The Heurich Family

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Christian Heurich: Brewer & Family Man

In the modern “federal city”, where national monuments and government operations often overshadow the local history and culture of DC, the story of brewer, German immigrant, landowner, and philanthropist Christian Heurich is important to our understanding of the city and its evolution. Although he came to DC as an immigrant, Heurich adopted the city as his own. He became one of its most important and successful local manufacturers, operating the Chr. Heurich Brewing Co. in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood for 84 years. Heurich was believed to be the largest private employer and landowner in DC during his lifetime, and his brand was a local household name. His brewery was the only one to survive the long-term effects of Prohibition and he operated the business until he died at the age of 102. The brewery closed in 1956, and was torn down in the early 1960’s to build the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge.

Christian Heurich married three times. His first wife, Amelia Mueller Schnell, was the widow of the former owner of his first brewery. In 1887, Christian married Mathilde Daetz, sister of his brewery’s Treasurer. Together, Mathilde and Christian constructed the Dupont Circle mansion, and she likely influenced much of its decorative style. Mathilde died in January of 1895, shortly after they moved into the house. In 1899, Christian married Amelia Keyser, the niece of his first wife. Together, they had four children: Christian, Jr. (1901), Anna Marguerite (1903), Anita Augusta (1905), and Karla Louise (1907). Anna Marguerite died at the age of 9 months. Christian died in 1945 at the age of 102. Amelia lived in the house until her death in 1956. They are buried in Rock Creek Cemetery.

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The Brewmaster's Castle

By the early 1890’s, Heurich’s business was going well. He owned the largest brewery in Washington, DC, and was in the midst of acquiring properties throughout the District, which would make him one of the largest landowners in the city by 1900. Boosted by this success, he and Mathilde built their family home on a piece of property in Dupont Circle he had purchased with his first wife, Amelia Schnell, before her death. Designed by John Granville Meyer in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, the Heurich mansion was constructed by German-American craftsmen and interior designers between 1892-1894.

The house was a technological marvel; it incorporated the most modern inventions of its day, including: indoor plumbing, pneumatic communication systems, combination gas and electric lighting fixtures, and later a central vacuum system and electric call bells. Most notably, it was the first fireproof residence in Washington, DC, built out of iron and concrete, and none of its 15 fireplaces has ever been used. The mansion’s 31-rooms are filled with hand-carved fireplaces with individually carved mantles and cast bronze fire backs. Hand-painted ceiling canvases, luxurious furnishings, and objects collected through a lifetime of travel fill the house. The home is a masterpiece of craftsmanship and design, the majority of which endures in its original condition.

Today, the property is owned by the Heurich House Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.