The Grand Dame of Glen Echo Heights

There is a tired and well worn road that splits Washington DC. Sure, it has been patched and cracks filled and potholes repaired, but it is an old road. Those of us in the area use it often. It is adorned with shops and eateries and row homes. To improve traffic flow, it also has a few little tunnels under cross streets. It is more than just another street. After the sun sets, as you head south, you are greeted with an awe inspiring sight. The US Capitol Building in all it’s glory lays dead ahead.


In a flash, you may understand the timeless beauty captured by the original planners. It is not just North Capitol Street. It is a pathway to the beauty of our Nation’s Capitol. It is old and worn and forever beautiful. I have often referred to it as the Sophia Loren of highways. It may be aged, but it is aged to perfection.

sophiaat80Sophia Loren (at 80)

You see, while new and shiny may appear to be the best, it is not always the case. Mass production of anything appears to lower the standards used in production. If you make it bigger, if you make it faster, if you do it quicker, well you do not always make it better. There was a time when craftsman were employed to build roads, bridges and homes. There was a time when we strove for quality over quantity. We used brick and block. We used hand crafted wood. We took pride in what we built.

Today, not so much.

You can drive down Seven Lochs Road (headed towards River Road) and you will see a sign advertising town homes for sale, starting in the one million plus range. These homes will be ready quickly. It is a new day. Materials are composite, plastic or some other configuration imitating the more expensive materials we used to use. Don’t get me wrong, they meet all the building codes in the county. Back in the day, builders answered to a higher authority. Their name, their real name was on every home they built. There weren’t fancy corporations or distant offices. There weren’t overbearing sales folks in a design center offering a myriad of “upgrades”. The homes they built were top of the line, they did not need to upgrade anything.

 wapakonetaThe Grand Dame of Glen Echo Heights

With all the new construction, and tear downs and hub bub in the DC/Bethesda area, I thought it would be nice to stop by and have a conversation with the Grand Dame of Glen Echo Heights.

Jmac “Thank you for allowing me to come by and chat with you.”

GD “My pleasure, I really don’t have that many guests stop by.  As you can see, this is a very secluded area. Most of the traffic is neighbors. All those tree lined streets provide great walking down to the river. Strangers hardly know we are here.”

Jmac “So, here you are, empty again. Waiting for a new family. What do you do with your time?”

GD “Goodness, I sift through the memories of days past and all the wonderful times that were shared here. I can recall one owner playing a song by Barbara Streisand “Memories, Light the corners of my mind Misty water-colored memories Of the way we were Scattered pictures, Of the smiles we left behind Smiles we gave to one another For the way we were Can it be that it was all so simple then? Or has time re-written every line? If we had the chance to do it all again Tell me, would we? Could we?”  Sorry, I get lost in those memories…but yes, we could do it all again.”

Jmac “I am sure you are aware of the building boon that has occurred over the last 20 years in this area. What are your thoughts?”

GD  “Well, in the first place I wonder what are people thinking. I mean you buy a tiny house on a postage stamp lot, tear it down and fill every bit of yard space with some plastic recreation of a mansion. Yes, I said plastic. What do you think they use for trim now days..plastic. Plastic chair rail, plastic cove molding, plastic crown molding. It may look almost the same but it has all the quality of cheap chinese knock off of  Louis Vuitton handbag. And believe me, people with class know the difference.  They throw those new built homes up so fast ground hardly settles. Craftsman, ha, you don’t find skilled craftsman in Home Depot’s parking lot. It takes a hell of lot more than a hammer to make a carpenter”

Jmac “Well, some people walk through here and just see old. What are they missing?”

GD “How much time do you have honey? Let’s start over there, that is a slate foyer, not some imitation vinyl crap. These floors are “tongue in-groove ” hardwood. They were installed carefully. They aren’t Pergo “want to be” floors, they are the real deal downstairs and up. Take a look, this place is filled with light. Ever hear of Goodman? He influenced lots of people back in the day. Position homes at angles and use lots of windows to let the natural light in. Go ahead, go upstairs, those are real sized bedrooms. They dwarf the over sized walk in closet size bedrooms people build today. Oh, yes, that is a master suite, large, roomy, light filled with a fireplace, completely updated bath and walk through closet. I was built when pride was the main ingredient. Go on outside. Yes that is a screened porch with a tile floor. Well shaded. The yard is landscaped.  Home is supposed to be a resting place. You won’t find a lot of asphalt parking lots and you won’t feel like your neighbor is so close their heart beat is a vibration you can feel. I could go on and on. But you are here. Look for yourself.”

Jmac “Oh, I understand. The care and craftmanship used to build when you came into being was lost years ago. I see you for what you are, the Grand Dame of Glen Echo Heights.”

GD “From your lips to God’s ears. I am a realist. I know I don’t photograph as well anymore. I know that at my age it takes a little polish and love to make me shine. I realize most people get caught up in all the sizzle of new homes. I also know there is another person out there that knows quality, that knows good bones, that knows durability and of course knows class. I see what homes sell for. A million five for a new town home. Just makes me sad that anyone could fall into that trap. We both know, smart money follows quality. I can wait.”

Jmac “Well, thank you for sharing. I agree. There still are people out there that know quality and value. One day soon you will find your door opening to a new owner. More memories will be created inside these walls.

Interested in meeting the Grand Dame of Glen Echo Heights?




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