The Wardman Flats are the first large-scale development project of DC's most notable developer, Harry Wardman (1872-1938). Throughout the 1890s, Wardman transitioned from carpenter to builder, largely building residential rowhouses for other developers. He also built "sanitary housing," consisting of two-story duplexes, for the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company (WSIC). By 1899, Wardman made his foray into the developer field by building two frame houses on speculation in Brightwood. Over the next few years, Wardman would operate as developer on several other small projects, while continuing his association as builder with other developers.
In 1902, Wardman undertook his first major development project, the Wardman Flats, consisting of several groups of twenty-seven rowhomes. Built by Wardman and designed by Nicholas R. Grimm, the buildings were all designed as two-unit flats for two families, with one on each floor. Unlike the earlier sanitary houses that Wardman built for WSIC that had two separate entrances, these flats were creatively designed with only one entrance, giving the flats the outward appearance of being single-family dwellings. By building Wardman Flats, Wardman established, for the first time, a system of construction with an economy of scale and vertical integration that came to be known as "the Wardman method" and defined Wardman's success as a developer. Wardman Flats catapulted Wardman into the development world and contributed importantly to a city-wide boom in the construction of flats. By 1905 Wardman became a developer exclusively. He developed and built so extensively over the next several decades that at his death in 1938, it was estimated that ten percent of the District’s population lived in a building constructed by him.
The Wardman Flats were built at a time of growth in the federal government and a need to house the growing numbers of government workers. This growth included both white and blue-collar workers, who could not afford to buy single-family dwellings. Nonetheless, they aspired to housing that met modern standards of comfort and sanitation, and some social standing. Recognizing the limitations in the rental housing market—apartment buildings were not always family friendly, boarding houses were transient in nature, and "sanitary housing" was intended for the city's poorest residents—Wardman offered an important rental housing option by building rowhouse flats, and in the case of Wardman Flats, almost an entire block of them. Once completed, Wardman marketed his flats to investors who then rented them out. Overall, the residents of the Wardman Flats met the profile of the new wave of federal government workers; they were native-born whites who held white and blue-collar jobs.
DC Inventory: September 28, 2017
National Register: October 10, 2019