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Peek Inside: Mid-Century Modern House in DC Restored to Former Glory

"Historic houses are very soulful places"

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From teardowns to pops-ups, new construction is happening all across the D.C. area. But there's something to be said for preserving history before it's all gone.

"We lived in this neighborhood for 11 years and lived in a typical colonial, but really dreamed of living in a mid-century modern house," Marilyn Kitzes
said.

Kitzes is now living out that dream in northwest D.C. Her home in the Chevy Chase neighborhood was once considered the ugly duckling on the block. Kitzes, however, appreciated it for what it was and ventured into a project of renovation and restoration.

"Historic houses are very soulful places," notes Kim Prothro Williams, an architectural historian with the D.C. Historic Preservation Office.

She says mid-century style homes, those built in the mid '50s to early '60s, are a dying breed in the area.

"We have noticed that there have been threatened resources," Prothro Williams said. "Many mid-century houses are being demolished."

She's conducting a survey to account for this type of architecture: homes with clean lines, flat roofs and asymmetrical profiles. So far, 200 dwellings with some form mid-century style or attitude have been accounted for.

"Before it's too late, we want to at least collect information on those surviving houses," Prothro Williams said.

In what was once considered the "old city", D.C. had rowhouses almost exclusively. Then, by the 20th century, developers began to branch out their builds. Colonial revival began, and where there were empty lots, particularly in Wards 3 and 4, "Brady Bunch" style homes began to fill in the gaps.

"It was really almost those leftover areas that had great appeal as well to people of means who could hire their own architect and design their houses," Prothro Williams said.

Kitzes bought her home from an estate a few years ago and promised not to tear it down. She hired architect V.W. Fowlkes to restore it to its former glory.

"Too frequently, when people first buy a house and in a frenzied hurry to move in and to make it theirs, basically wipe it clean of all of its original charm," Fowlkes said.

Inside, Kitzes' home is a graceful dance between then and now.

"The houses that have the most character are the ones that have a mix…" Fowlkes said. "That mix is what sort of brings the magic to a space."

As for Kitzes, she's more than happy with her little slice of history.

"We feel a lot of pride that we took an existing structure and restored it to its original splendor," she said.

The District's Historic Preservation Office says it's looking to expand its study but will likely have some initial findings by the end of the year.

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