|The houses at 21st (right) and R Streets, NW in 1887.|
Washington, D.C. residents are fortunate to have original building permits for most of the structures in this city built after 1877, when they were first required, but sadly, the vast majority of the accompanying drawings to these records were destroyed by the city government in the 1960s.
It is always a rare occasion to obtain a detailed artist orarchitects rendering of a planned residential development, such as that above of the row of houses located on R Street between 20th and 21st Street, NW. They were built following a building permit that was issued on June 17, 1886, and remain to this day.
The permit listed owner Brainard H. Warner as owner of the lots and builder of the eleven houses that were to be constructed between 2006 and 2028 R Street at a cost of $77,000 or approximately $7,000 each; a substantial sum for the time. He listed architect W. F. Weber from Baltimore as responsible for the design of the houses, which were to be constructed of brick, marble, and brownstone atop a concrete foundation.
Warner listed his address as 2100 Massachusetts at the time of his application to build the houses. It was a house that he had built himself just two years earlier, in 1884. He would remain at that address throughout his building and finance career in the city, overseeing the construction of more than one thousand houses under the guise of the B. H. Warner & Co business.
Warner had been born in Great Bend (now Halstead) Pennsylvania, in 1847, and had served in the Army until accepting an appointment at the U.S. Treasury in 1866. Upon his 1872 graduation from The George Washington University Law School, Warner joined the real estate firm of Joshua Whitney & Co. He later succeeded the owner following his death, and constructed the Warner building in 1876, signaling the beginning of a rather substantial yet undocumented construction career.
Warner was eventually involved in a large variety of business related enterprises, including the founding of the Columbian National Bank in 1887, President of the Washington Board of Trade, and member of the Committee of 100. John Proctor wrote in Washington Past and Present that “many of our finest statues, buildings and parks stand as monuments of his unceasing energy and devotion to the national capitol.”