Historic 'America's Living Room' for Sale, Does Anyone Care?

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Georgetown Evermay EstateThe largest remaining privately held estate in Georgetown is for sale. That's the word from Audrey Hoffer in the Washington Examiner. And from Long & Foster Realtors, which has a handy web site devoted to selling Evermay for $39.5 million.

Dubbed "America's Living Room," the Georgetown 18th century estate offers views of the Washington Monument, the Potomac River and the Watergate complex. The 13,000 square-foot home with 8 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms features amenities such as a 40-seat dining room, a tennis court-sized ballroom, a pine-paneled drawing room. Also included is the 2,300 square-foot gatekeeper's house.

The only problem with buying the three and one-half acre property: Georgetown doesn't actually matter any more.

At least that's what The New York Times suggested this week. Which begs a couple of questions: Could the grand old neighborhood come back? And could the sale of Evermay lead the way?
It won't be easy.

For generations Georgetown was the neighborhood where Democrats and Republicans could actually sit down together for a drink or a meal. So said David Carr in his column for The New York Times. Carr reports on how and why the The Washington Post has decided to end its party column. Apparently the famous Post scribe Sally Quinn no longer needs to report on the social scene for the simple reason that there is no social scene left. (Another problem with Quinn's column: the response from her piece about how her son's wedding was scheduled on the same day as the nuptials featuring a grandchild of her husband, former Post editor Ben Bradlee. Weird goings-on in D.C.) Carr insists that these days, instead of putting aside partisan political passions for a few hours in the evening, the big-time pols would rather spend their nights appearing on cable and blasting one another. Welcome to the 21st century, folks. This state of affairs is not so great for creating a congenial atmosphere in which to tackle the nation's business. And it's probably not so great for the reputation of Georgetown either.

Ah, but what glory days Georgetown had. Imagine the days and nights of the late and great Katharine Graham, the Post publisher who died in July 2001. Her Georgetown home was Salon Central. She brought power brokers from around the city to her living room. In the early '80s, she dared become close and public pals with Nancy and Ronald Reagan, with Graham introducing the new arrivals to the establishment. It was all part of what looks now like a golden age of bipartisan socializing-and of Georgetown itself. This was a time when D.C. realtors could just say the word "Georgetown" and it conjured up images of grand get-togethers.

No more. Ana Marie Cox, founder of the political blog Wonkette and current Washington correspondent for GQ, told Carr that she cannot remember the last time she was in Georgetown. "Power in Washington," she says, "has been dispersed geographically, demographically and politically, and I think establishment Washington is having trouble coming to grips with that."

It will be a challenge for D.C. realtors, too, who have in Georgetown a product with a changing dynamic. Does a would-be hostess really need as much room in a gorgeous Georgetown townhouse if nobody is coming over? Certainly there is plenty of room over at Evermay, where the property offers landscaped gardens, elm and wisteria trees, and a guest list that has, over the centuries, included The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, plenty of presidents and the aforementioned Katharine Graham. America's Living Room has been in the same family for four generations. Now the Belin clan is letting go, but it will be fascinating to see if anybody is there to catch what could be a falling legacy.

Georgetown, like so many of us, could use a little boost about now. So somebody needs to cough up the $39.5 million and throw a good bipartisan party.
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