It pays to be an urban pioneer, particularly when you find a stunning Victorian townhouse in what will become D.C.’s hot neighborhood. Sky-high ceilings, stunning original moldings, and warm-glow gaslights make this Logan Circle charmer a place to sing about.
When Eric Korpon and Steven Haber met at a convention of gay choruses in Seattle, they started on the path to spending their lives together in harmony. In their Logan Circle Victorian townhouse, which Korpon bought long before the neighborhood went upscale, the couple have blended their lives into a space that’s at once enormous and inviting, where the original gaslights lend an old-world charm to modern living.Â
Eric: Part of the reason I bought the house in 1978 was the staircase, which has all the original paneling and spindles. This was back when people came to Logan Circle because they wanted big Victorian houses they could restore. I picked this up for about $75,000, about the price of a parking space in Logan Circle these days. It cost about three times that to restore it.
The neighborhood [back then] was a trip! In the mid-1980’s this place was crazy. The drug dealers would close off O Street between 10th and 11th streets and have a party, and the police wouldn’t do anything. I saw at least three drive-by shootings in this block. Why didn’t I leave? The simple reason was that I couldn’t afford to leave. We couldn’t sell the house for what we had in it. Then suddenly Logan Circle got discovered, which to me always made sense — we are the closest neighborhood to downtown. Since then it’s been out of control. The homes next door originally sold in the $220’s in 1998 and the last one just went for $510,000.
Steven: We met in 1989 and I was here over a lot of weekends. I moved in full time in 1993. Some years after that, when it was an appropriate time to refinance, we did it jointly and have a mortgage together.
Eric: [In the parlor] This was once a double parlor. If you look back there you can see where the floors have been patched where the wall was taken out. Before I bought it, the house had been a fraternal lodge hall, and they had made this into one large room. That was actually very good because Victorian floor plans tend to favor lots of small rooms which really didn’t work. All I did by putting the moldings back in was create the impression of two rooms, so the flow is much better.
The house has three bedrooms right now because of the way we did it. It had about eight when it was built but who needs eight bedrooms? We just sort of rearranged some of the walls.
Steven: We have a bedroom in the back above the kitchen, where our roommate lives. And there’s a studio apartment on the third floor that has become my office-slash-laboratory.
Eric: Computer laboratory.
Steven: [Laughs] It’s junk, it’s not viewable.
Eric: We use the parlor mostly for entertaining. The downstairs is like a museum. You open the door and it’s 100 years ago.
Steven: Pepper [the cat] uses it more than anybody.
Eric: [In the dining room] This is the community meeting room. For years, when I was chairman of the Twelfth Street Revitalization Committee, we would meet here with the police and city officials to go over neighborhood issues. Now we have about 20 of our friends over for Thanksgiving dinner every year. There are four more leaves for this table so it extends far. This is where my godfather’s handiwork comes in: I bought the round part of the table and then I made the 10 leaves that fit in the center. As you can see, they match pretty exactly. Some old guy with a Confederate flag tattooed on his arm sold me the walnut wood. I have a complete woodworking shop in the basement. Planers, saws, drills, band saws, circular saws, all of the above. “Korpon Machine and Foundry,” as I call it. Anything we need to make we just go down there and turn it out.
Steven: He says “we” meaning “I.” I don’t touch that stuff. And he stays away from the heavy computer equipment.
Eric: [In the kitchen] Another reason I bought the house is that the kitchen is on the main floor, which was very rare in Victorian houses. There is another room in the house that was the kitchen once upon a time, but when I bought it there was a usable kitchen on the main floor.
Steven: [In the back porch/gazebo] This is where we spend the mornings having coffee.
Eric: It’s fun to sit out here when it’s snowing or raining — it’s like being out in the weather without actually being in the weather. We sit back here and listen to the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts in the winter. It’s a nice way to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon.
Steven: [The Star Trek items in the house] are mine. You’ll see a few other statements in the den that talk more about me. It’s interesting when you go from “someone’s house” to “our home” — you have to make impacts in subtle ways. And sometimes it’s still a work in progress.
Eric: [In the master bedroom] This is the master bedroom, office, gym, you name it. The room is huge — it’s as wide as the house and bigger than the parlor. You never used to be able to get through this way — this is essentially the rear wall of the house. We broke through the wall to create this [bathroom]. I must have had somebody in mind when I built the place because I built it five years before I ran into Steven. There are two showers, two sinks, two medicine cabinets.
Steven: And I always use his side.
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