A Century of Washington's Distinguished Apartment Houses
by James M. Goode
Smithsonian Institution Press, 1988
"The Hawarden (1901) and its twin to the west, the Gladstone (1900), were designed by Washington architect George S. Cooper in an eclectic style combining both Queen Anne and Romanesque Revival features. The five-story front facades of these two small apartment buildings are framed by pairs of octagonal bays connected at the first floor by a classical porch with Ionic columns, at the third floor by an iron balcony, and at the fifth floor by a massive porch. The front facade of the Hawarden remains remarkably intact, even though the original stone balustrade, which extended across the top of the projecting bays at the fifth-floor level, and the balustrade across the roof were removed in the 1930s. Designed with three projecting bays on each side, the elongated Hawarden originally possessed functional exterior louvered blinds on its side facades - an unusual feature for a Washington apartment house. The front facade unfortunately is painted, which disguises the rich Victorian composition resulting from the contrasts of brick, stone, and wood.
The Hawarden and the Gladstone were built as identical apartment houses adjacent to one another; each has twenty apartments, four to a floor. Every apartment contains four rooms, kitchen, and bath. Although a small elevator was installed at an early date, the Hawarden lacks a lobby and is thus considered an apartment building rather than an apartment house.
Almost all of the original interior details survive - transom windows, handsome wood grilles partially shielding the vestibule from the parlor, elaborate decorative fireplace mantels with mirrors above, built-in china closets in the dining rooms, dumbwaiters in the kitchens, paneled wainscoting in the entrance corridors, and the original staircase balustrade. During the renovation of one apartment in 1980, the remains of the original icebox drainage system were revealed. From the stripped interior ceiling, it was obvious that the pantry in each apartment still contains the galvanized plumbing system used to drain the icebox: as the ice melted, the water was drained directly through interior pipes to the outside at ground level. For a middle-income apartment building, the Hawarden was designed with unusually fine detailing. It remains one of the most intact early middle-class Washington apartment buildings.
Immediately after World War II, the corridor between 14th and 15th streets, N. W., bordered by Massachusetts Avenue on the south and Florida Avenue on the north, began to change in its demographic composition. The Hawarden was converted in 1949 from a rental building for lower-income whites to a cooperative apartment house for middle-income blacks. Still well managed and maintained, it is probably the oldest black co-op in the city. Many of the Hawarden's original purchasers, who paid $9,000 for the front units and $7,000 for the rear units (then an expensive price), remain in residence. They have carefully preserved most of the original architectural details. Such was not the fate of the Hawarden's twin, the Gladstone, still a rental building, which has deteriorated badly both inside and outside.
The Gladstone, erected one year before the Hawarden, was named for William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898), who served four times as Prime Minister of Great Britain under Queen Victoria. The son of a rich Liverpool merchant, Gladstone began his sixty years of service in Parliament as a conservative. He eventually changed his basic political beliefs to become the country's principal liberal leader for social and political reform. Even though his efforts to secure home rule for Ireland failed, he is often considered the greatest statesman of nineteenth-century Britain. Washington's Hawarden apartment house was named for Hawarden Castle (pronounced "Harden" in Britain), Gladstone's country estate near the village of Hawarden, Flintshire, Wales. Hawarden became Gladstone's home when he married its Welsh heiress, Catherine Glynne, in 1839. He once said that through managing such a large estate he gained the experience necessary to manage the finances of Britain. This impressive 1752 stone manor house remains in the Gladstone family today. Why the original owners, L.S. Firstoe and S.G. Comwell, named these two buildings for William E. Gladstone and his country estate remains a mystery to this day, but the Anglophilia current at the time in Washington may offer an explanation."
The Hawarden is located at 1419 R Street, NW in the Logan Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C. It's listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a contributing property to the 14th Street Historic District. The Iowa and Hawarden are the only buildings in Logan Circle listed as Washington's Best Addresses .