The Kenesaw, located between 16th, Mt. Pleasant, and Irving Streets, has certainly been no stranger to controversy over the years.
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 Kenesaw — valued at $2.8 million — and 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.
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.