Thursday, October 30, 2014

The perfect haunted house

Isn't it simply divine?   The perfect place to pass out candy on Halloween!  It just screams Bach Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.

This dear reader is not a parody, or a piece of photoshop art, but was the Taylor Residence, built in Washington, DC., at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue NE, and 3rd Street NE. (We are looking north northwest in this picture.)

I first learned about the house some 30+ years ago when I lived in DC and it graced the cover of the first paperback edition of Capital Losses by James Goode.  Capital Losses was a book that really made a huge impact on me.  A social history of the destroyed architecture of Washington, DC, the book tells you something about the structure, and then tells you about the people who built it, or are most closely associated with it.

Goode called the Taylor House, built in the 1870s, an exuberant cottage.  Evidently it was well known that stereoviews of the house were sold in gift shops.  The Taylors also owned the lot next door on the Massachusetts Avenue side, leading me to believe that this fanciful mish-mosh of everything American Victorian was the start of something a bit larger, but it never made it beyond this stage.

Alas, what made it charming in 1876 didn't age so well - much like our opinion today of 1960s "Brutalist" architecture - and the Taylor House was razed for the Congressional House Apartment building in the early 1920s.


  1. What a great house and what a shame it got torn down. Maybe it's the raised bed but when I first saw the picture it reminded me of the cat-house Don Draper was raised in on Mad men.

    I even thought of doing a blog entry comparing the two, but you of course dear Cookie are better informed than I!

  2. While it lasted it clearly outshone the neighbor houses!

  3. "No! I will not hide in the fruit cellar! Ah ha! You think I'm fruity, huh? I'm staying right here.This is my room and no one will drag me out of it"...


  4. The 60s (and 70s) brutal Beton-Architektur will not be so easy to get rid off : One has to bomb that concrete shit. This house may look like a mass murderers dream (through "modern" glasses), but I am sure it did not produce so many idiots and criminals as the brutal concrete housing of the sixties and seventies.

    What I do not understand are these smallish structures to the left and to the right - those to the right are seemingly connected with the main building ? Are these just the cages of the poor neighbours or those of the servants ?
    This image would make a nice image for an lp-album.

    1. The Taylor House was a very rare example of a wooden house in a slowly growing neighborhood of brick townhomes, and thats what those smallish structures are - small row houses. Most of the time, these were before large blocks were bought up to be developed in a uniform fashion, which is my thought.

    2. Thank you Cookie. Looking at the image I find it interesting that the photographer used a very short shutter time, a second or so ? The gentleman to our right in the bowler hat is normally walking and not blurred.
      And what I find interesting is that the houses are standing elevated. From the pavement / street level where the gentlemen to our left are standing to the level of the house's front staircase may be a distance of at least two meters : Is this house (and the others of course) built on an artificial mount, or is the street cut in ? I have no idea about the geographical and geological environment there. Looking at houses of the era here I find it unusual that they'd be built "elevated" - don't know a better word, sorry. There are birch trees, maybe it was a wet underground.

  5. I squint my eyes a lot when I see a house like this that still exists somewhere, and I try to imagine what the surrounding area looked like and what was going on at the time.

  6. How sad that a magnificent architectural specimen should be torn down. There is no sense or value of preservation in the US. Everything is High-Rise and parking lots. I can't help but feel that global warming is partly due to concrete and asphalt.