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Funkstown – West End’s Historic Alfred Mullet Rowhouses Renovated

By Frank Leone

One of the West End’s most notable historic rowhouses recently underwent a renovation, which has resulted in 15 modern condominium units. The rowhouses (2525 Pennsylvania Avenue) were designed by Alfred B. Mullett (1834-1890). As the federal government’s chief architect, he was responsible for the impressive French Second Empire style Eisenhower (Old) Executive Office Building (EEOB) and numerous other government as well as private projects. The rowhouses (built 1889) were Mullett’s final project. His inability to sell the houses, combined with other financial and health issues contributed to his depression, which led to his suicide in 1890.

The Mullett Rowhouses today, after the renovation of the western two-thirds of the building (F. Leone, May 2024). The light pink section of the building has not been renovated and still features an exterior fire escape.

Mullett served as Supervising Architect of the U.S. Treasury Department from 1866 to 1874, designing and overseeing federal construction projects worth more than $50 million and leaving a major impression on the Nation’s Capital. Born in England, he grew up in Ohio and moved to D.C. to work for the government in 1861. Mullett is best known for his design for the State, War, and Navy Building, now the EEOB (built 1871-1888). “A majestic survivor of The Gilded Age,” the Second Empire style building features 900 columns. Mullett also designed federal post offices, courthouses, and customhouses across the country. After leaving  Treasury in 1874, he designed banks and offices in D.C., including the Central National Bank (Apex) Building (7th St. and Penn. Ave.). He also designed an expansion of the original (not the current) St. Paul’s Church in Foggy Bottom.

The Mullet Rowhouses were designed in late Victorian/Queen Anne style to appear to be one large mansion, rather than three separate luxury dwellings. They were built of red brick with sandstone trim. Each building features large projecting bays, round-arch windows, dormers (projecting windows), and a mansard roof. The buildings are taller, wider, and feature bolder design elements (dormers and a tower), than many neighboring houses. As noted in the Historic Register nomination (1994), “the architect’s penchant for grandness influenced the design of Mullett Row.” Mullett, however, could not find buyers for the rowhouses and a series of financial problems coupled with his poor mental and physical health led him to shoot himself in 1890.

The chimneys behind the rowhouses, prior to renovation (F. Leone, April 2021). HPO discouraged a large addition attached to the rear of the building, as it would destroy or encapsulate the character-defining hemi-hexagonal brick walls and chimneys. The chimneys are still present but are obscured by the “carriage house” four-story structures located behind the renovated rowhouses.

Built as single-family residences, the Mullett Rowhouses were altered after 1920 for apartment use on the upper floors and commercial use at street level. Over time, the ground floor retail included a decorator, a grocery store, a tailor, an appliance shop, restaurants, and bars. In the late 1980s, the buildings housed the One Step Down jazz nightclub, the original Marshall’s location, and Brazil Tropical restaurant. Two of the three original rowhouse structures were recently extensively renovated and some units are still for sale with retail space still available on the ground floor. The renovated building also features a colorful mural by Ham Glass on the west side.

View of the Mullett Rowhouses showing the new (controversial) mural and the new four-story “carriage houses” in the rear (F. Leone, May 2024).

Sources: DC Historic Preservation League, DC Historic Sites, Mullett Rowhouses (including National Register Nomination); D.C. Office of Planning, DC Architects Directory, Alfred B. Mullett; HPO Staff Report, Mullett Rowhouses, 2519 and 2525 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Case No 21-222, April 22, 2021; Nena Perry-Brown, A Mullett Redevelopment: 15 Units Proposed for a Pair of Rowhouses in DC's West End, Urban Turf, April 5, 2021 A. B. MULLETT'S SUICIDE: The Well-known Architect Shoots Himself Through the Head,” The Washington Post, Oct. 21, 1890; 2525 Penn West End; FBA History Project.

June is LGBT+ Pride Month – Check out the Rainbow History Project and our post on Foggy Bottom’s Walt Whitman Park. June is also National Immigrant Heritage Month – see our posts on German and Irish heritage in Foggy Bottom (with more to come); also see the Washington Post article on the 100th anniversary of the restrictive 1924 Immigration Act.



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