Archive for James Renwick Jr.

Unrealized Dreams: Renwick’s Unsuccessful Design Submission of 1846

Posted in Gothic Revival, Mall (The), Museums, Renwick, James (1818-1895) with tags , , , , , on June 9, 2009 by Kent

Smithsonian Design Renwick
(Image from Smithsonian Institution)


Lost Washington: Corcoran House

Posted in Downtown, Lost Washington, Renaissance Revival, Residences with tags , , on May 26, 2009 by Kent

Corcoran HouseThe Corcoran House, once located on the northeast corner of H Street and Connecticut Avenue, NW, is considered the first significant Victorian house constructed in Washington.

Originally built as a three-and-one-half-story Federal residence in 1828 for the prominent Maryland attorney, Thomas Swann, and later occupied by the noted Massachusetts statesman Daniel Webster, the home was remodeled and enlarged when banker William Wilson Corcoran purchased the home.

Corcoran House detailCorcoran amassed his fortune by financing the Mexican War for the U.S. government through the sale of millions of dollars of government bonds. To create a suitable home, he choose James Renwick Jr. to rebuilt the structure in 1849. Renwick immediately set about to enlarge the house into a Renaissance-inspired mansion marking the introduction of the Italianate style into Washington on a large scale. Renwicks attention to detail included varying designs of classical window frames, cornices, and floral swags in brownstone.

Corcoran House Hall (Courtesty Historical Society of Washington, image #CHS 01865)

Corcoran House Hall (Courtesty Historical Society of Washington, image #CHS 01865)

Being a Southern sympathizer, Corcoran left Washington for Europe when the Civil War erupted. To safeguard his home, he rented it to the French Legation which gave it diplomatic immunity.

Upon Corcoran’s death in 1888, the house was left to the banker’s grandson, William Corcoran Eustis, who rented it to a succession of prominent senators and government official.

Ultimately, the Corcoran House was razed in 1922 to make way for the massive neoclassical U.S. Chamber of Commerce Building which still occupies the site today.

Corcoran House rear drawing room