Holding on to History

The Brewmaster’s Castle

The Victorian mansion known as The Brewmaster’s Castle will not join the District’s recent foreclosure listings. The Heurich House Museum, once home to Washington’s wealthiest citizen was at one point in a financial dilemma.

In 2006 the museum had till March to pay off the interest on a 5.5 million dollar loan to keep the building open.

At the time, the museum once home to the Historical Society of Washington D.C., was fundraising to pay the $250,000 needed for the mortgage.

One of the District’s most historic homes would have been sold and converted into private property if not for the efforts of concerned citizens and Heurich’s grandchildren.

City historian Walter Albano says local citizens really stepped up to rescue a piece of Washington’s history. Although, the mansion is not debt free it’s no longer in immediate danger of closing.

Located in Dupont Circle, the lavish 31-room family home belonged to German immigrant and philanthropist Christian Heurich. Heurich a successful business man owned a local brewery, and was the second largest landowner in the District after the federal government.

Built during 1892-1894 the Heurich mansion was the city’s first fireproof home, made out of reinforced steel and poured concrete. Designed to resemble a German Bavarian castle, the three-story mansion has much of the interior design and original furniture from when the Heurich’s lived there.

The rooms on display have interior elements such as: Victorian furniture, hand crafted wooden fireplaces, gold leaf decorations, and German proverbs painted on the walls.

Also the mansion was one of the first homes to incorporate the most modern day technology including: full indoor plumbing, a central vacuum system, elevator, venting skylight, hot water, and heating system.

In 1965, Heurich’s widow donated the family home to the Historical Society of Washington D.C. Being one of the most intact late Victorian homes in the country, the Heurich mansion was designated as a Category II Landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. The Heurich House Foundation now operates the mansion.

“It’s still a very young museum and young foundation. There’s still a lot of work to be done to get established, and operating as well as everyone likes it to be,” said Albano.

Director of the Museum Scott Nelson says the foundation hopes to get more restoration and preservation done to the remaining artifacts in the mansion.

Offered to the public are walk-in tours. They are available twice a day Wednesday through Saturday.

The Heurich House Foundation continues to educate the city and visitors to the nation’s capital about Christian Heurich.

Museum Director Scott Nelson said, “It’s very unusual for immigrants to be as successful as Mr. Heurich was in any city. In Washington to become so successful in an industry in a city based on un-political leanings….it’s a message to younger people that you can succeed.”