Warne Ballroom receives DC Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation

The Warne  Ballroom Restoration Project  has  been  recognized  with  a  2017  District  of  Columbia  Award  for  Excellence  in  Historic  Preservation  in  the  Stewardship  category.  Since 2003,  the  District’s  Historic  Preservation  Office  has  sponsored  an  annual  awards  program to honor outstanding preservation projects  and  exceptional  contributions  by  individuals  and  organizations  in  support  of  historic  preservation  in  the  District. The presentations were made on May 23, 2017 at DAR Constitution Hall.

A  panel  of  District  historic  preservation  officials  and  outside  experts  selects award recipients from submitted nominations.  For  the  Warne  project,  the  co-nominees  were  the  Cosmos  Club Historic Preservation Foundation, which provided the leadership and the bulk of the finances; the Cosmos Club, owner of the mansion; Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, general contractor;  John  Milner  Associates  Preservation, architects for the restoration; and John Canning & Company, the principal contractor for architectural finishes (painting,  gilding,  plaster,  woodwork  and floor restoration).  

The  nomination  package, available here opens  with  historical  notes  about Mrs. Townsend’s showpiece and architects  Carrère  and  Hastings  and  designer Jules Allard & Fils, who created it for her. It also describes the extensive research done by CCHPF and the experts  they  engaged  both  before  the  project  was  authorized  by  the  Club’s  Board  of  Management  and  throughout  the  restoration  process. Although  the  restoration  of  the  architectural  finishes  and  paintings  was completed in early 2012, the award nomination was held until the draperies  were  installed  in  2016  so  that  the  unusual  history  of  their  production  could be included.

At  the  awards  ceremony,  Andrea F. Schoenfeld accepted  the  award  on  behalf  of  the  Foundation,  and  J.  Stephen  Huebner(’73),  who  oversaw  the  ballroom  restoration  on  behalf  of  the Club, accepted the Cosmos Club’s award certificate.
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Project Summary

The decade-long restoration of the Cosmos Club ballroom, guided and funded by the Cosmos Club Historic Preservation Foundation, combined extensive research, pursuit of historical accuracy, and expert craftsmanship to bring one of Washington’s finest Gilded Age ballrooms back to its original appearance.  Carrère and Hastings designed the residence at 2121 Massachusetts Avenue, (1899-1900), the Cosmos Club since 1952. The interiors, including both architectural ornamentation and furnishings, were the work of the Parisian firm Jules Allard and Sons, a preeminent designer of French style interiors for the wealthiest stratum of European and American society at the turn of the twentieth century. The Cosmos Club ballroom had never been altered but wear and tear, roof leaks and overpainting had taken their toll. Historic photographs were scanned at high resolution and enhanced to extract every possible detail, contemporary accounts were searched, extensive paint and metallic sampling was done, and the original drapery fabric was located and reproduced. Recreation of the original drapery fabric and installation, seldom possible in restoration projects, proved dramatic in bringing out the ballroom’s color scheme and architectural symmetry. The project, completed in 2016, restored the original splendor of a Massachusetts Avenue mansion at the start of the American Century.