Ten years after most buildings in the Southwest area had been demolished as part of an urban renewal plan, construction began on Harbour Square, taking the Southwest redevelopment in a completely new direction: luxurious living. Designed and built as a cooperative from the very beginning, construction began in 1963 and continued until the building’s opening in 1966. The design was an ingenious combination of old and new including historic row houses dating to the 1790s, new modernist townhouses, and high-rise apartment buildings. Courtyards formed by the buildings created public areas for residents, complete with a water garden, reflecting pool, terrace, and covered portico. The complex looked out to the Washington Channel and many apartments offered spectacular water views in multiple directions. Communal spaces, such as the Club Room and swimming pool, were also included within the plan, as was below-ground parking. Initial costs for the 445 units ranged from $19,000 to nearly $110,000, a whopping sum of money in 1966.
The Edmund J. Flynn Company, responsible for introducing cooperative living to the District of Columbia in 1920, worked with architect Chloethiel Woodard Smith; John McShain, Inc., the builder; and Shannon & Luchs Company, the realtor-managers, in establishing Harbour Square as one the city’s premier residences.
Harbour Square accommodated a wide range of housing configurations offering choices between townhouses and 136 different apartment plans of varying sizes and shapes. Some apartments encompassed two floors or passed through from one side of the high-rise to the other. Depending on apartment, wood burning fireplaces, spiral staircases, and private rooftop gardens were included.
When completed, Harbour Square attracted a number of prominent Washingtonians, including Hubert Humphrey, who moved into a large apartment with water views on three sides. Other famous residents included Justice Lewis Powell, Supreme Court; Philip N. Brownstein, then assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Admiral William Radford, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Samuel Kauffmann, chairman of the board of The Evening Star; and Dr. William G. Carr, executive director of the National Education Association. Today, Harbour Square continues to be home to many famous and powerful people.
Excerpted from A Female Modernist in the Classical Capital: Chloethiel Woodard Smith And The Architecture of Southwest Washington, DC, by Catherine W. Zipf, with permission from the author.