Logan Circle duplex lures GWM couple back to the city

by Chord Bezerra
Published on October 2, 2003, 12:00am | Comments

Want history? Here's a 2BR, 2BA condo on Logan Circle built by the son of a president. After years of rumored ill-repute and general ramshackleness, this duplex is reborn as an ultramodern abode for a domestically partnered GWM couple, with a knack for finishing sentences.

With retirement close at hand Bailey Walker and Jim Spreda knew it was time to trade in their SUV and get out of the ‘burbs and back in the city. They settled on a Logan Circle duplex that had caught their eye nearly 30 years before.

JIM: We had known about this house for many years -- it was standing in ruin for years. It was in litigation with two lawyers who owned the place. They had some sort of argument and one was living in one half of the building and one was in the other half. We used to call it the Faded Lady because of all the weeds up in front. But when all that was reconciled it finally came up for renovation.

BAILEY: There was a rumor that at one time the building was a brothel, but that's just a rumor. It was built by Ulysses S. Grant Jr. -- President Grant's son -- in 1877 as a duplex. He lived in [the right half] for a couple of years and his widowed mother-in-law lived on the side for a while.

JIM: It still has the features of an old house, even though it's ultra modern on the inside. If you drop an ice cube out of the freezer, it rolls all the way down the floor.

BAILEY: There isn't a level floor in the house. The D.C. Eagle is famous for Wooden Nickel Night. They give you all these wooden nickels that you can redeem them for more drinks. If you look around all our furniture is leveled out...

JIM: ...with the wooden nickels. [Laughs.]

BAILEY: If we didn't have the nickels the whole place would be tilting. [In the kitchen] There are lots of whimsical, weird little things in here. Most of those are presents from my mother, who has a bizarre sense of humor. She's from the South, one of the original Steel Magnolia types. Her name is Mary Katherine and she's got this real Southern accent. She gave me this big martini glass for my birthday because she knew I loved martinis. The thing that I didn't put in there is the collection of floating candles that look like olives.

[In the living room] There are seven windows in the living room alone and they're not small windows. They're huge.

JIM: These lamps outside in front of the house are are very, very bright. They glare into the windows and we have to pull down the blinds to watch TV, otherwise we're looking right into the lamps.

BAILEY: I thought we had it solved one night. About three in the morning there was a terrific crash -- a car came off P Street, hit the light pole and dragged the whole thing halfway around the circle. They smashed it to bits. I said, "Well, that's one way of taking care of it." It was gone for about a year and a half. Then, sure enough, D.C. came in and put in a nice brand new light...

JIM: ...that's even brighter than the other one.

BAILEY: [In the guest room] A friend of ours, John, who passed away several years ago, custom-built this bed as a bondage bed. It was in the basement apartment of another friend of ours on 16th street who was selling his house and getting rid of the bed. So I said, "I'll buy it." I didn't think it was going to be possible to get it into this room. We had to have someone come in and cut it in two with a saw. You can see the cut right here. And he cut six inches out of the height because it was too high. Then we had it reassembled up here. It's a great place to store a lot of stuff.

[In the master bedroom] The ukata [a Japanese robe] was given to us by a friend who plays in the Washington Opera Orchestra. The Kennedy Center Opera was on tour in Japan last summer. He brought back two of those, one for each of us. That big wall was so huge we just put it up there. I think a more ceremonial one is more typical for display, but I still like the simple geometric look of it. I think it looks cool up there.

JIM: The Japanese might laugh at us, and wonder why we have a bathrobe on the wall.

BAILEY: Here's our domestic partnership certificate. I don't know how many people in D.C. ever took advantage of the law -- they held up the law in Congress for a long time.

JIM: We're number 34.

BAILEY: It's legal recognition that we are a family unit. We're not married, but we're a family unit.

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