Historic Structures

Brownley Building, Washington DC

Date added: October 27, 2010 Categories: Commercial

The building permit for the Brownley Building notes that when built in 1932, it received an award from the Architect's Advisory Council for "meeting exceptionally well the standards which should be maintained for private buildings in the National Capital," The design successfully relates to the traditional fabric of older buildings in the area. Through its ornamentation, the Brownley Building captures the visual variety typical of older, more traditional buildings and relates to the pedestrian scale of F Street.

Originally owned by Caleb G. Willard, the trustees of his estate, Boyd, Willard, and Howe, sold the property title in 1919 to Walter Brownley. Following Brownley's death, the deed was transferred to the Brownley Investment Company in 1923. Ed R. Brownley, surviving trustee, maintained ownership of the property until the sale to The Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation in 1979.

The building is two stories high with a basement. It completely fills its rectangular lot, measuring 60' on F Street and 100' on 13th Street. The 5* Street elevation is seven bays wide. On 13th Street, there are twelve bays with a marked slope toward Pennsylvania Avenue (to the south).

The 13th and F Street facades are clad in cut stone. At the east end of the north elevation is a three-bay storefront which appears to be original, although it is now partially covered by signs and the support structure of roll-up doors. A new storefront design has replaced the original in the remaining four bays on the north. The building's second floor is defined by a relief volute belt course. Windows are separated by fluted piers. Stone panels above each window have a circular design. The building is topped by a metal decorative band and stone parapet.. The 13th Street (east) elevation is twelve bays across, with a facade treatment similar to the one on F Street. Although the grade slopes markedly toward Pennsylvania Avenue (to the south), the two-story organization is retained. The southernmost bay includes a slightly projecting pedimented pavilion.

The basement is an open space with interruptions only for the structural piers. Currently housing a discotheque, a stage is located against the north wall (near the center of the basement space), and a fountain has been incorporated in the center. A raised bar area is located against the south wall. The remainder of the basement is used for storage and mechanical equipment.

At present, the first floor is divided into two major spaces: a retail radio/camera shop in the northeast corner, and the Blue Mirror Grill, in the remainder. The Electronics Corner is an open plan, two bays wide, with storage area behind the south wall.

The Blue Mirror occupies space originally allocated for five commercial stores. Three long dining rooms and a small service kitchen are located on the first floor.

The restaurant office is located on the mezzanine level, along with liquor room.s and dressing room. Any mechanical equipment can be reached in the catwalk area located on this level.

The second floor occupied by the Blue Mirror Grill includes a preparation kitchen with access to storage areas, another kitchen (with a dumbwaiter), and a rear staircase in the southeast corner of the building exiting at the first floor kitchen of the Blue Mirror. This staircase also provides access to the roof. The second floor over the Electronics Corner is used as storage and mechanical equipment for the Blue Mirror.