Architecture

415 M Street: Historic Corbel Design Part 1

At BlackRock Holdings we typically demolish the buildings we buy to make room for a new custom home, but this isn’t the case for our Washington, D.C. property at 415 M Street NW that we intend on turning into six luxury condos.

D.C. has very rigid historic property policies that restrict builders from drastically changing the look and feel of existing buildings.

This primarily effects existing structures rather than new buildings, however new construction typically has to adhere to some historic policies so it visually fits in with the neighborhood.

415 M Street has a lengthy history behind it that you can read here or watch a video about it here.

The synagogue mural formerly in 415 M St.

The synagogue mural formerly in 415 M St.

The Historical Society of Washington, D.C. had to come out to the building site and advise us as to what can and cannot be altered as well as what needed to be replicated or at the very least similar to what was previously in its place.

The primary rules the Historical Society passed down to us was that the existing brick exterior walls had to remain in place.

(Side Note: During the preconstruction process, the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington reached out to us regarding a mural on one of the walls inside the building. In the rich history of 415 M Street, the building was at one point a synagogue and contained some Jewish artwork painted on the interior walls. A fundraising effort was setup to preserve and remove the mural intact, which was successful and now resides in the hands of the JHSGW.)

While initially this may not seem like that big of a deal, for a builder, this means that extreme care has to take place during the entire construction process. We had to brace all of the walls to refrain from collapsing before we could even begin the gutting of the interior. Of the four walls, the front façade is the most important since it faces the street, so that means other exterior features must also remain.

The key exterior feature to the front of the building is the window headers and the decorative roof trim. The focal point of the roof trim is four large corbels spaced evenly from corner to corner. A corbel is defined as a projection jutting out from a wall to support a structure above it or a support for a structure such as an arch or balcony.

As you can see from the zoomed in photo of the 415 M Street exterior, the corbels on the building are more decorative than structural. These corbels contain an elegant design from the early 20th century and were something that we would either have to refurbish or replace with a similar version.

So this was the inception of a new special project to be completed: a corbel rebuild for 415 M Street NW, which would mean dissecting the original versions and building the new replica model.

This ongoing blog series will document the corbel building process beginning with the initial redesign using 3D design software and will cover all of the steps as we recreate a piece of 100+ year history that will last for at least another hundred years.

So stay tuned to the BlackRock blog or Facebook page and if you have any questions, feel free to reach out.

10 Real Houses from Iconic Horror Movies

Halloween is upon us and rather than dwell on the best horror movies or costumes, we decided to showcase something that pertains more to our industry--houses. We compiled a list of the 10 best real-life homes used in some of the most iconic horror films and ranked them primarily off of off notoriety, but also includes some of the home features and stories behind them. While not all of the houses/mansions are allegedly haunted, they still retain the creepiness shown on screen, whether it was a couple of years ago or half a century ago.

10)  The Haunting of Hill House (1963) : Originally named "The Haunting" before being re-titled after the book upon which it was based, this High Victorian Neo-Gothic mansion is now the popular  Ettington Park Hotel  in Warwickshire, England. The 48-bedroom mansion sits on 40 acres of countryside and is  reportedly haunted by various former residents  who passed away in the mansion. The hotel has even earned the title of the  Most haunted Hotel in the UK  with numerous guests witnessing a woman identified as 'Lady Emma' in a white dress floating around the hotel and disappearing into walls. Other apparitions include a woman in Victorian garb near the conservatory, a floating candle near the fireplace, a grey lady that floats regularly around the staircase, a monk, and army officer and the children of the old owners who drowned in the nearby river in the 1800s.

10) The Haunting of Hill House (1963): Originally named "The Haunting" before being re-titled after the book upon which it was based, this High Victorian Neo-Gothic mansion is now the popular Ettington Park Hotel in Warwickshire, England. The 48-bedroom mansion sits on 40 acres of countryside and is reportedly haunted by various former residents who passed away in the mansion. The hotel has even earned the title of the Most haunted Hotel in the UK with numerous guests witnessing a woman identified as 'Lady Emma' in a white dress floating around the hotel and disappearing into walls. Other apparitions include a woman in Victorian garb near the conservatory, a floating candle near the fireplace, a grey lady that floats regularly around the staircase, a monk, and army officer and the children of the old owners who drowned in the nearby river in the 1800s.

9)  Insidious (2010) : While not from a classic horror film, Insidious is one of the few recent horror movies that used a real house rather than just a Hollywood backlot. Set in Victoria Park of Los Angeles, the 1909 home has 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and likely no possessed children. There is no recent data on the sale of this home, last selling for $275k in 1994, but  Zillow estimates its value currently at $1.2M . 

9) Insidious (2010): While not from a classic horror film, Insidious is one of the few recent horror movies that used a real house rather than just a Hollywood backlot. Set in Victoria Park of Los Angeles, the 1909 home has 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and likely no possessed children. There is no recent data on the sale of this home, last selling for $275k in 1994, but Zillow estimates its value currently at $1.2M

8)  The House on Haunted Hill (1959) : The oldest on the list (built in 1924) and likely the most famous outside of the film realm, the house used in this classic Vincent Price picture is also a work of art architecture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Also known as the  Ennis House  in Los Feliz, CA, it's one of four in Wright's interlocking pre-cast concrete textile block design houses referred to as Mayan Revival style. This 6,000+ sq.ft.  infamous house  was last  sold for $4.5M in 2011  and is open 12 days a year to the public as it undergoes constant rehabilitation. The house was also used in the films The Day of the Locust and Bladerunner, TV shows Twin Peaks and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and several music videos.

8) The House on Haunted Hill (1959): The oldest on the list (built in 1924) and likely the most famous outside of the film realm, the house used in this classic Vincent Price picture is also a work of art architecture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Also known as the Ennis House in Los Feliz, CA, it's one of four in Wright's interlocking pre-cast concrete textile block design houses referred to as Mayan Revival style. This 6,000+ sq.ft. infamous house was last sold for $4.5M in 2011 and is open 12 days a year to the public as it undergoes constant rehabilitation. The house was also used in the films The Day of the Locust and Bladerunner, TV shows Twin Peaks and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and several music videos.

7)  The Silence of the Lambs (1991) : This movie doesn't fall among the typical iconic horror movies, but still ranks as one of the creepiest real-life houses used in film. This house is the most recent to be listed for sale, going on the market in the summer of 2015 in Layton, PA and turns out that it's  awfully hard to sell a faux serial killer's residence  when it's in such a small town that even the U.S. Census Bureau doesn't have statistics.  The house finally  sold in July for $200k  and the newer owner confirmed that there's no large holes in the basement floor, nor any mannequins. 

7) The Silence of the Lambs (1991): This movie doesn't fall among the typical iconic horror movies, but still ranks as one of the creepiest real-life houses used in film. This house is the most recent to be listed for sale, going on the market in the summer of 2015 in Layton, PA and turns out that it's awfully hard to sell a faux serial killer's residence when it's in such a small town that even the U.S. Census Bureau doesn't have statistics.  The house finally sold in July for $200k and the newer owner confirmed that there's no large holes in the basement floor, nor any mannequins. 

6)  Phantasm (1979) : You might actually recognize this property from more than just "Phantasm;" it's been featured in the films "Burnt Offerings," "A View to a Kill," "So I Married an Axe Murderer" and Clint Eastwood's "True Crime." Known as the  Dunsmuir-Hellman Historic Estate , their website describes it as a "37-room Neoclassical Revival Mansion set upon 50 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds." Built in 1899, the home had been bought and sold several times before ending up in the hands of the City of Oakland, California. The U.S. Department of the Interior has officially labeled the Dunsmuir-Hellman Mansion a National Historic Site and the City of Oakland has named both the mansion and Carriage House Oakland Historic Landmarks.

6) Phantasm (1979): You might actually recognize this property from more than just "Phantasm;" it's been featured in the films "Burnt Offerings," "A View to a Kill," "So I Married an Axe Murderer" and Clint Eastwood's "True Crime." Known as the Dunsmuir-Hellman Historic Estate, their website describes it as a "37-room Neoclassical Revival Mansion set upon 50 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds." Built in 1899, the home had been bought and sold several times before ending up in the hands of the City of Oakland, California. The U.S. Department of the Interior has officially labeled the Dunsmuir-Hellman Mansion a National Historic Site and the City of Oakland has named both the mansion and Carriage House Oakland Historic Landmarks.

5)  A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) : You are not dreaming; this nightmare-ish 4 bedroom/3.25bath & guesthouse in Los Angeles, CA still stands and is a  beautifully restored home that sold in 2013  for $2.1M. While neither decrepit nor abandoned, the Freddy Kreuger house is one of the few on this list that is still habitable with no known paranormal activity occurring within the owner's presence.  As you can see, the Elm Street house still retains its  green shingled roof as well as its iconic red door, but the real question is: what does the basement boiler room look like?

5) A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984): You are not dreaming; this nightmare-ish 4 bedroom/3.25bath & guesthouse in Los Angeles, CA still stands and is a beautifully restored home that sold in 2013 for $2.1M. While neither decrepit nor abandoned, the Freddy Kreuger house is one of the few on this list that is still habitable with no known paranormal activity occurring within the owner's presence.  As you can see, the Elm Street house still retains its  green shingled roof as well as its iconic red door, but the real question is: what does the basement boiler room look like?

4)  The Amityville Horror (1979) : This 5 bedroom/4 bath (and boat house, of course!) farmhouse in Amityville, NY still exists and was  recently on the market for $850k . The only caveat is that the story behind the movie is based on true incidents, including several deaths caused by the so-called possessed owner. While the home has since been updated, the home's 'bones' are still perfectly intact.  A real-life murder house is not the most attractive selling point for most, making it extremely difficult to sell as a beautiful Upstate New York getaway home. Hopefully whoever buys it has a penchant for the supernatural or at the very least really enjoys Halloween and scaring the neighboring children. 

4) The Amityville Horror (1979): This 5 bedroom/4 bath (and boat house, of course!) farmhouse in Amityville, NY still exists and was recently on the market for $850k. The only caveat is that the story behind the movie is based on true incidents, including several deaths caused by the so-called possessed owner. While the home has since been updated, the home's 'bones' are still perfectly intact.  A real-life murder house is not the most attractive selling point for most, making it extremely difficult to sell as a beautiful Upstate New York getaway home. Hopefully whoever buys it has a penchant for the supernatural or at the very least really enjoys Halloween and scaring the neighboring children. 

3)  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) : Now you may notice this house looks different than the house in the original Texas Chainsaw film from 1974. This is because the original Kingsland, TX Victorian house was built in the early 1900s and was in such disrepair that it was unable to be maintained, so it was disassembled into multiple pieces and was relocated to Round Rock, TX in 1998 where it was restored and is now a restaurant. The house pictured above is referred to as "The Hewitt House" and was featured in the first "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" remake from 2003 and then later used in the 2006 prequel "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning." This creepy six bedroom farmhouse quickly became a horror icon, attracting tourists to its remote location in Granger, TX where visitors soon found out was owned and maintained by very reclusive and unfriendly owners. Littered with "No Trespassing" and "Keep Out" signs, it is highly advised to stay off the property and only take pictures from the road unless you want to be a real-life statistic of visitors not making it off the property alive. 

3) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003): Now you may notice this house looks different than the house in the original Texas Chainsaw film from 1974. This is because the original Kingsland, TX Victorian house was built in the early 1900s and was in such disrepair that it was unable to be maintained, so it was disassembled into multiple pieces and was relocated to Round Rock, TX in 1998 where it was restored and is now a restaurant. The house pictured above is referred to as "The Hewitt House" and was featured in the first "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" remake from 2003 and then later used in the 2006 prequel "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning." This creepy six bedroom farmhouse quickly became a horror icon, attracting tourists to its remote location in Granger, TX where visitors soon found out was owned and maintained by very reclusive and unfriendly owners. Littered with "No Trespassing" and "Keep Out" signs, it is highly advised to stay off the property and only take pictures from the road unless you want to be a real-life statistic of visitors not making it off the property alive. 

2)  The Shining (1980) : Now we're getting into the best of the best. There is a common misconception about the hotel in this movie, which is often overlooked by horror fanatics and pop-culture junkies alike. While The Shining hotel itself is called The Overlook Hotel in the book and film, the exterior shots in the movie are actually the exterior of  The Timberline Lodge , a Rustic Cascadian style ski resort mountain lodge in Mount Hood, Oregon. This is not the hotel that is pictured on the right because the "real" Overlook Hotel Stephen King wrote is based upon the 420 room Colonial Revival style  Stanley Hotel  in Estes Park, CO because that's where King actually wrote a majority of the book. The Stanley Hotel still stands and is active today, recently becoming a host for the  University of Colorado's horror writing program . While King was extremely displeased by Stanley Kubrick's directorial decisions of the Shining, there's no denying that The Overlook/Stanley remain as one of the most prominent horror tourist attractions with a 24/7 stream of the film on a loop on every television in the hotel. The Stanley Hotel also hosts an annual Halloween party with a  RedRum Mystery Dinner, Shining Ball and a Masquerade Party,  all embracing the spookiness the film brought to the secluded mountain town.

2) The Shining (1980): Now we're getting into the best of the best. There is a common misconception about the hotel in this movie, which is often overlooked by horror fanatics and pop-culture junkies alike. While The Shining hotel itself is called The Overlook Hotel in the book and film, the exterior shots in the movie are actually the exterior of The Timberline Lodge, a Rustic Cascadian style ski resort mountain lodge in Mount Hood, Oregon. This is not the hotel that is pictured on the right because the "real" Overlook Hotel Stephen King wrote is based upon the 420 room Colonial Revival style Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, CO because that's where King actually wrote a majority of the book. The Stanley Hotel still stands and is active today, recently becoming a host for the University of Colorado's horror writing program. While King was extremely displeased by Stanley Kubrick's directorial decisions of the Shining, there's no denying that The Overlook/Stanley remain as one of the most prominent horror tourist attractions with a 24/7 stream of the film on a loop on every television in the hotel. The Stanley Hotel also hosts an annual Halloween party with a RedRum Mystery Dinner, Shining Ball and a Masquerade Party, all embracing the spookiness the film brought to the secluded mountain town.

1)  The Exorcist (1973) : Regarded as one of the scariest films ever made, The Exorcist has scared children and adults for over four decades with its graphic possession scenes based upon the 1949 true events that  originally occurred in St. Louis, MO . The real Exorcist house as well as the infamous Exorcist stairs used in the film reside right in our hometown here in Georgetown, Washington, DC. The Exorcist Stairs have become such a popular tourist attraction in D.C. that Mayor Muriel Bowser declared the steps as an official  Washington DC Tourist Site  Landmark and was even adorned with a commemorative plaque. While there are no substantiated rumors of hauntings, the stairs are very popular among D.C.'s runners as well as movie junkies reenacting the scene where Father Karras falls down the stairs and dies--just Google Image search 'Exorcist Stairs' and you'll see dozens of photos of people sprawled in various positions on and at the bottom of the stairs.  (For those interested in visiting, the stairs are specifically located at the corner of Prospect St. NW and 36th St. NW near M Street NW.) 

1) The Exorcist (1973): Regarded as one of the scariest films ever made, The Exorcist has scared children and adults for over four decades with its graphic possession scenes based upon the 1949 true events that originally occurred in St. Louis, MO. The real Exorcist house as well as the infamous Exorcist stairs used in the film reside right in our hometown here in Georgetown, Washington, DC. The Exorcist Stairs have become such a popular tourist attraction in D.C. that Mayor Muriel Bowser declared the steps as an official Washington DC Tourist Site Landmark and was even adorned with a commemorative plaque. While there are no substantiated rumors of hauntings, the stairs are very popular among D.C.'s runners as well as movie junkies reenacting the scene where Father Karras falls down the stairs and dies--just Google Image search 'Exorcist Stairs' and you'll see dozens of photos of people sprawled in various positions on and at the bottom of the stairs.

(For those interested in visiting, the stairs are specifically located at the corner of Prospect St. NW and 36th St. NW near M Street NW.)