The Brewmaster’s Castle, located in the heart of Dupont Circle, is the historic home of Christian Heurich, a German immigrant and beer baron who was one of Washington DC’s most successful 19th-century businessman and landowners. His gorgeous home was only recently restored and opened to the public, and now is one of the most intact and original late-Victorian homes in the country.
The only way to see the Brewmaster’s Castle is by way of a tour, which are offered Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays for a suggested $5 donation. And going with a tour is a good thing, because Mr. Heurich had a number of fascinating quirks that the guide is more than happy to divulge. For example, he became deathly afraid of fire after two of his breweries and one of his houses burned down. Consequently, the house is the first “fireproof” house in the city, meaning that wood is sparingly used and instead the frame of the house is made with reinforced steel and concrete. Decorations in the ornate interior also echo this fear, such as flame-retardant curtains and intricate fireplaces that were never used.
The home has many elegant details that are sure to keep you oohing and aahing, including hand-painted ceilings, rows and rows of china, and magnificent wood furniture. But the best is an antique Steinway that was made especially for the house and features the same inlays as the wall behind it.
The Brewmaster’s Castle came very close to not existing at all. From 1956-2003, it functioned as the headquarters of the Washington Historical Society. But the Society put the house up for sale, and was on the brink of selling it to a developer and restaurateur. Coming to save the day, the Heurich family stepped in to re-purchase the house, and used cash for much of the transaction in order to ensure a quick deal. Renovations are still continuing to this day, funded by public donations.
It is very interesting to compare the visits to Heurich’s house as compared to Hillwood Estate, Marjorie Merriweather-Post’s self-tribute and gift to DC (Heurich and Post were friends and both incredible philanthropists). Whereas Hillwood is sweeping and full of millions of dollars worth of art and artifacts, the Brewmaster’s Castle is a more sober and realistic peak into how a family—albeit a very wealthy one—actual lived in our city 100 years ago.
To visit: 1307 New Hampshire Ave. NW. 202-429-1894. Five minutes from the South Dupont Metro stop, and off the 42 and L2 buslines. Easy!