D.C. neighborhoods series: Lawyers, politicians and consultants call Kalorama home

Washingtonians know they’ve hit the big time when they can afford to buy a house in Sheridan-Kalorama, a tiny suburban community near Dupont Circle in Northwest D.C. known for its elite residents.

Bounded by Rock Creek Park, Massachusetts Avenue, S Street and Dupont Circle, a home in this affluent neighborhood averages 5,400 square feet. Housing costs range from $2,200 a month for an apartment near the outskirts of the community to several million dollars to own one of the neighborhood’s mansions, mostly located near Embassy Row on Massachusetts Avenue.

Don McGlynn from The Butterfield Realty Group, a real estate agency that sells houses in the $8 million to $10 million range, said the residents of Sheridan-Kalorama are “a mix of lawyers, politicians, consultants and the independently wealthy.” McGlynn said the only other place in the District that can rival Sheridan-Kalorama’s affluence is Massachusetts Avenue Heights, which is tucked between Massachusetts and Connecticut avenues east of the U.S. Naval Observatory and west of Rock Creek Park.

While some believe that Kalorama, which means “beautiful view” in Greek, includes a portion of the Adams Morgan neighborhood, most see Sheridan-Kalorama as a separate, more elite community.

“(I) would be charged for false advertising if I extended Kalorama’s boundaries so they encompassed Adams Morgan,” Roby Thompson, an area real estate agent, said.

High-level politicians and business leaders who own mansions in the area – mostly on Kalorama Road – include Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former World Bank President James Wolfensohn and Juleanna Glover Weiss, a lobbyist and former spokeswoman for Vice President Dick Cheney. Even GW’s President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg managed to get into this elite group of residents – he lives in a University-owned house at 2241 Bancroft Place in the Kalorama-Sheridan neighborhood.

Denis James, president of the Kalorama Citizens Association, said he would characterize the Donald Rumsfeld, former World Bank President James Wolfensohn and Juleanna Glover Weiss, a lobbyist and former spokeswoman for Vice President Dick Cheney. Even GW’s President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg managed to get into this elite group of residents – he lives in a University-owned house at 2241 Bancroft Place in the Kalorama-Sheridan neighborhood.

Denis James, president of the Kalorama Citizens Association, said he would characterize the neighborhood as including mostly “old mansions and big apartments.” Sandra Perlmutter, a member of Sheridan-Kalorama’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission, a group that makes zoning recommendations to the city, said the area is “enormously kid friendly and mostly residential.”

However community leaders characterize it, Sheridan-Kalorama has always been an affluent place to live in the District. A spokesman for the D.C. Board of History and Tourism said Kalorama is an “interesting D.C. neighborhood in that is has always been upscale (and) never has had a decline like many other D.C. communities.”

As early as the mid-17th century, the boundaries of Sheridan-Kalorama were being formed by property lines of the early land grants of the District. Sheridan-Kalorama is classified as one of D.C.’s historical districts and hosts 48 embassies.

The area boasts houses built from 1890 to 1988 and represents the suburbs in the heart of the city. A few of the landmarks that line the historical district include the home of Charles Evans Hughes, the 11th chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and former Ohio Governor William Bebb’s octagon-shaped house built in 1865.

Sheridan-Kalorama was also the home to five U.S. presidents: Woodrow Wilson, whose house on S Street remains a historic landmark in the community and is open to the public, as well as the homes of Hebert Hoover, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Warren G. Harding and William Howard Taft.

Despite the affluence of the neighborhood, some residents are concerned about how increasingly upscale Sheridan-Kalorama has become.

James, president of the Kalorama Citizens Association, said the community is “less diverse because of rising rental prices.” The average two-story condo costs around $1.1 million, Thompson said.

Sandy Strother, a resident and wife of a political consultant, said she owns homes in both D.C. and Montana, but that “real estate is skyrocketing” in the area.

Residents in the area said many people are being forced to move out of their rentals in the neighborhood due to rising costs. James said under the District’s Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, when a building is sold to a new owner tenants are supposed to be given the opportunity to buy their apartment. But, if only part of the building is sold, the law does not apply. A certain percentage of a building can be sold, rental prices can be raised and many tenants have to move out because they no longer can afford it, residents said.

Perlmutter, of the ANC, recognizes the diminishing diversity in Sheridan-Kalorama, but added that the neighborhood at least has “diversity in culture and international flavor due to the embassies.” The embassies represented within the area range from Armenia to Madagascar to the People’s Republic of China.

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