The Patterson Mansion is the only surviving example of the grand mansions that once graced the capital’s Dupont Circle. It exemplifies the neoclassic Italianate style so popular in the Gilded Age of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The building’s architecture and the family that commissioned it are woven into the fabric of Washington’s history and reflect the profound societal and civic changes of that era.
Prominently situated at 15 Dupont Circle, at the intersection of P Street, NW, the 36,470 square-foot, four-story white marble and brick residence occupies a one-third acre site. Patterson Mansion was designed by the renowned architect Stanford White of the preeminent American architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White. It is the only remaining example of his work in Washington. The mansion was built by the Patterson family, owners of the Chicago Tribune, and helped to establish their prominent place in Washington society. The mansion represents the dignity and prestige of the city’s most beloved historical structures and will continue its legacy of distinction as an embassy, foundation headquarters, association, club or once again as a personal residence.
The elegance of the stunning interiors is immediately apparent in the grand first-floor entrance hall with fireplace, polished terrazzo and marble floors and the impressive marble stairway that rises to a landing with a carved marble fountain. Flanking the entrance hall are a library and a reception room of equal proportions. In addition, an office, cloakroom, kitchen, food-service areas and powder rooms complete the first level.
The principal public areas of the house are found on the second floor piano nobile and are organized around a spacious gallery which opens to a balcony overlooking Dupont Circle. It is here that in 1927, President Coolidge, in residence at Patterson Mansion while the White House was under renovation, hosted Charles Lindbergh following his historic transatlantic flight and where they greeted the adoring crowds assembled below. The finely proportioned rooms here include the paneled living room, gracious dining room and stunning ballroom complete with orchestra balcony.
The third floor consists of approximately 5,085 square feet: the Master Bedroom with attached dressing room and oversized bath; the twin Coolidge Bedrooms, which share a bath; and the Lindbergh Bedroom and an adjacent bedroom, which share a bath. Additional rooms on the third floor include a boardroom and two private sitting rooms..
The fourth floor, which is approximately 5,095 square feet, includes a bedroom with adjacent sitting room, three additional bedrooms, five small rooms and a walk-up attic. The 4,650 square-foot lower level includes a bedroom and en suite bathroom, wine cellar and storage and mechanical rooms. An Otis elevator serves all levels.
A separate entrance from P Street gives access to a 1956 addition that offers enhanced entertaining and public areas. These include an entrance hall and banquet hall on the main level; and a reception room and auditorium with stage on the upper level, which connects to the Grand Patterson House Ballroom. Backstage dressing rooms facilitate performances.
There are powder room facilities on both levels.
When commissioning McKim, Mead & White to design their new home on Dupont Circle, Robert and Nellie Patterson specified an impressive exterior and grand interiors suitable for entertaining on a large scale.
The general character and ornamentation of the exterior evoke the Italian Renaissance. The white walls, decorated with glazed terra cotta, Ionic orders, attic story, enriched bands and garlanded window pediments create a most impressive and elegant façade.
Interior appointments include fireplaces with antique limestone, white marble or sand-cast mantles; cast iron banisters; a white marble fountain on the central landing depicting an eagle with spread wings that is attributed to Augustus Saint Gaudens; crystal chandeliers in the dining room and ballroom, herringbone parquetry flooring in the ballroom; maple flooring in the dining room; historic tiger oak flooring in the upper foyer. Stanford White described the design as possessing a
“light and rather joyous character.”
A semi-elliptical driveway lined by limestone curbing that links P Street and Dupont Circle completes the exterior grandeur of the mansion. White’s design included the first attached garage in a residence in the District of Columbia. Hedges and a public sidewalk border the west-facing lot, which is landscaped with ivy, spruce, magnolia grandiflora and oak.
Presently, there are 10 parking spaces on site.