After an intensive search for Totten’s original notes and drawings uncovered nothing, Reeder and her team got creative and, carefully, excavated under the heavy stone building with a geo-technical crew. “We found hundreds of big concrete piles that each went down for 50 feet,” she recalled. “Totten had installed the piles for building support for a sandy property that was slanting and eroding down into Rock Creek Park.”
Inside, the tedious restoration of the mansion’s 40,000 square foot interior had also begun. “For the first six months, a team of painters armed with Q-tips did nothing but meticulously took off layers of paint from walls, wood and plaster.” In fact, the most extensive part of the restoration is not visible to visitors: “Behind these walls is a whole new house,” says Reeder, “There’s a completely new electrical and heating and cooling system that can handle 500 people in the hottest, most humid day in August.”
While Reeder got her hands dirty outside and behind walls, distinguished Washington interior designer Aniko Gaal Schott – known for her work in the Hungarian and Dutch Residences among other embassy properties – was tasked with breathing new life into the residence interiors.