Warder Mansion: From Opulence to Squatters and Back

by Shilpi Paul

Warder Mansion: From Opulence to Squatters and Back: Figure 1
Warder Mansion

There are many large, stately apartment buildings to look at as one travels north on 16th Street NW from downtown. But among the monoliths with classical facades and columns, one, just above Meridian Hill Park, looks like something out of the Middle Ages.

The Warder Mansion at 2633 16th Street NW (map) isn’t quite that old by DC standards — it was built in 1888 — but has a storied history nonetheless. In 1925, the building, originally a luxurious single-family home, was moved from K Street to its current location in a Ford Model T, piece by piece. The mover preserved as many historical details as possible — most of the arches, fireplaces and the turret made it to 16th Street intact.

The work of architect H.H. Richardson, the building typifies a Romanesque style that harkens back to Medieval times, and even in 1925 the building was acknowledged as architecturally significant. The individual that moved the building from its K Street location was an architect himself who took two years to reassemble the home rather than let it be razed to the ground to make room for an office building.

Several different tenants went on to call the building home over the next century, including apartment dwellers, the National Lutheran Council and Antioch College of Law. In the 1990’s, the building fell vacant and was occupied by squatters.

The Warder was not that well maintained over the years, and by 2000, it was in danger of crumbling due to neglect. Luckily, United Housing LLC turned it into luxury apartments. Now the mansion is back in good shape, and those that live there pay a premium; the rents on the 38 one- and two-bedroom units range from $1,700 to $3,200 per month.

Warder Mansion: From Opulence to Squatters and Back: Figure 2
Inside a unit

Because the building is so unusual, the units are all cut up differently. Some have lofts, some 25-foot ceilings, some balconies, and the units in the turret have rounded walls. The apartment at the top of the turret, a one-bedroom with a loft, has a rounded living room with a peaked ceiling. “I always think of that fairy tale Rapunzel when I think of that unit,” said property manager Linda Speer. There are no vacancies right now, Speer tells us, though three apartments opened up briefly this past spring.

The courtyard is furnished with a couple patio tables and a few grills, and according to resident Ashley McGlamery it is a place where her baby loves to run around. McGlamery and her husband became building residents two years ago after moving to DC. Initially, the couple lived in one of the more distinctive one-bedrooms, which had exposed beams, but moved to a plainer two-bedroom on the lower level when the baby arrived.

“You get to know everybody,” McGlamery said, noting that the yearly holiday party serves as a handy meeting venue. She also said the underground parking, which is available for an additional fee, is quite convenient.

Warder Mansion: From Opulence to Squatters and Back: Figure 3
Unit balcony

“People love the historical past, and that it’s not a typical high rise,” Speer told UrbanTurf. Besides the architecture and history, noted Speer, “it’s homier, more personal” than other DC buildings.

That appeal comes with a price; besides the relatively high rent, parking is pricey. While many of the reviews online are positive, some complain about the in-unit combined washer/dryers, which are apparently not too effective. There are also some complaints about negligent staff, although later reviews mention that those staffers may have been removed.

In addition to its proximity to Columbia Heights and Meridian Hill Park, the Warder Mansion offers a chance to live in a distinct, historic building that remains standing despite several close calls.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/warder_mansion_from_opulence_to_squatters_and_back/5705


  1. jag said at 6:19 pm on Wednesday June 27, 2012:
    Interesting. With all the units being unique, it seems odd that the building is apartments instead of condos.
  1. ajp said at 9:26 pm on Wednesday June 27, 2012:
    was "moved piece by piece in a model T"?? One stone at a time? Doesn't seem possible...

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