MacFeeley House

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MacFeely House


MacFeely House 2015 I Street is recorded to have been owned by Charles Thomas until 1879, although Boyd’s Directory lists Brigadier General Robert MacFeely as residing at 2015 I Street from 1876 to his death in 1901.  MacFeely probably owned the house by 1881, as there are building permits in his name for repairs to the house.

MacFeely was a native Pennsylvanian and a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point.  His military career took him across the country during its years of early development.  He served as an Infantry Lieutenant against hostile Indians in Oregon; he was promoted to the rank of Staff Captain in 1861; he became Commissary for the State of Indiana, Commissary for the Army of Ohio and later Commissary for the Army of Tennessee.  At the rank of Major in May of 1865, MacFeely received two brevets for “faithful and meritorious service during the [Civil] War.”  Thereafter the advanced to the position of Chief Commissary of Subsistence with the rank of Brigadier General in April 1875.  He held this position until his retirement in 1890.[i]

Upon moving into the house sometime on or before 1876, he found a side hall townhouse with service wing and areaway that opened to a rear garden accessible to a service alley.  This housing type was typical of rowhouses built in Washington during this era.

From Francis Johnson’s drawing of the house in the 1930’s, other physical evidence, as well as descriptions of the house in the Arts Club Archive, which describes the house when they purchased it, it is possible to discern the original layout of the house that remained through MacFeely’s occupancy.  One entered the house through the present doorway to a side hall.  Here, a grand stair led up to the second floor.  Most likely, a smaller stair to the English basement was located here also.  The newel post, scroll banding and ballisters from the grand stair can be seen today on the rear stair built by the Arts Club in 1929-1930.  Off the front hall on the first floor were two parlors, probably adjoining.  The fireplaces of Carrera marble still remain.

From the far end of the front stairhall and through the north parlor one could enter the dining room.  This space, fitted within the original width of the rear wing, was oriented north south.  It extended (approximately 20’-0” x 13’-6”) from the front edge of the current stage to the existing chimneybreast where a fireplace was located.  The hearth of this fireplace can still be seen below the extant raised stage floor.  The room had two windows on the east side facing into the areaway.  (This open space would have been twice as wide as the current arrangement since the adjacent, mirror image house also had and areaway).

North of this room, behind the chimney wall, was the serving pantry.  The Victorian era flattop radiator used for keeping food warm still exists in this room.  A dumbwaiter, and possibly a small stair (not the extant stair) linked this space to the kitchen below.  A wood porch at the northern end led to the garden.  Below this were stairs descending to the basement level kitchen, which still survive.  To the south of the kitchen on the other side of the chimney were the boiler room and a coal bin.  The lower level of the main wing, south of the coal bin, contained two rooms with fireplaces, separated by small dressing or storage rooms.

The second floor was reached via the grand stair.  In the southwest corner there was a “hall room”, adjacent to the south bedroom.  Next to the stair hall, and north of the south bedroom, was another bedroom with one window opening to the areaway.  In the north wing there was the extant Manager’s Office, which was a bedroom.  The current archive space was also originally a bedroom although it was considerably larger than the present space.  Most likely, the original west wall of this room was relocated to make room for the current rear stair and hallway.  The original configuration would thus have been a usable bedroom with symmetrical windows and a fireplace.  A windowless corridor probably ran along the west side of the north wing to provide access to the northern bedroom.  A study of the existing conditions, the Francis Johnson 1930 photographs and drawings at the north elevation of the north wing reveal a window at the first floor level on the west side, which matches and aligns with one above it at the second level.  These windows are narrower than the window of the second floor north bedroom, suggesting two spaces on the second floor.  The bedroom was to the east of the northern part of the north wing and a stairwell was at the west end.  At his location, the small stairwell would have been at the end of the corridor, the narrow windows providing light.

The southernmost room of the corridor of this wing is the bathroom, which was there in some form prior to 1929 (it was describe in the Arts Club Board discussions about the house prior to its purchase).  The main portion of the second floor contained three rooms off the stair hall: a hall room to the southwest and adjoining two bedrooms, each with a fireplace, along the east portion of the house.

The partial third floor in the south portion of the house was similar to the second with a series of closets over the stair.  These were late renovated to become a small shower room and toilet room.

In April of 1881, MacFeely was granted a building permit by the District of Columbia “to construct a two story brick bay window in accordance with the accompanying drawings and to make repairs and alterations.”  As part of this renovation, modifications were made to the entrance and to the windows of the façade.

From sketches and photographs taken of the row of townhouses of which the MacFeely House was a part, it appears that the cast iron label molds of the window lintels, as well as the decorative brick archway at the front door were added as part of this renovation.  Evidence of added face brick can be seen at the upper west corner where the original brick turns to sit on the Monroe roof and the new brick stops short of it.  It also can be seen at the basement entry west jamb (under the front entry).  The face brick, whether original or added in 1881, was not tied into the 2 wythes of brick wall behind it.  Ties were later added from the front, at mortar joints.  This was later covered by repointing work.  The brownstone entrance stoop and cast iron railings with newel post may predate the 1881 renovation.  They could have been removed during the renovation and then reinstalled.  Certain other elements could possibly have been reused.  Paint analysis of the window frames and sashes at the first and basement levels, which was performed by Matthew Mosca in November of 1988 for the Farr Construction Corporation, reveal that these elements were repainted shortly after they were first painted when installed.  This could suggest they were removed from the original façade, and then reused (and repainted) after the renovation.

Descriptions of the façade made by Structural Engineers Speigel and Zamecnik, Inc. in August 1987, indicates that masonry anchors and nails could be seen in the brickwork in the mortar joints, prior to subsequent tuck-pointing.  Anchoring from the front in this fashion would only occur if the face wythe or brick had been added after the brick behind it had already been built, or if it were simply not tied in properly when it was originally built.


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