Northern face of Holt House as it appeared around 1815

Historic Holt House: Going, Going...Almost Gone

Text and Renderings by
Stephen A. Hansen

Holt House, completed some time before 1814, is one of the most important Washington examples of the early Classical Revival style and was one of the major houses in Washington when it was built. Its caretaker has been the National Zoo since 1889, but it has been vacant since the 1980s. It was listed in the DC Inventory of Historic Sites in 1964 and and on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.  But with each passing day, it is getting closer and closer to collapsing from neglect.

Holt House is intimately linked to the early history of both Washington, DC and the nation by such its association with such significant figures as Thomas Johnson (close friend of George Washington and first Supreme Court Judge), Benjamin Stoddert (first Secretary of the Navy), John Quincy Adams (6th president of the U.S.), and Andrew Jackson (7th president).

Northern face of Holt House as it appears today. The original portico entrance was enclosed and later extended. After the National Zoo purchased the house in 1889, the ground around the basement was excavated and window openings enlarged to create a full-height basement story.

Original appearence of the south face of the house with its open, columned porch.

The south face of the house as it appears today. As with the front porch, the rear porch was filled in later in the 19th century in order to provide more space for what was originally a relatively small house.
Visit our new blog Virtual Architectural Archaeology to learn more about Holt House.

Stephen Hansen is an historic preservation specialist and Washington historian and is principal at DC Historic Designs, LLC in Washington, DC. He can be reached at shansen [at] dchistoricdesigns [dot] com. Feedback and comments are welcomed.

Also by Stephen Hansen

Kalorama Triangle: The History of a Capital Neighborhood. History Press. 2011.

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