Van Ness House

The Van Ness House was constructed in 1813-1816 in the Greek Revival style by the superintendent of government buildings, Benjamin Henry Latrobe. It was located on the block bounded by C Street, Constitution Avenue, 17th Street, and 18th Street.

The home was built for Mr. and Mrs. John Peter Van Ness. Van Ness and his wife moved into their new home in 1816 and made it a social center for members of Congress. It remained one of the finest private residences in Washington until after the Civil War.

After John Peter Van Ness died in 1846, the house became the residence of Thomas Green. After the Civil war, the property and home was used for a German beer garden, florist’s nursery, headquarters of the city streetcleaners, and in the end, for the Columbia Athletic Club.

Columbian College — soon to be George Washington University — purchased the property in 1903 for $161,000 with the intent of creating a new campus on the site, but alumni objected because they deemed the property too unhealthy because it was near the marsh that came up to B Street (Constitution Avenue).

Ultimately, the university sold the property in 1907 for $200,000 to the State Department which razed the building in 1908 in order to build the Pan American Union Building. More photos below.

Van Ness House between 1900 and 1908
Van Ness House, 17th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. between 1900 and 1908
Van Ness stable-carriage house, 17th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C.
Van Ness House gatehouse, 17th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C.

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.