Greater Greater Washington

Then and Now: The Kenesaw

The Kenesaw, located between 16th, Mt. Pleasant, and Irving Streets, has certainly been no stranger to controversy over the years.

Kenesaw Apartments (3060 16th St.)Kenesaw (February 2010)

It was designed by architects George W. Stone and Frank L. Averill. When a building permit was sought for the structure in March 1905, the District Commissioners met and refused to grant one, stating that they wanted the land to be used as a park and that 16th street should be reserved for fine residences. The following month, in a hearing before the District Supreme Court, Chief Justice Clabaugh ordered that a writ of mandamus be issued which compelled the building inspector to issue the building permit.

Years later, when the tenants attempted to buy the Kenesaw in May, 1978, and were about to sign a $750,000 contract with the help of the D.C. Development Corporation, the Nemac Corporation stepped in and initiated a bidding war which Nemac ultimately won for a selling price of $900,000.

By November, 1978, an arrangement was worked out where the D.C. Development corporation purchased the building on behalf of the tenants for $890,000 at which time the tenants would pay $25,000 in addition to the $150,000 they'd already set aside to Nemac Corporation ending its claim to the building.

Even so, the story did not end until October, 1984, when the tenants were finally able to buy the Kenesawvalued at $2.8 millionand end a seven year battle with District officials. The seven year fight included periods of living in a half-finished building which at time had no heat or hot water.

Kenesaw Apartments (3060 16th St.) - Ground floor plan
(Ground floor plan)

Kenesaw Apartments (3060 16th St.)
(Historic images ca. 1909. From the author's collection)

Sources consulted:

Chase, Anne. "Low-Income Tenants Buy Mt. Pleasant Building." The Washington Post, Oct. 11, 1984, p. DC7.

Dickey, Christopher. "90 Tenants pay $25,000 On Building: Kenesaw Residents Use Cash Saved to Heat Apartments." The Washington Post, Nov. 14, 1978, p. C1.

"No Kenesaw Permit: Apartment House Not Wanted on Sixteenth Street." The Washington Post, Mar. 19, 1905, p. 11.

"Permit for Kenesaw: Writ Is Granted in the Apartment House Case." The Washington Post, Apr. 1, 1905, p. 12.

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Kent Boese posts items of historic interest primarily within the District. He's worked in libraries since 1994, both federal and law, and currently works on K Street. He lives in the Park View neighborhood, and is the force behind the blog Washington Kaleidoscope

Comments

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A wonderful building in my Mount Pleasant neighborhood. When I was a college student at GW in the mid-80s, I had a girlfriend who rented one of the units in the Kenesaw so I was aware of some of the history (but not all of it). It was the first time I'd traversed 16th street north of Florida Avenue -- I walked from Foggy Bottom up 16th -- "discovering" Malcolm X/Meridian Hill and all the treasures of that part of 16th. Suffice it to say, I came back many times as a visitor after that and have, since 1997, been a homeowner in the neighborhood. Raising my kids there too. Awesome. Thanks.

by Moshe Avram on Feb 26, 2010 3:58 pm • linkreport

The use of the shades in the old photo is pretty interesting; lots of residential building used to have the same "air conditioning" system.

by Fritz on Feb 26, 2010 4:09 pm • linkreport

I wonder how much the current layouts match those original floor plans. It's hard to imagine the many "parlors" and the cafe area on the ground floor haven't been converted into something else by now. And I've noticed a couple other curiosities as well: There appears to be a women's room on the ground floor, but no corresponding men's room, and one of the ground floor apartments has no kitchen at all. Perhaps it was originally a guest suite of some sort?

by Rex Standish on Feb 26, 2010 4:55 pm • linkreport

I have lived in that building for over 2 years now and love it. Much of the current layout is different from the original, as far as I can tell. Most of the apts have been divided into two separate units. Still, they are nicely sized. I cannot imagine the size of the combined units, must have been something!

And yes, the cafe is no longer there. There is some retail space on the Mt. Pleasant side of the building that is in use.

by bdevil02 on Feb 26, 2010 5:03 pm • linkreport

I love that building — one of my faves in the neighborhood for sure. The only thing I don't like about it, is the fence on the north side (on Irving) that reduces that sidewalk to about half the size it should be for a highly-trafficked area with a bus stop. It's tiny!!!

by Stephen Davis on Feb 26, 2010 5:45 pm • linkreport

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