Fuller House is an historic house in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, DC. It has been listed on the District of Columbia Inventory of Historic Sites since 1985 and it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. The house was designed by architect Thomas J.D. Fuller and completed in 1893. It is a contributing property in the Kalorama Triangle Historic District.

So what constitutes a contributing property? W

"...In the law regulating historic districts in the United States, a contributing resource or contributing property is any building, structure, or object which adds to the historical integrity or architectural qualities that make the historic district, listed locally or federally, significant. Government agencies, at the state, national, and local level in the United States, have differing definitions of what constitutes a contributing property but there are common characteristics. Local laws often regulate the changes that can be made to contributing structures within designated historic districts. The first local ordinances dealing with the alteration of buildings within historic districts was in Charleston, South Carolina in 1931.

Properties within a historic district fall into one of two types of property: contributing and non-contributing. A contributing property, such as a 19th Century mansion, helps make a historic district historic, while a non-contributing property, such as a modern medical clinic, does not. The contributing properties are key to a historic district's historic associations, historic architectural qualities, or archaeological qualities. A property can change from contributing to non-contributing and vice versa if significant alterations take place. ..."

Development of Free Style in England

"The Free Style is a result of a conscious attempt to devise a new style of architecture. It is a style that addressed a desire to create new form and organization while maintaining a tie to English building tradition. An outgrowth of the Arts and Crafts Movement founded by William Morris and Philip Webb, the earliest version of Free Style can be seen in the work of Richard Norman Shaw. It was his own residence, Hampstead Towers (1875-76, London, England), a synthesis of traditional English features into an asymmetrical composition, that first exhibited the ideas that would become associated with the new style. In 1884, architects William Lethaby and Edward Prior helped found the Art Workers' Guild that would be the spiritual base for the Free Style. In a paper presented before the British Architectural Association in 1889, Lethaby set forth the architectural ideals of the Guild:

One, the 'motive 1 or central thought in design. Two, that dignity in realisation we speak of as largeness, breadth, style. Three, the use and limits of a study of past art. Four, the reference to nature. Lethaby's ideas can be explained to mean 1) that a design should be based on a main idea strong enough to guide its complete development; 2) that this main idea should be articulated consistently throughout the design, inside and out; 3) that historical features should be used in a free and imaginative way, not in a academic or pure revival manner; and 4) that the design should be in harmony with nature, considering both the setting and the materials used. Indeed, the style that developed featured a free manipulation of forms derived from history, English history. Alistair Service, writing in Edwardian Architecture, states, 'Their Arts and Crafts principles discouraged them from ignoring tradition altogether, for one of their ideals was an architecture rooted in the English past, before the adoption of foreign styles began.' At first, historical references were limited to the Perpendicular Gothic, Elizabethan and Jacobean. Then, as respect for Christopher Wren's work reemerged in the 1880's, the appropriateness was reconsidered. Shaw's return to Wren for inspiration in his 1887-88 design for No. 170 Queen's Gate in Kensington helped to make the integration of Georgian motifs acceptable for the Free Style. By the mid-1890's, Georgian motifs were fully integrated into the style's interpretation. Later, the philosophical foundation of Free Style would reject all historical reference and develop into a completely free style as practiced by such architects as Charles Townsend and Charles Rennie Mackintosh. NPS Fohn 10-000-a OMB No. 1024-0018 Exp. 10-31-84 United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service National Register of Historic Places, Inventory Nomination Form Continuation sheet Item number 8 Page 3 of 7, The Fuller House and Free Style. The Fuller House is a classic example of the Free Style. Here, massing, material, and detailing are expertly worked creating a distinctive version presenting an early manifestation of the style's integration of Georgian characteristics. The balance and symmetry inherent to high style Georgian architecture is the background for the free manipulation of academic and traditional elements. Academic renditions of Georgian features, as well as details and elements directly imitating Richard Norman Shaw are used in the composition. The Georgian doorway, complete with swan's neck pediment, is surmounted by a fine Palladian window. The bowed oriel windows, borrowed from Shaw, feature delicate medieval glazing work and molding. The door is accented with tracery in an elongated pattern creating an Arts and Crafts motif. Appropriate to Free Style and the Arts and Crafts Movement in general, the house is fully articulated around the exterior and throughout the interior. This attention to detail, as a realization of the design and the relationship of parts to the whole, is particularly thorough. The craftsmanship evident in the detailing and construction is of a superior quality. The varied materials demonstrate an attention to natural harmony and create a rich textural context for the composition. The scale of the house, suited to its original Washington setting, maintains the English proportions perfectly.

Fuller's early use of the Free Style and particularly his use of details borrowed directly from works by Shaw leads to the speculation that Fuller visited England or, at the very least, saw the published designs of the English Free Style architects. Architectural publications were wide spread and Shaw's work especially was published repeatedly. As a recent graduate of Cornell University School of Architecture, Fuller would have been aware of current architectural thought. However, his notably early and pure stylistic rendition of the Free Style in Washington is significant. The Fuller House and Concurrent Washington Architecture Washington in the early 1890's was still ensconced in Victorian architectural ideology. Building design generally held to decorative revival styles stressing verticality. The Fuller House represents a departure from this. The design is based on a more horizontal composition than generally seen. The interior spaces show a balanced ratio of height to width than the high ceilinged rooms of the Victorian period. The wide central hall plan is in contrast to the irregular, compartmentalized plans then prevalent. The careful use of English motifs and the return to symmetry may be interpreted to anticipate the popularity of Georgian Revival seen in the early years of the 20th century. ...

...The ideas behind the Arts and Crafts Movement exhibited so well in the Fuller House were not unknown to Washington. Buildings such as Hornblower and Marshall's Edmunds House (2111 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., 1885) and the Boardman House (1801 P Street, N.W. 1893), and Harvey Page's exceptional design for the Weeks House (1526 New Hampshire Avenue, N.W., 1892), illustrate local interest in new and freer attitudes toward composition, materials, and adaptation of historic motifs. Fuller's contribution is tied to the precision with which he presented the ideas of the English Free Style designers. His thinking was certainly in consonance with the innovative local architects Hornblower and Marshall, and Harvey Page, who were introducing similar concepts of composition and proportion in their work in the city. However, Fuller's design is an exceptionally well-defined example of contemporary English thought, in contrast to presentations of the conceptual ideas behind the Free Style seen in its renditions by the established architects. Further, Fuller's introduction of this careful rendition of the English Free Style is significant for its timely contribution to the physical fabric of the city and, hence, to architectural thought in Washington. Specifically, the Fuller House is a prototype for the fully developed Free Style in the Washington area.

Unfortunately, the influence of the Beaux Arts caught the attention of Washington architects and by the turn of the century, most of the ideas and specific characteristics associated with the Free Style were set aside in favor of this newly introduced style. As the city's residential neighborhoods grew, designs based on the imagery of Free Style did enjoy a resurgence in popularity. Features of the style were used to form the basis for much of Washington's early 20th century detached residential architecture. Revival examples of the Free Style incorporating the Georgian and English vernacular in a single design are seen later in the city, particularly in Kalorama, in upper Northwest neighborhoods developed from 1910 on, and in the suburban development in Chevy Chase, Maryland. The contribution of the Fuller House to the introduction, appreciation and development of the Arts and Crafts Movement should be recognized."

The Architect: Thomas J.D. Fuller

"Thomas Fuller was both an accomplished architect and active citizen. He was responsible for the design of a number of large Kalorama homes. This includes this house, 2317 Ashmead Place, N.W., which served as his home from 1893 until his death November 20, 1946. ...

Fuller was born in Washington in 1870, the son of Thomas James Duncan Fuller, a U.S. Representative from Maine for four terms, 1850-58. He attended Brookville Academy in Olney, Maryland and then went on to Cornell University to earn his Bachelor of Science in architecture, graduating in 1892. After college, Fuller married Elizabeth Ashmead Schaffer of Iowa City, Iowa and returned to Washington. They had four children: Thomas J.D., Jr., born August 6, 1893; Charles Ashmead, born October 10, 1894; Evelyn Schuyler, born June 12, 1897; and Elizabeth, born July 26, 1899, died November 11, 1905. In 1893 at the age of 23, Fuller and Urias Garrett established the design and construction firm of Fuller and Garrett. He later went to work for the prominent Washington architectural firm of Hornblower and Marshall. Fuller's interest in the Arts and Crafts movement was surely in consonance with the philosophy of Joseph Hornblower and J. Rush Marshall. Their work exhibits many of the ideas and principles of the Free Style using the Romanesque style. During his tenure with that firm he assisted in two of its most prestigious commissions, the National Museum, now the Museum of Natural History (1904-11), and the Baltimore Custom House (1903-08). Interestingly, these two buildings represent the firm's move away from the Arts and Crafts into the Beaux Arts styles. Edward Donn, Jr., in his unpublished Architectural Reminiscences, refers to Fuller as having held a significant role in the design of the fourstory Custom House. Fuller's participation in the design of the National Museum is also described by Donn, 'When the firm got the commission to do the New National Museum, a lot of time was taken to study the best solution of the problem. Fuller, [Theodore] Pietsch, Arthur Brown, Morris Leisering all had their hands in it. The final solution to the problem was a composite of these different men.'

Among the buildings credited to Fuller are 23-25 Madison Place (the former home of the Cosmos Club, now demolished), 1827 16th Street, N.W., 2439 Wyoming Avenue, N.W. and 2319-21 Ashmead Place, N.W. The massing, materials, and detailing of these buildings are an indication of Fuller's continued appreciation of the ideals of the Arts and Crafts period. Fuller was actively involved with the Washington Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Washington Architectural Club (WAC), then in its heyday. He served as president and secretary to the AIA chapter between 1895 and 1914, and exhibited in the WAC's annual exhibitions (1893-1913). As a club man, Fuller was instrumental in the founding of one of Washington's most important social groups, the Chevy Chase Club. ...

...Fuller was one of the last surviving of the original 16 members who directed the organization of the Club. He was also a member of the Cosmos Club and designed the buildings which served as their club house. In 1923-24, he was listed in Who's Who in Washington. The house remained in the Fuller family until 1973, 80 years after its construction. It served as the residence of its original owner for 53 years, being passed on to his son Thomas Jr. in 1946. Ashmead Fuller, grandson of the architect, was brought up in the house as had been his father before him. His family became the third generation of Fullers to reside there. ...

In 1893, the neighborhood now known as Kalorama had just been subdivided by a Philadelphia syndicate. Connecticut Avenue had not been cut through as we know it today. Ashmead Place, then known as Connecticut Avenue Extended, was a minor winding road. Despite elaborate street plans, the streets had not been constructed and sewer lines, water mains and fire hydrants were not to be installed until 1903. Fuller's house stood on lot 21 of George Truesdell's Addition to Washington Heights. In 1887, five years prior to its construction, only a handful of houses dating from the earlier part of the century stood in the whole of Kalorama. In 1893, this house was the first to be constructed on its square and was sited in vacant expanse. It was the first house of its subdivision and maps indicate that it predates all postsubdivision construction in Kalorama. In 1903, the Fuller House remained the sole building on either side of Connecticut Avenue Extended. When Connecticut Avenue was cut through toward the northwest, the street name was changed to Ashmead Place, a reference to Thomas Fuller's wife Elizabeth Ashmead Schaffer's family. The open countryside appearance of Kalorama in the 1890's, a highly appropriate setting for this house, was altered by the early years of the 20th century. Today, rowhouses and large apartment buildings belie the pastoral beginnings of this neighborhood that might have inspired an English country house design. The Fuller House remains intact, standing along the urban streetscape as a reminder of the early days of the 20th century Kalorama. ..." National Register of Historic Places received DEC e I9S4 Inventory Nomination Form

I have a particular interest in Thomas J.D. Fuller as he designed and built our home for himself--according to our archival information--before building the Ashmead House. Our home is a 4-story semi-detached town home located in the Dupont/Kalorama area in the historic district. The facade is built of pressed brick --the dry press method is similar to the soft mud brick method, but starts with a much thicker clay mix, so it forms more accurate, sharper-edged bricks. The greater force in pressing and the longer burn make this method more expensive--and our brick is sometimes referred to as "bread and butter brick", has carved tera cotta and lots of detail carving work as can be seen in the pictures below. This house is one of a kind.

Image: Copyright DeboraJohnson/Architect: Thomas H.D. Fuller/Our home in the Dupont Circle Historic District built in 1890.

Image: Copyright DeboraJohnson/Architect: Thomas H.D. Fuller/Our home in the Dupont Circle Historic District built in 1890.

Fuller & Garrett/Thomas J.D. Fuller and Urias Garrett/Architects
National Register Information System - National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13.

First posted: Mar 31, 2014
Last update: Jan 20, 2020