Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine

by Mary K. Mewborn

The District

Susan Mary Alsop, who once proclaimed that she saw “no future in being an ordinary person,” was one of Washington's most legendary hostesses and literary savants. Now the Georgetown manse where she lived her extraordinary life for almost three decades and where she died in August at 86, has been sold for some two million dollars.

Born Susan Mary Jay in Rome, Italy, she was the daughter of diplomat Peter Augustus Jay, a direct descendant of John Jay, one of four authors of “The Federalist Papers” and the first Supreme Court Chief justice of the United States. Mrs. Alsop's grandfather was married to Emily Astor Kane, a sultry beauty known as “The Black Pearl” and a descendent of John Jacob Astor. Susan Mary grew up in South America, Europe, New York and Washington, where she lived at 18th and Q Streets N.W. in what is now the Argentine Embassy. She graduated from Foxcroft boarding school in Middleburg, Virginia, and attended Barnard College. In 1939, she married diplomat William Patten, Jr. and moved to Paris in 1945, where they were soon at the center of a social whirl that included hobnobbing with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Winston Churchill, General Charles de Gaulle, Noel Coward, Louise de Vilmorin, Christian Dior and the Rothschilds. These events were later chronicled in Mrs. Alsop's famous memoir, “Letters to Marietta” [Tree}, her best friend.

In 1961, widowed and with two children, Mrs. Alsop married Joseph Alsop, her late husband's Harvard roommate and one of America's most influential journalists. He also happened to be the grandnephew of President Theodore Roosevelt. President Kennedy famously chose to visit them at their home on Dumbarton Street in the wee hours of the morning following his Inaugural Balls, a sure sign of their supreme social status. The Georgetown home at 1611 29th Street, N.W., where Mrs. Alsop lived after her divorce from Mr. Alsop, is equally shrouded in the mystique of Old Guard society and political lore.

Mrs. Alsop inherited the four-story home from her mother and its large formal rooms were often visited by presidents, prime ministers, professors and pundits. They were also filled with antiques, including a childhood portrait of her father by John Singer Sargent and a Gilbert Stuart portrait of John Jay commissioned by Baron von Steuben. It was here, too, that Mrs. Alsop wrote a biography of Vita Sackville-West's mother, Lady Sackville, and in 1982 penned “Yankees at the Court: The First Americans in Paris.” In 1984 she authored “The Congress Dances: Vienna 1814-1815.” Mrs. Alsop's home was sold through Coldwell Banker's A. Michael Sullivan to an as yet unnamed buyer who had attempted to purchase the house some years ago when she briefly put it on the market and then changed her mind.

The Washington home of yet another of Washington's more intriguing women has been sold. The estate of the late Mary Marvin Breckinridge Patterson located at 3108 Woodland Drive, N.W. now belongs to a local periodontist, who paid $3.65 million for the distinctive mansion with it unique herringbone brick facade. Mrs. Patterson, who died two years ago at 97, was a fascinating character. A Vassar graduate, she became a pioneering broadcast journalist, photographer, documentary filmmaker, community activist, philanthropist and ambassador's wife. Known as Marvin, she was the granddaughter of rubber magnate B. F. Goodrich. Her paternal great-grandfather was John Cabell Breckinridge, the U.S. vice president who ran against Abraham Lincoln in 1860 then went on to serve as secretary of war for the Confederacy.

Described as “an intrepid New York debutante,” Mrs. Patterson loved horses, played polo and was also one of the first women granted an aviator's license in the United States. In the 1930's she rode horseback into the mountains of Kentucky to film a silent documentary called “The Forgotten Frontier,” about the Frontier Nursing Service founded by her cousin Mary Breckinridge. Another of her documentaries, “Chichen-Itza, the Ancient Mayan Mecca of Yucatan” is the first professional film of that archaeological site. As a photojournalist she covered the Nazi rallies in Nuremberg and traveled extensively through Africa. Her work appeared in such publications as The Washington Post, Life, Look, Town & Country, National Geographic, and Harper's Bazaar. In 1940, Mrs. Patterson married diplomat Jefferson Patterson, an heir to the National Cash Register Company fortune and she later accompanied him to posts in Peru, Belgium, Egypt, Greece and Uruguay. During World War II, Mrs. Patterson was one of “the Murrow boys” working for Edward R. Murrow's CBS team in Europe as one of only a few American women in radio there. Mrs. Patterson returned to the United States in the late fifties and was widowed in 1977. Locally she served on the boards of the Textile Museum, the National Symphony Orchestra, Meridian House International and International Student House, and on committees of the Smithsonian Institution, the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Folger Shakespeare Theatre Library.

Her Washington estate was listed for sale by Washington Fine Properties' agents Patrick Chauvin and Ellen Morrell for $4,395,000. The 1930 Georgian-style four-level residence is surrounded by stately trees and situated on a quiet cul-de-sac at the edge of the Embassy Row area of Massachusetts Avenue Heights. Its two master bedroom suites have sitting rooms overlooking Rock Creek Park. In addition there are six other bedrooms, a wood paneled library, and five full and two half baths. Its perfectly proportioned banquet-sized dining room and spacious living room have twelve-foot ceilings and elaborate moldings. A grand entrance hall with French doors opens onto rear terraced formal gardens. The estate also boasts five fireplaces and includes staff quarters.

Popular former publishing partners Renay and Bill Regardie are parting with their property at 2319 Bancroft Place, N.W. Their California contemporary with a pool and gazebo is expected to be snapped up by prospective buyers Scott Sorg and architect Suman Sorg of Sorg and Associates, who have placed their current home at 2027 Kalorama Road, N.W. on the market for $1,799,000 with Coldwell Banker's Jim Bell. Washington Life readers may recall that the Sorgs also own an Eastern Shore vacation home in Talbot County, Maryland, which Suman designed. Suman has also designed U.S. embassy housing in Barbados, Kuwait and Uzbekistan. Still other projects range from her award-winning historic preservation of the Lincoln Theatre and the Georgetown Post Office to the creation of new town houses at Georgetown's Phillips Row. Scott Sorg, is the architectural design firm's chief financial officer. Jim Bell is both the listing and selling agent for the Bancroft property.

Coldwell Banker's Jim Bell has 1817 Belmont Road, N.W. under contract to Christopher Incarnato of Electronic Data Systems Corporation (EDS) with a list price of $1,275,000. The four-level renovated Victorian with period detailing, a spacious master bedroom suite, gourmet kitchen and garage, belongs to Dr. Richard Becker, who earlier this year was appointed CEO and managing director of George Washington University Hospital. Dr. Becker had previously served as the hospital's medical director and is also an associate professor of Anesthesia and Critical Care Medicine at GW's School of Medicine and Health Sciences. He is married to Dr. Rachel Becker.

Almost exactly seventy-four years ago, President Herbert Hoover addressed a message of sympathy to 1842 Kalorama Road, N.W. The recipient was Mrs. Tasker H. Bliss, upon the death of her husband. Hoover wrote of his dear friend, “his long record of distinguished service to our country and to the world is known to all and assure him an enduring fame.” From 1898 to 1902 Bliss was the principal customs official in Cuba. From 1908 to 1909 he served as the commanding officer in the Philippines. He was the Army's chief of staff during World War I, a member of the Supreme War Council in France, and on the American Commission to Negotiate Peace from 1918 to 1919. Now, the home belongs to Dr. Nickolai Y. Talanin a dermatologist who also holds a Ph.D. Dr. Talanin paid $1,475,000 for the former Bliss residence, which, although newly renovated, retains many of its original details. The property features eight bedrooms, three full and one half bathrooms, inlaid hardwood floors, a gourmet kitchen with professional quality appliances, a deck and landscaped garden with a terrace, and space to park two cars. The sellers were Dr. Chartier Lukacs and Michael Lukacs, a vice president at Smith Barney who has been transferred to Chicago. Realtor Jim Bell listed the property for the Lukacses.


In Bethesda, 7802 Maple Ridge Road sold for $1.07 million after less than two weeks on the market. The fourbedroom home with three and a half baths is located in the Battery Park subdivision and had been listed for $1.1 million. The buyers are Tobisd Halliday and Dorothy Rosenbaum, who is with The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The seller was Joseph Carper.

Malcolm and Carey Hollensteiner are the proud owners of a brand new four-level home at 7710 Radnor Road in Bethesda. The home cost $1,725,000 and features formal living and dining rooms, a library, six bedrooms, four and a half baths, and a gourmet kitchen leading to a huge family room with a stone fireplace. There are fine finishes throughout, including hardwood floors. Malcolm, the son of etiquette maven and former White House Social Secretary Letitia Baldrige, is a Harvard graduate and a vice president and bank manager for National City Mortgage Services. He and his wife Carey bought their new Montgomery County home from Banks Development LLC.


Patricia L. and William E. Depuy, Jr., have purchased 32 Alexander Street at the edge of Old Town Alexandria from Darlene T. and Larry V. Parman, trustee. William Depuy is president and chief executive officer of CALIBRE, an employee-owned government information technology and management services firm established in 1989 and headquartered in Alexandria City. The Depuys paid $1.05 million for their new home along the Potomac near Jones Point Park.

In Great Falls, Weichert's Penny Yerks has sold her $2.499 million listing at 9311 Fitz Folly Drive. The house was built by the Gulich Group and is a “Woodley Model” home with approximately 12,000 square-feet of living space including six bedrooms, six full and two half baths, a sun room off the kitchen, a two-story conservatory and a bonus room over the garage. Although the Fitz Folly Farms property had never been lived in, it belonged to James and Ann Lee who are reportedly owners of a restaurant franchise. The buyers are Catherine and Michael Murray. Mr. Murray is the owner of a direct mail marketing company called TMA List Brokerage and Management.

Elsa F. Wilkerson and Kenneth L. Wilkerson, the former chairman of Hecht's/ Strawbridge's, who retired in June of this year after more than three decades with the May Company, have sold their home at 401 River Bend Road in Great Falls. The new owner is Tommy L. Mack who paid $1.575 million for the property situated near Riverbend Park, a 400-acre nature preserve punctuated with of forests, meadows, and ponds along the Potomac River.

Also in Great Falls, Relocation Advantage Corp. has sold 11624 Rolling Meadow Drive to Cynthia Kane and John A. McKinley, Jr. who stepped down last year as CTO and head of Merrill Lynch's global technology services. During his tenure, Mr.McKinley supervised the company's efforts to go online, helping the Wall Street powerhouse progress in the digital age. Previously, McKinley was chief technology and information officer of GE Capital Corporation. Before that, he spent over a dozen years with Ernst & Young, becoming a partner in 1992. Mr. McKinley is a 1980 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and holds a degree in Decision Science. He paid $1.52 million for his new Fairfax County home with its beautifully illuminated landscaped grounds.

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