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Past House Tour May 2016

Brief History of the Site
The National Park Seminary opened in 1894 in a former hotel, Ye Forest Inne, as an exclusive boarding school for young ladies from well-to-do families.  Although the U.S. Army took over the school in 1942 for a rehabilitation annex for patients at Walter Reed Hospital, the buildings largely fell into disuse and disrepair by the 1980’s.  Starting in 2004, The Alexander Company and EYA redeveloped the historic buildings and grounds as a residential complex of condominiums, apartments, townhomes, and single-family houses that successfully blend new and old. This tour took people into seven of the school’s original structures that make up the architecturally unique campus to show how they have been adapted as modern residences.

Music Hall – 2829 Sacks Street, MH101
This long, columned building was named Theresa Catherine Hall Music Conservatory after the wife of the school’s second president, Dr. James Ament.  It was here that the NPS students took their individual music lessons for voice or piano in one of several studios with high ceilings. Several of the magnificent columns and capitals had to be reconstructed when the building was renovated into two condo units. The lower level unit is open for this tour and reflects the original layout of the building while incorporating clever design for gracious living.

President’s House – 9610 Dewitt Drive, PH204
President’s House was built in 1918 as the residence of Dr. James Ament and his family, as well as additional dormitory space.  Its imposing edifice was meant to impress visitors and potential donors to the school. The residence open today was originally one of the main parlors off the grand entry hall, likely where guests were first entertained. The high ceilings, curved walls, and tiled fireplace add to the grandness of the space.

Ballroom – 9610 Dewitt Drive
The grand Ballroom in Ament Hall was completed in 1927 from the design of Dr. James Ament. Its Gothic arches, stained glass windows, balconies, and crystal chandeliers create an awe-inspiring space. The Ballroom was a popular place for dances and celebrations during the school years and later provided the recuperating soldiers an impressive recreation room. Refreshments and unique sales items along with historic photo displays will be available here during the tour.

Save Our Seminary Room – 9615 Dewitt Drive, lobby
This small but prominent room off the lobby of the main building of the NPS campus was originally a reception room or parlor for the hotel built in 1887 and then the school. It now serves as the museum and meeting room for Save Our Seminary, where you can see historic artifacts on display, including an original dining room chair and a statue from the castle sorority house.

Dining Room/Community Room – 9615 Dewitt Drive
Part of the original Ye Forest Inne designed by well-known DC architect Thomas Franklin Schneider and completed in 1887, the dining room was where first the hotel guests and later the students took their meals.  During the Army years, this was the patients’ and staff mess hall with more utilitarian furnishings. The original massive fireplace, decorative columns, brackets, and beamed ceiling give the room a warm, inviting look. The dining room now functions as the Community Room for all the current residents of National Park Seminary, incorporating a fitness area off to one side. Please enjoy viewing the many historic photos hanging throughout the room.

Apartment – 9615 Dewitt Drive, A112
This apartment was once part of the grand dining room of National Park Seminary.  Students would take most breakfasts and lunches here and were required to dress for and attend dinner every evening.  A raised portion of the floor (incorporated into the living room of this apartment) provided an elevated platform for the faculty dining tables.  The original bracketed columns of the dining room are partially seen in the apartment and the entry hallway. A French door in the bedroom leads to the wraparound porch which spans the entire length of the front of the building.

American Bungalow – 9618 Dewitt Circle
Alpha Epsilon Pi was the name given to the sorority for whom this clubhouse was built in 1898.  It was the first of eight sorority houses built, each in a different architectural style. The Alpha House, also called the Alpha Bungalow, is an early example of Arts and Crafts architecture.  The students used the sorority houses for meetings and social events, but did not live in them. The young family who occupies this house creatively designed the interior for their lifestyle while respecting the historic elements.

Dutch Windmill – 20 Dewitt Court
The charming Dutch Windmill was built as a clubhouse for the Kappa Delta Pi sorority in 1899.  When it was constructed, the windmill had non-rotating arms on the exterior top railing, and the current owners are planning to recreate them. Four interior beams in the living room have restored hand-painted Dutch sayings such as “A cheerful host makes cheerful guests” and “Travel to the East or travel West one’s own house is always best.”  The current kitchen wing was added in the 1920’s by the school with the dining area as an open porch. During the Army years, the sororities housed Army officers and their families.

Gymnasium – 2747 Linden Lane
The Gymnasium was built in 1907 with the most up-to-date equipment and amenities, including an open gym floor with basketball court, a swimming pool, bowling alleys, locker rooms with showers, and a solarium.  During the Army’s ownership of the site, the main floor of the gym doubled as a movie theater for decades. After years of deterioration, the gym was converted into 12 unique condo units.

Several of the condos are open for this tour, including units at the gym’s main floor level and the swimming pool at the lower level. In the loft units, note the interesting pattern of the original interior roof framing. Part of the railing of the original mezzanine is incorporated into the front corner condo units.

Swimming Pool Unit 105This unit features the floral tile of the original heated swimming pool incorporated into the sunken living room and kitchen.  Famous dancer Irene Castle (nee Foote) swam in this pool when she was a student at NPS in 1909, as did film and swimming star Esther Williams when she entertained troops recuperating at Walter Reed during WWII.