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New Historic District Designated

Monday, March 24, 2014
Meridian Hill historic district established

Washington, DC - On March 6, 2014 the Historic Preservation Review Board voted unanimously to designate Meridian Hill as a District of Columbia Historic District.  The nomination will also be forwarded to the National Park Service for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

The Meridian Hill Historic District nomination was jointly sponsored by the Reed-Cooke Neighborhood Association, Historic Mount Pleasant, Inc. and the Historic Preservation Office. The district is roughly bounded by V, Irving Street, 15th and 16th Streets NW and encompasses 61 buildings, several sites, including Meridian Hill Park, and one structure, Henderson Castle wall.

The district contains a collection of mansions of exceptional architectural value largely built between 1905 and 1928 that reflect the eclecticism of the Beaux Arts style of architecture.  In particular, Meridian Hill includes eight of twelve embassies built through the collaborative effort of Mary Henderson and notable architect George Oakley Totten, Jr. as well as other private mansions commissioned by some of the city’s most socially prominent families. Alongside the mansions is an important array of luxury apartment buildings, built primarily in the 1920s through 1940s. These apartments provide important visual examples of the increasing acceptance of apartment building living among the city’s elite. Finally, several monumental religious edifices clustered at the district’s northern end form a conspicuous collection whose spires, visible from a distance, identify the urban importance of 16th Street. At its center, the district includes the grand Neoclassical style Meridian Hill Park.  

The early 20th century development of Meridian Hill as a prestigious neighborhood of private residences and foreign legations was principally the brainchild of visionary developer, Mary F. Henderson and her husband, Senator John Henderson. Beginning in the late 19th century and continuing for several decades, Mrs. Henderson campaigned for and financed the construction of the area’s grand mansions and foreign legations, transforming the area from a rugged post-Civil War settlement into an impressive gateway to the nation’s capital that came to be the city’s first “Embassy Row.”