The McLean House, located at 1500 Eye Street, NW, was perhaps the most opulent of the many great houses erected in Washington at the turn of the century. A Renaissance-inspired structure, the house covered one-third of a city block on the south side of McPherson Square.

McLean HouseMcLean House, music room from staircase

The mansion incorporated the original house on the southwest corner of 15th and Eye Streets that was built in 1860 by Jonah Hoover. From 1865 to 1869, the house was occupied by Senator Edwin D. Morgan, a wealthy stockbroker and wholesale grocery merchant.

The house was leased by John Roll McLean in 1884, and he purchased it several years later. Subsequently, the home was enlarged in 1886, 1891, 1894, and 1896. McLean was the only son of Washington McLean, who started as a boilermaker in Ohio and made a fortune as a manufacturer of Ohio River steamboats.

The younger McLean got his start at his father’s paper, the Cincinnati Enquirer, taking charge when the family moved to Washington. In 1905, McLean purchased the Washington Post, which deteriorated under his leadership.

In his personal life, McLean liked to entertain on a grand scale. To this end, he commission John Russell Pope to expand the house (which he’d already added on to four times) into a block-long Renaissance in-town villa in 1907. For the interior decoration, the leading New York designer Elsie de Wolfe was engaged.

Upon John’s death in 1916, the house passed to his son Edward. Edward, a known alcoholic, had married Evalyn Walsh. Edward spent his last days in a Maryland sanitarium, where he died in 1941.

Evalyn Walsh McLean leased the house to the federal government in 1935 for use as office space for three of the New Deal agencies. In 1939, it was sold for $2 million and demolished for the Lafayette Office Building.

More photographs:

McLean House, staircase detail

McLean House, music room looking toward ballroom

McLean House, view of dining room showing mantel & cupboard

McLean House, view of ballroom showing fireplace and four tapestries

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’s been an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner serving the northern Columbia Heights and Park View neighborhoods since 2011 (ANC 1A), and served as the Commission’s Chair since 2013. He has a MS in Design from Arizona State University with strong interests in preservation, planning, and zoning. Kent is also the force behind the blog Park View, DC.