February 3, 2012
My morning commute goes like this: ride the train to Dupont Circle, get off at the north (Q Street) exit, and walk several blocks until I’m at my office on Massachusetts Avenue. In fact, the Dupont station has a south exit that’s much closer to where I work, but I’ve been taking the longer route for several weeks now. I like to move my legs, and I like looking at a certain building on Q Street.
The building I like is unrepentantly Brutalist, with a two-story cylinder in front and walls of striated concrete. It’s not cowed by Whittemore House, the fine Gilded Age mansion next door. Other Brutalist buildings in DC have mass. This one is much smaller, but it has guts.
Whittemore House is the headquarters of the Woman’s National Democratic Club, and its addition, finished in 1967, was the work of a local architect named Nicholas Satterlee. (Never heard of him? Neither had I.) According to a real estate website, Satterlee formed partnerships with Donald Lethbridge, Arthur Keyes, and Chloethiel Woodard Smith before setting up his own practice in 1963. He also designed the Chevy Chase (DC) Library, Temple Sinai, the Capital Park II condos in Southwest (with Smith), and the Holmes Run neighborhood in Falls Church (with Lethbridge). Intriguingly, a magazine article published in 2010 refers to a 1967 apartment tower in Cleveland, Ohio, as being designed by “New York architect Nicholas Satterlee.”
Why isn’t Satterlee better known? I’d like to find out more, which might be a reason to go down to the Library of Congress and finally renew my old reader ID card. Meanwhile, the Dupont south exit is closed for eight months for escalator repairs, so I’ll have many more opportunities to look at this brut bijou.