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Funkstown - Foggy Bottom Notable Women - Architect Rodeck and Interior Designer McCandless

By Frank Leone


Foggy Bottom has been home to many notable women, including two important designers who lived in the neighborhood for decades. Melita Rodeck (1914-2011) was a noted architect who renovated, then lived in the turreted house at 801 25th Street. She also designed the row houses of the then brand new Queen Anne’s Lane in 1960. Interior designer/decorator Madeleine McCandless (1885-1983) moved into 810 New Hampshire Avenue shortly after that row was renovated in 1953. Her best known project was renovation of the National Women’s Party (NWP) headquarters after suffragist Alva Belmont acquired the house on Capitol Hill for the party in 1929. Women’s History Month is a good time to visit that house, now known as the Belmont-Paul Equality National Monument.


In 1960, Melita Rodeck, who lived at Potomac Plaza, restored the “Foggy Bottom Octagon House,” which was “a shambles,” painting it “Colonial yellow.”  She liked it so much, she bought it, making it her home (and office) for the next 43 years. She made several changes to the improve the stability of the structure and create a more functional modern living space, and office space she shared with her assistant Bernice Abott. She also renovated other houses in the Foggy Bottom Historic District, including 2511 and 2513 I Street (1966), adding a bay window, federal entrances, and iron steps. Rodeck designed the 18 federal style row houses for the new Queen Anne’s Lane development, built 1960-1962. (The only access to Hughes Court (shortly thereafter renamed Hughes Mews) at the time was from 25th Street.)


Rodeck, Melita, 1914-2011, “Rodeck residence in the Foggy Bottom Neighborhood, Washington, D.C., March 22, 1960. Elevations (Ms1992-028),” VT Special Collections and University Archives Online, accessed March 7, 2024, https://digitalsc.lib.vt.edu/items/show/8754 

Rodeck was born in Milan, Italy and studied in Vienna, leaving in 1939 after Hitler’s invasion of Austria. She settled in Washington, D.C. in 1950, began a career with the General Services Administration, and became a registered architect in 1952. In 1973, she obtained a Masters in planning from Catholic University, where she had taught. She opened her own firm in 1958 and completed new construction and renovation for homes, offices, religious institutions, and government facilities. She returned to government work in 1968 and retired in 1985. In 1981, she became the first woman to serve on D.C.’s Board of Examiners for Architects. She also chaired the Washington Branch of the American Association of University Women. In addition to being an architect, she was a painter and sculptor. She supported many charities, and did design work for St. Stephen Martyr Catholic Church.


Rodeck’s drawing of Queen Anne Lane’s houses, Foggy Bottom News, Oct. 1960

Madeleine McCandless lived at 810 New Hampshire Avenue from 1953 to 1983.  Descended from a notable southern family (her great-grandfather was Charles Pinckney, ambassador to France), she contributed a recipe for pralines to the January 1959 issue of the Foggy Bottom News. She was born in Georgia and worked as a nurse. She served in the Army Nurse Corps during World War I (1917-1919) and as a result is now buried in Arlington Cemetery. She lived with her parents until they passed away, and she adopted two children from England in 1930. Prior to moving to Foggy Bottom, she lived in Georgetown, and other houses in NW. Self-employed, she designed house and garden projects. She also was a painter.


In 1929, the NWP moved to the Sewell House (built 1800) and it became the staging ground in the party's lobbying for an Equal Rights Amendment. The NWP wanted to renovate the buildings to include office, meeting, dining, and bedroom spaces needed to serve the organization. McCandless developed plans for new windows to increase light into the working and living spaces, and new doors and bathrooms.


Belmont-Paul House Lobby Interior (Frank Leone, Feb. 2024)

If you have recollections of Ms. Rodeck or Ms. McCandless and their families or other outstanding women in Foggy Bottom, let us know! DeniseV@foggybottomassociation.org.

 

Women’s History Month:  you can read about other notable Foggy Bottom women in prior posts – Foggy Bottom’s Outstanding Women Leaders (Ellie Becker, Mary Healy, and Maria Tyler), freedom seeker Emily Edmondson and the F Street House, Martha B. Briggs and her Lost Schools, The House of Mercy – Foggy Bottom’s Home for Fallen Women and Columbia Hospital for Women.  Suffragist, civil rights activist, and leader Mary Church Terrell had a minimal connection with Foggy Bottom – she worked at the Francis Junior High School Community Center for five days in 1934 – but I’d recommend her biography – Allison Parker, Mary Church Terrell:  Unceasing Militant, 2020– for Women’s History Month.


Sources:  FBA History Project Walking Tour, Queen Anne’s Lane; Martina Mulligan, “Architect and Her Home Reflect Foggy Bottom Growth,” Foggy Bottom News, Feb. 1981; “Queen and Commoner Joined, Anne and Hughes Happily Married,” Foggy Bottom News, Oct. 1960; Melita Rodeck, Baltimore Architecture Foundation; Historic American Building Survey, Sewall-Belmont House, HABS DC-821; Historic Resource Study, Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, National Park Service, 2021; FBA History Project.

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