If you have ever wondered what a true 1930s art deco apartment would look like up close, now is your chance. The Kennedy-Warren--one of the country's most famous Art Deco apartment buildings-- is now leasing units in its newly restored Historic Main Building. The Kennedy-Warren is perhaps the finest example of Art Deco architecture in Washington DC. You may not be able to afford the rent but it's certainly worth checking out the photos!
Built in 1931, the building has been home to countless local and national celebrities, including many Senators, former presidents like Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Larry Summers, Hillary Clinton's parents, and humorist P.J. O'Rourke.
The Historic Main Building has just undergone a massive renovation but thankfully the original 1930s units were not gutted. After consulting with residents and Art Deco specialists, the B.F. Saul Company opted to preserve the original floor plans of most of these charming apartments. Now available for renting, these units offer a unique glimpse back to the 1930s.While the plumbing, electrical, safety, heating, AC and appliances have all been updated, some stunning features of 1930s original apartments remain in the old building:
• Original pre-war glass front Hoosier-style china cabinets and hardware
• Black & white-checkered kitchen floors
• Oak hardwood floors,
• 9-foot ceilings,
• Oversized porcelain tubs.
• Formal dining rooms
• Pewter latches
• Glass doorknobs
Aztec Art Deco
The Kennedy-Warren was designed in the Aztec Art Deco style by architect Joseph Younger. Aztec Art Deco (or "pueblo deco") is an architectural sub-style of the late 1920s and early 1930s that was used mostly in the American Southwest. Unique features of the building include:
• Exquisite metal design: aluminum marquee entrance, railings and balustrades among the finest examples of architectural metal design in the country. Inside, aluminum, sometimes combined with bronze, is used in the fine balustrades, elevator doors and even apartment door peepholes and knockers.
• Aztec eagles carved into limestone in the facade
• Elevator doors with inserts of brass, copper and other metals
• 20-foot lobby ceiling with beams painted in a zigzag pattern of gold and pastels
pyramid copper tile roof
• Art Deco doorknockers
• One of the earliest examples of a forced air cooling system, which is still in use today.
• Milk shafts. Each unit in the historic wings had a small compartment with interior and exterior doors, allowing the milkman to leave milk and dairy products from the hallway. A few still remain
• First building in DC to be all electric without any gas lighting
• The only apartment building in the city with its own ballroom (up for renovation in a few years)
The New South Wing
Although the exterior appears seamless, the Kennedy-Warren actually consists of two wings with separate addresses: the Historic Main Building and the newer South Wing, which was erected in 2004 for $70 million. The exterior of the new building was built to match the original's beautiful Art Deco style but the interiors are decidedly contemporary (features like semi-private elevator entrances, glass enclosed showers with separate Jacuzzi tubs, antique-verdi marble foyers, Crema Marfil marble bathrooms, imported Impala Black granite countertops, maple cabinets and Sub-Zero refrigerators). The penthouse has private elevator and six parking spaces. Residents of both wings can access the resident-only piano bar and health club with a 60-foot lap pool, steam rooms, and individual "Cardio Theater Equipment."
Step Back in Time
B.F. Saul historian James M. Goode, author of "Best Addresses," a guide to Washington's most distinguished apartment buildings says that as part of the renovation he installed in the lobby an exhibit of 85 framed, enlarged photos of DC in 1930s. This permanent collection, culled from the National Archives, historical societies and private collections, is open to the public. Worth checking out if you are in the neighborhood!
Interview with James M. Goode, B.F Saul historian
(recently updated for accuracy)
Art Deco Society of Washington
Images: All except #4 provided by the Kennedy Warren. #4 is from the Art Deco Society of Washington. The "milk door" has been removed from all but a few of the apartments in the historic wing.