Thomas Circle, circa 1900
The building seen in this picture was the Portland Flats, designed by Adolf Cluss in 1880. The Washington Monument is in the background and the equestrian statue of George Henry Thomas still looks south down 14th Street, NW.
Office of Architectural History and Historic Preservation, Smithsonian Institution
by Sabina Dugin
"In 1880, Edward Weston, a New York developer, hired Adolf Cluss to design Washington's first apartment building. Portland Flats. The "Portland," as it was originally known, was sited on the south side of Thomas Circle, NW, between 14th Street and Vermont Avenue. Built for affluent residents in a Moorish Renaissance Revival style, it consisted of six stories with thirty-nine apartments of varied sizes, accessible from three entrances, which led to elevators and two sets of wrought iron stairs, enriched with marble tiles and ventilated by skylights. While the apartment configurations varied, all had private hallways which connected spacious parlors, bedrooms and bathrooms. Larger apartments accommodated servants, but most residents relied upon the kitchen, laundry and storage rooms housed in the basement, and the dining rooms on the ground floor. Exposed woodwork throughout the building included combinations of cherry, oak, ash and white pine as well as colored friezes. Most rooms had open fireplaces, ebony mantels with beveled mirrors and ornamental tile borders and hearths. Residents enjoyed amenities such as an in-house drugstore, an interior courtyard and a viewing tower. Mr. Weston praised Cluss: "Your work has resulted in the best-planned apartment house that I know of and this opinion is shared by many others. A proof of the above remarks, and a very agreeable proof to me, is that the house is full and all the tenants, at present, are perfectly satisfied." While the popularity of apartment buildings in the city increased, in 1962 Portland Flats was razed for commercial development."
Washington, D.C. area buildings designed by Cluss that still exist include Foundry UMC, Calvary Baptist Church, Alexandria City Hall, Eastern Market, Arts & Industries Building, Lansburgh Building (Old Masonic Temple), Franklin School, and the Charles Sumner School.
A complete list of Cluss buildings can be seen here.