Gargoyle, Turret, Brewmaster's Castle

Brewmaster’s Castle, Dupont Circle

Here are a few architectural details on the Brewmaster’s Castle, just off Dupont Circle. The house is so named because it was built by Christian Heurich, the founder of Heurich Brewing Company, which operated in Washington DC from the 1880s to 1956. Mr. Heurich ran the company until his death at the age of 102 in 1945. The original company and their brewery are no more, although it has been resurrected under the moniker Olde Heurich Brewing by the great grandson of Christian Heurich, and now produces craft beers under the brand Foggy Bottom. Due to a lack of facilities in Washington, the beers are brewed in upstate New York. The original brewery itself was located where the Kennedy Center now sits.

The house is now a museum and retains an extraordinary amount of the original furnishings and decorations from the period of its creation in 1892-94. The house was bleeding-edge technologically at the time – it had electric and gas lighting, central radiator heating, ventilating skylights for cooling, a pneumatic communication system, an elevator, and even a central vacuum for cleaning. The structure is made of steel and reinforced concrete to be fireproof, and although it has 15 fireplaces, due to the central heating systems, none have ever been used.

The house looms large over the neighborhood, as it is one of the last remaining mansions of the era around the circle (some have been converted to embassies, one is now the Scientology headquarters in DC, and the rest have been demolished and replaced by apartment and office buildings) and it stands out as a period piece quite in contrast to its neighboring structures from the 1950s through the 1970s. I’m fascinated by the decorative ornamental detailing on the house, as well as some of the functional bits, like this bootscrape-

Bootscrape, Brewmaster's Castle
Bootscrape, Brewmaster’s Castle

It is built into the base of the column supporting the porte cochere over the carriageway in front of the house. It is, of course, on the outside, and not on the house side of the porte cochere.

The bootscrape is out of view to your left in this scene – this is the entrance portico under the porte cochere. I was drawn to this composition by the repeating and converging curves of the stairs, the carriageway, and the arches of the porte cochere.

Portico, Brewmaster's Castle
Portico, Brewmaster’s Castle

Looking up, this is one of the gargoyles on the outer edge of the porte cochere, and behind it the ornamental spire on the turret that inspired the house’s nickname, Brewmaster’s Castle.

Gargoyle, Turret, Brewmaster's Castle
Gargoyle, Turret, Brewmaster’s Castle

Turning around and looking down, the service spaces are equally detailed, and the innovative thought behind the construction is in evidence.

Windows, Brewmaster's Castle
Windows, Brewmaster’s Castle

The trade entrance has TWO wrought-iron gates, one at the top and another at the bottom of the stairs.

Trade Entrance, Brewmaster's Castle
Trade Entrance, Brewmaster’s Castle

The sidewalk doesn’t pull right up to the foundations, but rather a sinuous cobblestone gutter system surrounds the house, providing adequate drainage so the basement doesn’t flood in a storm.

Gutters, Brewmaster's Castle
Gutters, Brewmaster’s Castle

The house is open for tours several days a week. While I haven’t been inside yet, I’m planning a visit soon.

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