5,000 Square Feet on One Level: Capitol Hill’s Most Intriguing Warehouse Conversion

by Nena Perry-Brown

5,000 Square Feet on One Level: Capitol Hill's Most Intriguing Warehouse Conversion: Figure 1
The living space at Carl and Undine Nash’s home. Click to enlarge

As UrbanTurf reported last week, an alley warehouse on Adolf Cluss Court in Capitol Hill is slated for conversion into two new homes. However, the Cluss Court name and precedent for residences on that alley belongs to the Nashes.

Carl and Undine Nash were living in a rowhouse on A Street on the northeast side of Capitol Hill in 2009 when they decided to start looking for a single-level residence that they could grow old in. They didn’t want to leave the neighborhood, however, and one can imagine that finding a spacious place to live without negotiating stairs is a tall order on the Hill.

5,000 Square Feet on One Level: Capitol Hill's Most Intriguing Warehouse Conversion: Figure 2
The home’s entry gate.

Then Undine’s search led her to a commercial real estate website, where a rundown warehouse was advertised for sale.

The 1920s warehouse was owned by the Steuart family, which owns property throughout the city in relation to their oil business. The warehouse was originally used to store and distribute coal and ice to the neighborhood, but it had fallen on hard times after years of vacancy, squatters and even a couple fires. The roof had deteriorated and was missing in places, and a tree had grown into the south wall, buckling and absorbing the surrounding bricks. There was no electricity or plumbing hooked up to the building.

5,000 Square Feet on One Level: Capitol Hill's Most Intriguing Warehouse Conversion: Figure 3
Warehouse interior, pre-reconstruction

However, the couple saw potential in the space and moved forward with purchasing the property and making it into their new home. Contractor Kevin Palka guided the effort, giving them frank assessments of the work needed and associated costs and adequately preparing them for the more arduous — and unexpected — dynamics of the restoration and construction.

5,000 Square Feet on One Level: Capitol Hill's Most Intriguing Warehouse Conversion: Figure 4

It took almost two years to gain approval to re-zone the building from commercial to residential use, get design approval from the Historic Preservation Office and Capitol Hill Restoration Society, and acquire all necessary building permits. The original plan was to retain both the inner east and west walls and demolish-and-rebuild the remainder using the original brick. However, the west wall collapsed during demolition.

Construction began in 2011 and was largely complete by 2012; the Nashes then moved into the 800 square-foot apartment toward the front of the property while they began furnishing and crafting the finishes for the house.

5,000 Square Feet on One Level: Capitol Hill's Most Intriguing Warehouse Conversion: Figure 5
A current day look at the exterior of the Nash’s home.

The overall design of the new home was meant to approximate the look of the original warehouse as much as possible, from the three garage doors on the north wall (two of which are now merely cosmetic) to the arched-brick exterior window frames.

5,000 Square Feet on One Level: Capitol Hill's Most Intriguing Warehouse Conversion: Figure 6
Exterior east wall facing south, pre-reconstruction

The nearly 5,000 square-foot property covers virtually the same footprint as the original building, and achieved the Nashes goal of having all the living space on one level. The brick that composes the patio and the exterior and interior walls is from the old warehouse. The roof and ceiling are thick steel panels topped with solar panel strips that produce an energy surplus through the year.

The ceiling is nearly twenty feet tall at its apex, while the wall partitions are built up to eight-feet tall throughout much of the house. The clerestory windows along the ceiling were previously framed in wood and provided the only source of light in the original warehouse; now, they are reconstructed in steel yet only enhance the open feel of the house.

5,000 Square Feet on One Level: Capitol Hill's Most Intriguing Warehouse Conversion: Figure 7
Dining room table

The handcrafted furnishings and finishes include materials salvaged from the demolition of the warehouse, from a dining room table composed of wooden roof rafters to kitchen cabinet panels Carl made by incorporating stamped roof tin. A Craigslist advertisement in Baltimore led them to acquire the front gate, and the front doors are salvaged schoolhouse doors from Baltimore as well.

5,000 Square Feet on One Level: Capitol Hill's Most Intriguing Warehouse Conversion: Figure 8
A panoramic shot of the home. Click to enlarge

Then there’s the matter of naming the alley, where the warehouse had formerly been addressed on “D Street Rear”. The Nashes circulated a petition amongst their neighbors and went through the ANC and DC Council in order to give their new home its own address, on “Adolf Cluss Court” in honor of esteemed DC architect Adolf Cluss (most well-known for designing the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building and Eastern Market).

Now, the Nash’s home is the fulfillment of all of their wishes — a great location, space to entertain and garden, and even room to work; both Carl and Undine have private offices on opposite ends of the house, and a separate space adjacent to their two-car garage serves as Carl’s shop. It’s easy to see why the home won the District of Columbia Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation just last year.

More images are below.

5,000 Square Feet on One Level: Capitol Hill's Most Intriguing Warehouse Conversion: Figure 9

5,000 Square Feet on One Level: Capitol Hill's Most Intriguing Warehouse Conversion: Figure 10

5,000 Square Feet on One Level: Capitol Hill's Most Intriguing Warehouse Conversion: Figure 11

Correction: An earlier version of the article misstated the directions of the walls that were restored.

See other articles related to: warehouse, historic preservation, conversions, capitol hill

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/the_original_adolf_cluss_court_warehouse_conversion/11855


  1. dc investor said at 1:02 am on Saturday November 5, 2016:
    Looks very hard and cold.
  1. Ben Kelley said at 7:41 am on Wednesday November 23, 2016:
    Actually,having been a guest of the Nashes, I can testify that the home is an amazing work, and quite warm and hospitable in atmosphere despite its lofty, spacious dimensions. Not cold at all, once you're there!

DC Real Estate Guides

Short guides to navigating the DC-area real estate market

We've collected all our helpful guides for buying, selling and renting in and around Washington, DC in one place. Visit guides.urbanturf.com or start browsing below!

Northern Virginia

Profiles of 14 neighborhoods across Northern Virginia

Looking to Give People A Reason to Stay Past 6pm
Happily Straddling the Line Between City and Suburb
Columbia Pike
Arlington’s Neglected Stepchild is Getting a Makeover
Crystal City
Turning Lemons into Lemonade
Lyon Village
Developing An Air of Exclusivity?
Hitting Its Growth Spurt
An Urban Village Hitting Its Stride
Del Ray
Virginia’s Small Town Near the Big City
Eisenhower Avenue
The Vibrancy Might Take a Few Years
The Quiet Neighborhood By the Beltway
Old Town
Mayberry By The Potomac
132 Commerical-Free Acres
Downtown Falls Church
Staying the Same in the Midst of Change
Tysons Corner
Radical Change Could Be On The Way

See more Northern Virginia »


Profiles of 14 neighborhoods in suburban Maryland

Small-Town Living in the State Capital
Bedroom Community Gets Buzzing Cache
Cabin John
In With The New While Maintaining the Old
Chevy Chase
Affluence, Green Lawns and Pricey Homes
Downtown Silver Spring
Experiencing a Resurgence After a Bumpy History
A Suburb on Steroids
Rockville Town Square
Despite the Dynamism, Still Somewhat Generic
Takoma Park
More Than a Little Bit Quirky
A Foodie Magnet on the Verge of Change
Capitol Heights
Kudzu, Front Porches and Crime
Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
Mount Rainier
Artists, Affordable Homes and A Silo Full of Corn
National Harbor
A Development Rises Next to the Potomac
Riverdale Park
A Town Looking For Its Identity

See more Maryland »

Northwest DC

30+ neighborhood profiles for the city's biggest quadrant

16th Street Heights
DC's Sleeper Neighborhood
Where (Almost) Everyone Knows Your Name
AU Park
One of DC’s Last Frontiers Before the Suburbs
DC’s Northern Neighborhood on the Cusp
DC’s 535 House Neighborhood
Cathedral Heights
Do You Know Where That Is?
Chevy Chase DC
Not to Be Confused With the Other Chevy Chase
Cleveland Park
Coming Back After A Rough Year
Columbia Heights
DC’s Most Diverse Neighborhood, But For How Long?
An Island of Serenity East of the Park
Dupont Circle
The Best of DC (For a Price)
Foggy Bottom & West End
Where the Institutional Meets the International
Forest Hills
Ambassadors and Adventurous Architecture
Foxhall Village
350 Homes Just West of Georgetown
Friendship Heights
A Shopping Mecca With a Few Places to Live
History, Hoyas and H&M
Glover Park
One of DC’s Preppier and More Family-Friendly Neighborhoods
A Posh View From Embassy Row
LeDroit Park
A Quiet Enclave in the Middle of the City
Logan Circle
Trendy Now, But Not By Accident
Mount Pleasant
Sought-After Homes Surround Main Street in Transition
Mount Vernon Triangle
From Seedy to Sought-After
The Long, Skinny Neighborhood at the City’s Northwest Edge
Park View
It’s Not Petworth
Penn Quarter/Chinatown
DC’s Go-Go-Go Neighborhood
Getting a Vibrancy of Its Own
The Duke’s Former Stomping Ground
Shepherd Park
DC’s Garden of Diversity
Spring Valley
A Suburb With a DC Zip Code
Not To Be Confused With Takoma Park
Not Quite Like Its Neighbors
U Street Corridor
The Difference a Decade Makes
Woodley Park
Deceptively Residential
Adams Morgan
No Longer DC’s Hippest Neighborhood, But Still Loved by Residents

See more Northwest DC »

Southwest DC

The little quadrant that could

Southwest Waterfront
A Neighborhood Where A Change Is Gonna Come

See more Southwest DC »

Northeast DC

Profiles of 10 neighborhoods in NE

New Development Could Shake Up Pastoral Peace
A Little Bit of Country Just Inside the District’s Borders
Not to Be Confused With Bloomingdale
Fort Totten
Five Years Could Make a Big Difference
H Street
A Place To Party, and To Settle Down
The Northeast Neighborhood That Few Know About
Michigan Park
A Newsletter-On-Your-Doorstep Community
Evolving from a Brand to a Neighborhood
Ripe for Investment Right About Now
The Difference 5 Years Makes
Big Houses, A Dusty Commercial Strip and Potential

See more Northeast DC »

Southeast DC

6 neighborhoods from Capitol Hill to East of the River

Capitol Riverfront
Still Growing
Hill East
Capitol Hill’s Lesser Known Neighbor
Congress Heights
Gradually Rising
Notable for Its Neighborliness
Historic Anacostia
Future Promise Breeds Cautious Optimism
Eastern Market
A More European Way of Living

See more Southeast DC »