Human habitation and use of the McLean Gardens property started in the Pre-Columbian era.  While the land was settled by Europeans in the late 1600's and its recorded history spans several centuries, the most colorful chapters come from the family that gave the property its present day name.

The McLean Gardens condominiums and Ballroom complex is situated in northwest Washington, D.C. on 23 acres of land that was originally part of a 3,000 acre tract of land granted to Colonel Thomas Addison and James Stoddert in 1695. The two men named the property 'Friendship,' supposedly in honor of the deep and lasting friendship between them.


Mansion Photo

Throughout the 1700's and 1800's the property was divided and subdivided and passed on to heirs of the original owners or sold off to other investors. In 1898 newspaper publisher John Roll McLean bought 75 acres of the land to build a summer retreat. McLean was a wealthy businessman who owned the Washington Post, the Cincinnati Inquirer, and numerous Washington properties and business interests. The town of McLean, Virginia is named for him and was one of the stops on his streetcar line that ran from downtown Washington to Fairfax County in the early twentieth century.

McLean commissioned noted New York architect John Russell Pope to design and build a lavish Georgian Revival house on the property, which McLean named 'Friendship' and used as his summer home. Pope himself is recognized for his design of more than two dozen notable Washington buildings, including the Jefferson Memorial and the National Gallery of Art.

In the years that followed, an 18-hole golf course, a cast iron swimming pool, tennis courts, stables, Italian gardens, giant fountains, and other luxuries were added to the McLean property. The entire estate was enclosed by a stone wall, and entry was gained through ornate wrought iron gates at 3600 Wisconsin Avenue.

Frequent visits by Presidents Harding and Coolidge, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, and other political notables soon made the estate the meeting place for Washington socialites during the early 1900's.

When John McLean died in 1916, the estate was inherited by his only son Edward Beale 'Ned' McLean and his wife, Evalyn Walsh McLean. Evalyn inherited vast wealth herself from her father's gold mine holdings. However, the McLeans spent their money as fast as they had inherited it. Throughout the Roaring Twenties, they bought exotic furs and foreign cars, went on wild escapades, and entertained in a grand style never seen before or since in Washington.


Ballroom Photo

Evalyn also owned lavish jewels, including the pear-shaped Star of the East diamond that she purchased for $120,000 and the infamous Hope Diamond, which she bought from Pierre Cartier for $154,000. It is rumored that she would even let her dog wear the diamond and romp around the estate!

Evalyn and Ned, their children, and their children's children suffered many misfortunes that were often blamed on the curse of the Hope Diamond, which was passed on from generation to generation. The diamond is now on display at the Smithsonian museum.

In the early 1930's the McLeans' marriage began to fall apart and Evalyn filed for divorce. She later withdrew her divorce suit and had Ned declared insane. When Ned died in 1941, the property reverted to the trustees of Ned's father, John McLean, and Evalyn received virtually nothing. Evalyn was forced to move out of the estate and made her home in Georgetown, where she continued to entertain, albeit in a much less spectacular manner.


Ballroom Photo In 1942 the estate's trustees sold the property to the federal government, which used the property to build McLean Gardens, a garden-style dormitory housing complex for the rapidly growing number of defense workers being hired during World War II. The original mansion was torn down in 1942 to make room for the new housing. After the war the government sold McLean Gardens in 1948 to the Hartford Insurance Company, which managed the complex as a rental property until 1970. McLean Gardens was eventually converted to condominiums in 1981 and today is considered one of the most desirable addresses in the nation's capital.


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