Washington's Second Blair House

1607 New Hampshire Avenue, an Illustrated History

 
By Malve Slocum Burns, 2nd revised edition by Atiba Pertilla with the assistance of Patricia C. Sutcliffe and photographs by Tom Koltermann

Download Washington's Second Blair House [pdf file, 2.3 MB].

Shortly after it was founded in 1987, the German Historical Institute of Washington, DC, needed larger quarters for its growing staff and library. The search of its founding director Hartmut Lehmann centered on the Dupont Circle area, which is home to embassies, think tanks, office buildings, and the Washington branch of Johns Hopkins University, but is also residential. Its attractive mix of large mansions of the Gilded Age on the avenues and smaller townhouses on the side streets makes for a grand yet intimate neighborhood. The search ended in the fall of 1988 with a decision in favor of 1607 New Hampshire Avenue NW. The elegant brick mansion, erected in 1911, offered a ballroom that could serve as a lecture hall along with smaller spaces-the former living and servants' quarters-for quiet research and office work. The building had been divided into numerous small offices, but there were still strong traces of its original grandeur. Painstaking renovation reopened the mansion's free-flowing spaces, and on April 1, 1990, the institute moved into its splendid new quarters. 

For whom had the mansion been built? Who had designed it?

A decade after the German Historical Institute moved to its home on New Hampshire Avenue, Dr. Malve Slocum Burns researched the history of the building in order to satisfy the curiosity of the institute's staff and visitors about the building's past. The first edition of Washington's Second Blair House was the result. Dr. Burns set the story of a family and a house within a larger social and political context. The Blairs were among Washington's most prominent families in the second half of the nineteenth century, and Dr. Burns brought their world to life. The book also traced the career of architect Jules Henri de Sibour, the designer of the institute's current home, and offered readers a verbal tour of Sibour's masterful landmark.

With the 30th anniversary of the German Historical Institute in mind, the time had come to revise the history in light of the latest scholarship and to include further research into the history of Washington, the Blair family, and especially of the lives of the household employees who shared 1607 New Hampshire Avenue with its original owners, Woodbury and Emily Blair. With the kind permission of Dr. Burns, the new revised version has added additional information throughout the book to deepen insight into the building and the era whence it emerged.