Apr 25, 2024 - Politics
Town Talker

Georgetown's vacant party mansion

A photograph of the mansion's front entrance and driveway during the 2023 brunch event

The Beall-Washington House for the 2023 brunch. Photo: Cuneyt Dil/Axios

On Saturday, the biggest pre-game to the White House Correspondents' Dinner happens at the late Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham's old home. Beltway A-listers and reporters will rub shoulders over brunch and, at some point or another, probably also whisper about a topic that has had tongues wagging for years now: What will Mark Ein do with this grand old house?

Why it matters: Graham had made it the crown jewel of 20th-century Georgetown socializing, a power center for hometown and company-town Washington alike.

  • Today, even while Ein's profile grows, as entrepreneur and part-owner of the Washington Commanders, the Beall-Washington House still collects dust. It's the subject of a yearslong neighborhood soap opera and a veritable vacant property on the D.C. tax rolls.

State of play: Pulling off the annual Correspondents' Weekend Garden Brunch, which Ein hosts with D.C. mega connector Tammy Haddad, is no easy feat.

  • Light setups and a bathroom trailer are hauled in, movie set-style — there's no running water or power inside, I hear.
  • At last year's party, international media tycoons like Mathias Döpfner and Kara Swisher mingled next to clippings of Washington City Paper posted on the walls. (Ein bought the ailing alt-weekly in 2018.)

"It's so sad to see what's happened to the house," Sally Quinn, whose late husband Ben Bradlee was the legendary Post editor under Graham, remarked to me last year.

Context: Before she died in 2001, Graham — portrayed by Meryl Streep in "The Post" — famously hosted the D.C. intelligentsia in the home where she raised four kids. Ein bought it in 2002 for $8 million.

  • Part of a new tech and finance elite in the nation's capital, Ein owns D.C.'s pro tennis team the Washington Kastles, and keyfob giant Kastle Systems, aka today's domestic barometer for office vacancy.

The old guard expected Ein to continue the Graham tradition. But he never moved into 2920 R Street. And the absence was notable.

  • The 1784 house on the historic register sits on over an acre of land and has a large gravel driveway reminiscent of country estates.

Friction point: Ein did have grand plans: a two-story addition, an underground garage, and a basement gym.

  • But the project sparked a catfight in 2014 with the next-door neighbors, philanthropist-developer power couple Jane and Calvin Cafritz, as told in Washingtonian.
  • Neighbors sniffed that Ein's idea for enlarging the 230+-year-old estate felt suburban.
  • His last attempt in 2021 was panned, too.

Over the years, the discontent has spanned from the pedestrian (unplowed snow on the sidewalks, e.g.) to the symbolic.

  • "It's a significant structure," says Elsa Santoyo, a member of the Citizens Association of Georgetown, which weighs in on renovation plans.

The latest: Ein declined to say what's next for the house, saying he was in Europe on business.

  • A spokesperson for Ein said the family has maintained the structure and landscaping "as if they lived here," and "even painted the outside of the house in the last two years."

D.C., meanwhile, taxes the Beall-Washington as a vacant property. Ein's bill so far this year: $260,000.

💭 Sing it with me: Ein's house is a very, very, very fine house. Town Talker is a weekly column on local money and power. Send your tips to [email protected].

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