Tuesday, July 5, 2011

New York Avenue NW Stable for Sale

The Portland Stable 643- 645 NY Avenue 

   William Horstkamp built The Portland (643 New York Avenue, Square 0405, lot 0006) in 1887 (permit number 1818.5) for its new owner F.M. Draney. Constructed of pressed brick with a concrete foundation, it had a front of 58 feet, a depth of 105 feet and was 4 stories tall. (Source: Kraft database) The livery stable cost $8,000 ($175,000 today) to build and the open stall fee of $30 quoted in the ad below is equivalent to about $670 per month today.  The building was designed and built in so that it looked much more like turn of the century row house residences than a stable. You can also see this design in the neighboring stable at 629-625 NY Ave. – which is still standing. After being in business for 4 years and having established what appears to have been a solid reputation The Portland Stable came up for sale.

“Among the livery stables of this city the Portland Stable of F.M. Draney ranks with the best. It is conveniently located on New York Avenue, near 7th Street and can be reached by four lines of cars – the Seventh Street cable, Eckington, Ninth Street and Columbia cars. The front of this building would do credit to many dwelling –houses, being neatly built of red press brick laid in black mortar. The building is four stories in height. The first and second stories are partly used for horses and partly for carriages. The third story is for carriages, paint-shop and harness repair-room, all the painting and harness repairing being done on the premise. The fourth story is devoted to hay, grain and forage and also storage of vehicles etc. when not in use. A large carriage elevator establishes communication between the ground and top floors. An Otto gas engine supplies the motive power for running the elevator up and down. Hay is cut in the fourth story with this same power, the engine and cutting box being connected with long belts. The entire ground floor is laid in Portland cement; it has the appearance of stone being laid out in tiled squares of different sizes. It wears as hard and enduring as stone.
            The stable is exceptionally well lighted, ventilated and superbly drained; hardly any objectionable odor can be detected around the building. The best evidence of the healthfulness of this stable is that during the recent epidemic of pink eye in this city not one case infected this stable. Perhaps the most convincing testimony of the healthfulness of the stable as well as the abundance of good feed are the horses themselves, all of them bearing witness to this being fat, hardy and well groomed. Despite the fact of the double advance in feed, $30 is the price charged for each horse per month for open stalls and $22.50 for box stalls.
            Every class of vehicle is kept for hire – handsome landaus, luxurious broughams, stylish Kensingtons, buckboards, surreys, phaetons, horse and buggies and wagonettes for park driving or picnics – all to be had at fair and reasonable prices. To those who are looking for a first-class and reliable livery stable the Portland at 643 and 645 New York Avenue is the place.”
(Source: - Sunday Herald and Weekly National Intelligencer, February 22, 1891, page 31 and image 31)

   At a roughly 24,000 square feet, The Portland probably qualified as one of the largest livery stables (but not the largest) in the city at the turn of the century. The Portland Stable was an impressive, self-contained business, managing harnesses, carriages, feed and horses. It was multifaceted and fit the requisite balance of any successful business or portfolio. In flush times people bought carriages and horses and boarded them. In lean times, they rented them (like Zip cars). Who could have predicted “the panic of 1893” that lay two years ahead? No doubt their flexibility enabled them to survive this well. http://www.thehistorybox.com/ny_city/panics/panics_article10a.htm

Today the Warehouse Theater lives on the site of the Portland Stable (645-643 New York Avenue).

The largest stable in D.C. was probably the B.F. McCaully & Co’s stable (Tally Ho) at 1300 Naylor Court– now the D.C. City Archives. 
   Another large historic livery stable in the Logan-Shaw neighborhood was the Mount Vernon Stables 1898 – 1908 (also known as the W.H. Penland & Co. stable (1894-97) and Proctor Alley Livery Stables) at1211R-1219R 13th Street. When cars rapidly replaced horses, the stable was converted into a garage for the Terminal Taxicab Company DC. In its last life before being converted into condos, it functioned for years as a successful British Sports Cars garage.
The original stable was about 12,900 square feet in size and described as having “distinguishing features (that) illustrate state-of-the-art technology for a late-19th century stable facility; 3 stories, red brick, utilitarian design with segmental-arched windows including individual horse stall windows; metal-framed structure with sanitary concrete flooring …” 

This former state-of-the-art stable has now become a state-of–the-art Ellis Denning project called the Fennessey Lofts.

Thankfully, this building was protected from demolition by virtue of having been placed on the National Register of Historic Places years ago and was thus preserved for new generations to appreciate and enjoy in what is probably its final adaptive reuse life. But one never really knows with old buildings …

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