History of the Shehan Mansion
An elegant blend of the Romanesque and Queen Anne styles, this spacious corner residence was built in 1885 for George A. Shehan, who owned a successful lumber company that was located on the present site of the Federal Triangle. To produce the design, he tapped into the creative genius of W. Bruce Gray, a transplanted New York architect who often worked in partnership with local architect Harvey Page. Gray & Page were responsible for many other iconic buildings, such as the old Army and Navy Club and the Metropolitan Club. The pair sought out John McGregor for the construction, as he was the go-to master builder for the most elite architects in the Washington, D.C. area between 1885 and 1910. Astonishingly, the main house and the detached, two-story carriage house only cost approximately $25,000 to build. The current conservatory that connects the two structures was built in 1923.
Not surprisingly, the residence was presented in Washington: Houses of the Capital. The five-story tower was chosen as the featured architectural element, for its distinctive wrought-iron balcony and intricate detail work.
The Shehans occupied the home for 18 years, until George passed away in 1903. At that time, the owner of the adjoining home, Theodore D. Wilson, took advantage of the opportunity to purchase. As the chief builder for the US Navy Department, Wilson understood the value of the Shehan Mansion’s construction and convenient location. It was not long until he leased the property to the Bolivian government, for use as the home of the Bolivian foreign minister. Photos also show that the residence was once the site of the Embassy of Ecuador. In 1923, the mansion was converted into a grand hotel, the Bolivian Club, by Robert L. Pyle, a fixture in the local business community. The Pyle family purchased the adjoining house in 1951 and connected it to the existing hotel. This made the Bolivian Club a prominent structure with 42 bedrooms and 22 bathrooms. The Bolivian Club was converted into an office building in 1977, a state in which it remained until 1992, when it was purchased by a new owner. A year later, the two homes were transitioned into their original arrangement as two separate residences, and the corner house was converted back into a residence.