, 2009, and this is Annie Lou Berman interviewing Hugh Jacobson in his office on P Street. So, you’re… We had been talking a lot about Georgetown and your work here, but we also wanted to speak a little bit about some historical events that had happened in the world and in Washington and how they sort of affected Georgetown and I had been speaking with Frida Burling for a long while about… [laughter]

Hugh Jacobsen: Endless.

Annie: About desegregation and, sort of, how she thought that, you know… How that sort of affected George Town. What were your thoughts on that, Hugh?

Hugh: It was… We moved here in 1958.

Annie: OK.

Hugh: And my parents, who lived in Chevy Chase, in those days, every family lived in suburbia and any architect who had gone to a respectable architectural school was taught that suburbia was hell. [laughter]

Hugh: And only idiots lived in suburbia and I wouldn’t dream of moving in suburbia and my father and mother were very upset that we’re gonna move into this ghetto and poor people and blacks next door and… Well, we were the… We lived at 2735 P, and we bought it from a state department fellow and we were the 3rd white family in that row of 18 houses and my children grew up, and Neville Waters is still very close to my first son, and we went to all parties together and so forth. Being a Liberal Democrat I didn’t see anything in the color of somebody’s skin.

Annie: Right.

Hugh: It turned that most of Georgetown became Liberal Democrats when the Kennedy’s moved here and the Kennedy Administration and all of the good writers, and they were all liberal, of course. There is a thing that I have found in practicing architecture, I just got a nibble from a republican in Vermont. He doesn’t want a library and he doesn’t own any books.

Annie: How…

Hugh: Republicans don’t read. [laughter]

Hugh: But it was… When we moved into the present house in 1967, Eddie Burling, Frida’s former husband, and I sat down. He was a Republican, but hardly a Bush‑ie and we sat down, and one wet evening wrote a Republican program. There were no books. There were no libraries. The house was designed with all sorts of dreadful moldings with tie‑back curtains on the windows. We got it just in time‑‑before the molding went in‑‑and managed to take the doors to the ceiling and leave off all the molding and put in my infamous egg crate bookcases. We now have 4,000 titles in there.

Annie: Oh wow.

Hugh: Yea, that was very not‑‑The cry that… When Eddie bought that house, and hired me to fix it up for the Republicans, there was a black family that owned it. When I bought it, I assumed the second mortgage and paid off the black family that‑‑they’d never lived there‑‑it was spec house for them. They lived…

Annie: Oh. OK.

Hugh: …somewhere out 16th street and anyway this was all rather bizarre as you watched the tide change. Because when I grew up, well I never really did grow up, but I went to Woodrow Wilson High School and I remember coming down here to Teehan’s Bar and so forth where they would pretend I was 18 so I could drink beer.

Annie: And where was that?

Hugh: Teehan’s. It was over by Georgetown University.

Annie: OK.

Hugh: It’s right about where Clyde’s…not Clyde’s but 1789 is now. Or Fitzgerald’s. Whatever they call it. It was just a college bar and everybody carving their names in the tables and things like that.

Annie: [laughs]

Hugh: But it was 28th Street where I now live, basically windowless shells and people, they were built for the servants that tended the grand houses on N Street. And these were all servants quarters and I think I said in my last meeting, it was called [pause] not Oyster Hill, not Scallop Hill…Herring Hill because my garden was so filled, I think I told you, with oyster shells…

Annie: Right. Right.

Hugh: And broken blue and white pottery and occasionally champagne bottles but Simon’s house was exactly the same thing.

Annie: Right.

Hugh: They went down to the coast. The schools. We put our first born, he was born in ’57, and he went into school where my grandchildren had all gone. It’s over there on N Street and it’s called the Little School or something like that.

Annie: Right. Right. Right.

Hugh: Still there. From there they went to a little school on 28th Street, where Robin and Ilene West live now.

Annie: OK.

Hugh: Between Q and P…and east side of the street…this white wood frame house.

Annie: OK.

Hugh: Free standing with door columns, and it was before playschool.

Annie: Oh wow.

Hugh: Yeah until the market got smart.

Annie: And were those integrated schools?

Hugh: Oh, no they weren’t.

Annie: OK.

Hugh: They weren’t. But there weren’t many black kids living here then. I mean, just imagine that the houses on P Street that we paid 85,000 for, originally sold for 3,000.

Annie: Wow.

Hugh: And they were left to these families, all these black families, and a lot of them moved out because they were offered $150‑‑they now go for one million six.

Annie: Right. Right.

Hugh: I mean they were all very close friends of ours, especially the Waters. They said “I know we can make a lot of money but we’d have to move to either Rockville or back over there the other side of the park and it’s not nearly as nice as Georgetown.”

Annie: Right. Right.

Hugh: And so they stayed there, a lot of those families, still, because it’s home. Very smart.

Annie: So it seems like Georgetown was, sort of, already integrated before the rest of the city.

Hugh: Before. But it was mostly black. And when the Democrats came down, after the dreadful Republicans got out of here, it began to switch and then it became fashionable and the prices begin to go crazy.

Annie: And did you really feel that that change came with the Kennedy administration?

Hugh: Did it what?

Annie: And that sort of change came with the Kennedy administration? The sort of change that Georgetown is now fashionable.

Hugh: Oh yeah. I mean that’s when all the famous cocktail parties and dinner parties and the famous Georgetown Dinner Parties. All those huge marvelous hostesses that we will never see the likes of again.

Annie: I know. It’s too bad.

Hugh: Yeah, it’s really too bad. They really could put on a mix, and you had to earn your supper, you know?

Annie: Right. Right. I guess it was in the mixing of the guests that really…

Hugh: The mix of what?

Annie: The guests that really made the dinner party.

Hugh: That what makes the dinner party. I mean, Sally Quinn talks too much about why she’s such a successful hostess, is her mix. You heard me quote him before but, Bill Waltman used to say “The greatest sins in life are being bored and boring.” You know, to go out to a dinner party and be bored, well, it’s your own fault if you can’t talk about something besides sex to your dinner partner.

Annie: [laughs] Right, right. To keep things interesting. Why do you think that in Georgetown that kind of entertaining and socializing has fallen by the way side?

Hugh: One, it isn’t the “scene” anymore. You know? People are traveling so much more and they’re hardly there. I think I talked about it before, Washington is different than any other city.

Annie: Right.

Hugh: You know, we have not a money aristocracy‑‑we’ve got a power aristocracy and they’re the press and the news people. Their parties are the parties to go to because if you’re on the Hill, you know, those guys never entertain and they don’t buy, they rent.

Annie: Right.

Hugh: You know? They go out to dinner and go out to cocktails. The minute that that began to change was just before the Republicans came in, you know, Bush I and Bush II. Because the Republicans didn’t identify with Georgetown at all. It was not their turf.

Annie: So none of them moved… I mean it was a very clear feeling.

Hugh: They all moved out to “Bigotsville” which we call Spring Valley. They don’t get it. They play golf and don’t drink enough. It’s just such a different scene. Those parties of Kay Graham and Susan Mary Alsop, I mean, they were events. It was just who was there. You always heard, “Who’s who?” and “Who’s he?” Very unique to any city.

Annie: Right, right.

Hugh: But that all changed. When they left.. You know, there are dinner parties. I know people try to crank it up again, but no one wants to be known as a great hostess. It’s like it’s a stain. I remember one time one of the papers wrote that ‑ I won’t say who it was‑‑was going to inherit the mantle. My friend got so mad, she didn’t want her name published ever again in anything.

Annie: Oh, you’re kidding? Now you were saying Georgetown is really home to more liberal Democrats than Republicans. Were there ever Republicans living here? Was there an administration change?

Hugh: Oh, yeah. He’s now a Democrat. I remember during Reagan‑‑I think I mentioned this the last time‑‑my wife left my party and became a Reaganite. Who was it? Mat Peabody‑‑who lives over on Dumbarton‑‑knocked on my door one night and he said, “Can I talk to your wife?” I said, “What’s wrong with talking to me?” He said, “She is a Republican.” “Oh. Where are you going after here?” He said, “There’s another one on the other side of Wisconsin Avenue.” [laughs] Very rare.

Annie: Right, right. Did you feel a change in the neighborhood at all though, when a new administration would come in?

Hugh: Oh, yeah. Only the people who really had power‑‑the press‑‑would buy. The rest of them rented, Senators and Congressmen. They didn’t know whether they were going to be here in two years, four years, six or forever. Occasionally, a few of them had money and they bought and anchored in. Some were even Republican, but they didn’t show it.

Annie: Did you work on any of their houses?

Hugh: Well, it’s curious then. I’ve done over 450 things and in Georgetown well over 100 and I’ve only had one Republican client. And I’ve never asked, “What are your politics?”

Annie: Right.

Hugh: It just turned out that I had.

Annie: Really?

Hugh: Yeah. It was Paul Mellon.

Annie: Really?

Hugh: Yeah. Bunny was a liberal.

Annie: Wow!

Hugh: Yeah.

Annie: And what kind of work did you do?

Hugh: Well, the Mellons first hired me because their butler who used to work for Robert Woods‑Bliss.

Annie: Mm‑hmm.

Hugh: And they lived up at the corner of Q and 28th and he was out of work and they lived next door to me. Our children played with their children. He was Irish, Murray was‑‑had a marvelous brogue.

Annie: [chuckles]

Hugh: And he got a job with Bunny and Paul Mellon in their house over on Whitehaven Street.

Annie: OK.

Hugh: And she asked Murray. She said, “This kitchen is terrible.” They had just moved in one of their nine houses. “Do you know an architect?” And he says, “Yeah, there’s this guy that lives next door.” And that resulted in my working as a balance for nine years for all of their houses, all over the world.

Annie: Oh, wow!

Hugh: I learned more from her than I think anybody else.

Annie: Really!

Hugh: Yeah.

Annie: How so?

Hugh: Well, she is one‑‑a foremost gardener. I mean, . . .

Annie: Ah.

Hugh: . . . her gardens will make you cry. I mean, Jesus! And I would do first editions overlooking the garden and the garden houses, then a complete house. And then we’d go down to Antigua where I did a hotel for them.

Annie: Really?

Hugh: Yeah, at Half Moon Bay, a hotel. And his lawyer said, ‘That’s very dangerous. You gotta sell that.” And so he sold it. And the hotel went to hell. But Givenchy did all of the maid’s and butler’s uniforms and the tablecloths.

Annie: Oh, wow!

Hugh: Yeah, it was just terrific.

Annie: That sounds amazing.

Hugh: Oh, Jesus! Nothing like it.

Annie: Yes, I guess now people are a little bit less adventurous, perhaps.

Hugh: Well, when you invest in a foreign country and you’ve got a name like Mellon, you’re in trouble, and she just hated being Mrs. Mellon. There were all these bodyguards hiding behind trees. Whenever they went down to Antigua, the bodyguards‑‑Christ, a boat could pull up here in the fog and sweep you all off and you wouldn’t know where you went. [laughs] And, anyways, she was a very special person. Very private.

Annie: What about, so their house here you worked on just the kitchen?

Hugh: Well, we ended up by fairly redoing the house once the kitchen was done. Then I hung my infamous shutters and we got rid of all the curtains.

Annie: Mmm.

Hugh: And, what else? We put in the bathrooms and rearranged the traffic pattern.

Annie: OK.

Hugh: Yeah, yeah. Now it was the damnedest profession.

Annie: Mm‑hmm.

Hugh: People come to us with all this money and they say, “What would you do with it?”

Annie: [chuckles]

Hugh: [laughs] And they do it.

Annie: Right.

Hugh: I mean, and it’s just amazing.

Annie: What is the difference or what have you noticed‑‑I know you’re not working as much in Georgetown now. But what have you noticed sort of tastes have changed? How have tastes changed?

Hugh: Well, I’m a modern architect, scary modern to a lot of people and it goes up and down. Republicans are never modern architects. They love Center Hall Colonial and the same furniture that my mother’s house had. It’s so predictable. You walk in there and there’s this the Duncan Fife knockoff from Grand Rapids and it’s just their art is copies of Andrew Wyeth. I mean, Christ! And that’s back at that because the Bush‑ies came in here. And the problem with Washington is that in come the new administration, and they’re here from two, to six, to twelve years, and most of them never go home. They take off their American flag, and go to work as a lobbyist down there. Waiting for the next election, then they all come out of the woodwork again.

But they never announce that they were the other administration. There’s a guy that lives right behind me, Steel is his name, and he was a very close Bush‑ie in the White House. He didn’t go home. The other three on the block, the day after elections‑‑signs were up.

Annie: Really? Do you think…is there…do see that more people in this neighborhood are going towards more modern architecture, or additions, or updates to their houses?

Hugh: Well, with my son’s and my practice, they know what they’re going to get when they hire us. We have…we’re now in Nantucket, Napa Valley, Reston, Virginia, and Chevy Chase. We’re doing a tasting room in Chevy Chase. We just finished one in Reston. We have one in Colorado, one in Grand Cayman Islands, one in Biscayne Bay, one in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, one in Telluride…no, Santa Ynez Valley. Another one in Nantucket, an apartment in Washington, and another apartment in Washington…a third apartment in Washington. And a house in Perrysburg, Ohio, another one in Nantucket, and one in San Francisco, and a nibble, that’s there guy doesn’t have a proper library, in Vermont. No, we’re not working here.

Annie: Wow. But there are some in Washington city. You have the apartments.

Hugh: Not now.

Annie: Oh, in Washington state?

Hugh: In Washington state, yeah, but nothing here. We’d done quite a bit up in Capitol Hill years ago.

Annie: Really? Did you find that that was a different feeling from Georgetown?

Hugh: No.

Annie: I mean, did people have different sensibilities…

Hugh: It had no restrictions on it, and it doesn’t look any worse than we do. The people that built things down there wanted to look like their neighbors and fit in.

Annie: Right.

Hugh: They very rarely hired me, but I did a lot of work up there. I’ve always maintained that good architecture, like a well‑mannered lady, never shouts at the neighbors. I made a career out of abstracting traditional styles, but I don’t jump. I’m still kind of the street.

Annie: Have a lot of people who’ve bought houses that you’ve worked on in Georgetown, since you’ve worked on them, have they reached out to you, or had questions about things?

Hugh: Oh, yeah. Someone said the other day, Jesus, those people. Have they no taste at all? I said, they have wonderful taste. They bought mine, lock, stock, and sink. When people go to spend money on their house, it’s the largest single amount of self‑indulgent funds they’ll ever spend in their life. And they’re very careful with it. They don’t want their neighbors to laugh at them. They want to look like the people they admire. It’s a very special thing. And the people they admire are usually the people that I admire. So we get along.

Annie: I think I asked you this before, is there any one thing in Georgetown you would really have liked to have worked on that you haven’t yet, or something that you think…

Hugh: The National Gallery of Art. To do an art museum, which I’ve done, I think, four, is the greatest program an architect can follow. Because that wall has to be able to not intimidate what’s going to hang on it.

Annie: Right.

Hugh: And what’s going to hang on it is more important than your wall, and the quality of light. And that wall has got to tolerate the picture changing from every now and then. From little, to small, to dark, to white. And it’s got to be able to work. So that the painting is just superb on that wall. That’s kind of neat to do. And how you handle the light, so it doesn’t destroy the picture, things like that.

Annie: Do you do that, sometimes, in a private house.

Hugh: Most of my clients have huge collections. And they all say, we don’t live in a museum, but we do have this Motherwell that’s 40 feet long and 10 feet high.

Annie: Right. So you have to work around that. Are there any last thoughts you have about your life in Georgetown, or your work here?

Hugh: I feel so lucky. As I said before, my children don’t come home to see my wife and I. They come home because they’ve lived in that house, they learned to walk in that house, and the sidewalks; and they come back. And all of my friends are here. Last night, I went out to a neighbor’s birthday party, out in that Nazi headquarters. They were all these people living in Georgetown, what the hell were they doing out there?

Annie: Right, this is out at the Chevy Chase Club.

Hugh: Yeah. And people came up to me…Hello, I’m Tina Zimmerman, you did my house in ’58. Oh yes, ah ha. I can’t wait to get to my files to see where the hell I did it.

Annie: Right. So it’s a very close knit group of…

Hugh: It is. We walk to dinner. My car has 30,000 miles on it, it’s 12 years old.

Annie: Oh my gosh.

Hugh: Simon and I both walk down the hill. It’s just right. Where else can you live where the grocer knows you by your first name? And where you can run up a tab at the liquor store? And the dry cleaner will always find it for you?

Annie: It’s a very small town.

Hugh: It is. It really is.

Annie: Very small town feeling.

Hugh: And when I think of Chevy Chase, where I grew up, no one knew anybody out there.

Annie: Really.

Hugh: Yeah. My parents had a seven or eight foot wall going all the way around their property, and great big gates.

Annie: And just didn’t…

Hugh: Hardly ever entertained.

Annie: It’s a really amazing place to live, and you’ve certainly made a wonderful mark on Georgetown.

Hugh: It’s made our lives. How different it would have been, if we had followed my mother and father and moved to Kensington, or Chevy Chase. My kids all would’ve gone to school out there. I don’t think they ever would’ve gotten into St. Albans or any of the other places. Nor would they have come out as educated as they are. I’ve got one who’s a republican, who is just a…we don’t dare talk about politics. We just go right at each other’s throats. I don’t know how that happened. Where the other boys are intelligent, nice liberals. But he’s to the political right of Beowulf. The only thing he quotes is Rush Limbaugh. But he’s a very nice man.

Annie: I’m sure.

Hugh: In spite of that. His wife is president of Castle Rock pictures. She says everybody out here is liberal, everybody. And we’re not “ass‑out” anymore.

Annie: That’s so funny. How funny is that? Well, thank you so much for all of your time.

Hugh: I’d love to see a copy of this.

Annie: Absolutely, this is wonderful. I will stop here…