Carillon House. (Photo by Mary and Vytas Bandziukas, 1994)
At Carillon House, History Comes Along With the View
Washington Post, September 18, 1999, p.H1
Charming as its name is, Carillon House caters mostly to people interested in its convenient location on Wisconsin Avenue NW, at the northern entrance to lively Georgetown. But the apartment building may also well serve someone interested in a touch of history: Co- owner Gerald Taylor is pretty sure Carillon House was the area’s first rental building to have central air conditioning.
The builder was Waverly Taylor, Gerald Taylor’s father, who died in 1986. The elder Taylor built part of Foxhall Village, west of Georgetown, and row houses and single-family dwellings in Northwest Washington, Chevy Chase and Suitland. He also helped found the National Association of Home Builders.
He developed Carillon House in 1950, and the first tenants moved in March 1951. It was the first high-rise constructed by Taylor, who began doing business in the District in the 1930s. At the time he built Carillon House, even new residential buildings relied on individual air-conditioning units. His father, Gerald Taylor recalls, thought that all those units hanging out from the fronts of buildings marred their look and he decided to try something different. “He took a bit of a chance, but I’m glad to say the system still works,” Taylor said.
Thanks to renovations, surely. And not only the air-conditioning system has gone through renovations, but the whole building as well. The original glamorous lobby, decorated by Dorothy Draper of Greenbrier fame, was dismantled in the late 1970s. But now, once again, major work has been going on since 1993, and Taylor, who owns the building with his mother and brother, Waverly Taylor Jr., estimates $4 million has been spent. Each apartment, upon turnover, gets new plumbing and bathroom fittings, new kitchen appliances and counter tops and, in some apartments, restored hardwood floors. The lobby and the mail room were also recently renovated. “But the best thing about the building is the location,” Taylor said. “And the view.”
The view–or at least the hilltop location–also attracted the Soviets, who built their compound just north of Carillon House in the mid-1960s, setting residents to buzzing excitedly about possible spies in their midst.
Resident Terri Olson, a retired employee of the Office of Management and Budget, has a more common-sense appreciation of the place. Where else, she asked herself, could she have three grocery stores within walking distance? Or two churches, and so many restaurants and retail stores?
When Olson moved from Minnesota in May 1973, she had a friend who already had lived in the building for 22 years. Olson wondered how someone could remain in the same place all those years. Twenty-six years later, she doesn’t find it so odd.
On top of everything else there, she has––well, Washington.
“I have a grand view,” she said. From her eighth-floor window, the city skyline unfolds: the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Capitol and, toward the north, the National Cathedral. And on the Fourth of July? “I just sit down on my sofa and watch the fireworks,” Olson said.
Fireworks not only from the District, but from Maryland and Virginia as well, says Alice Holman, resident manager for 12 years. “This is the place to be on the Fourth of July,” she said.
Even residents with apartments on lower floors can enjoy the view from the rooftop sun deck, open till 10 p.m. Other Carillon House amenities include a 24-hour exercise room and laundry room, and a party room with full kitchen.
Sixteen people work in the building, which is managed by Pinnacle Realty Management Co., a Seattle-based firm that manages more than 4,800 units in the Washington area and West Virginia.
Carillon House now is 100 percent occupied and maintains a small waiting list for new tenants. Turnover is low, Holman says.
Well sure, says Taylor. The secret of being successful in the landlord business is not to have people move out, he notes, adding that a few residents have lived in the building since it opened.
But some residents came recently and from far away. Carillon House’s proximity to Georgetown University was key to Teresa Pires, a visiting professor from Portugal. Conveniently located for her–she takes 25 minutes to walk to work at the university’s American studies department–her short-term apartment at Carillon House also features nice closet spaces and a nice staff to meet her needs.
Location also was important for Goldie Gould, a resident of 15 years. “Everything is right around, it’s so convenient,” she said. “And public transportation is right here at your doorstep.” Gould, 96, used to be a docent at the National Cathedral and also did volunteer work for several organizations in the Washington area, so to be centrally located was important to her.
For the past four years, about five days a week, Gould and Olson have watched the TV show “Jeopardy” together at Gould’s apartment. Carillon House, built during the heyday of quiz shows, is as resilient as the long-running show: It hasn’t faded into the past.
Nor has one original element of Carillon House’s decor: Apartment windows still are hung with Atmosphere Blue-color blinds, which blend into the sky-high views they frame.
(Claudia Assis, “The Sky’s the Limit: At Carillon House, History Comes Along With the View”, Washington Post, September 18, 1999, p.H1)
The Carillon of Carillon House
Periodically since 1951, Glover Park has been treated to a noontime selection of music from the Schulmerich carillon on the roof of the Carillon House. The selection is wide; one day it might have been Brahms’s Hungarian Dance that drifted out over the neighborhood; the next day, Beautiful Dreamer, or O Sole Mio, or Silver Threads Amid the Gold. (That the carillon is sometimes more audible at a distance than close up is apparently due to a trick of acoustics.)
Other selections that have been heard over the years include:
Abide With Me
Brahms’ Cradle Song
Come Thou Almighty God
Angels From the Realms of Glory
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
O Little Town of Bethlehem
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The support of the Advisory Neighborhood Council (3B) is gratefully acknowledged.