The Secret of the Cosmos

by Editorial

The early mansion-ization of Dupont Circle… and how one “palace builder” avoided a gypsy’s curse.

by Donna Evers

Mary Scott Townsend's living room

Mary Scott Townsend's living room

In the late 1800’s, at the  advent of Washington’s Gilded Age, a group of developers  got together and began buying land around what is now Dupont Circle, for the bargain price of 60 cents a foot. Although it sounds unbelievably cheap, at that time the area was a marshy wasteland nicknamed “The Slashes” after the foul-smelling Slash Creek that ran through the area and served as a general dumping ground. This “California Syndicate” of wealthy  investors got interested when they heard that Boss Shepherd, head of the Board of Public Works, was buying land there and planned to build roads, streets and infrastructure. So, over the next twenty years, the area went from being mud flats in the middle of nowhere to becoming the social center of the city, as the Western gentlemen who followed Boss Shepherd‘s lead settled in to build their dream houses.

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