Bazelon-McGovern House

Constructed in 1957, the Bazelon McGovern House is historically significant not only as a home to two notable politicians, but as a symbol of larger trends in American art and architecture in the post-World War II era.

“Japanese architecture is a thoughtful meandering along a keyboard. Each note struck is another column; the intervals of silence are the spaces they delimit. Crescendos are rare, the art of the fugue is unknown, and to the Western observer there seems to be no reason why this architectural 'music' cannot continue forever across the landscape.” Arthur Dexter, MOMA Exhibition Catalogue

Located in the Palisades neighborhood of Washington, DC, the Bazelon-McGovern House stands as a significant example of Japanese architecture in the District. The home was so unique that only a few weeks after the original family moved into the space in 1957, the Japanese Embassy asked the residents for permission to host a tea ceremony in the home. Following the close of World War II, perceptions of Japan and Japanese individuals differed widely across the United States—however, the global cultural exchange of ideas and information following the war resulted in new trends and foreign artistic influences.

The Bazelon-McGovern House can be viewed as an example of this cultural fusion, described by the designer (architect J.P. Trouchaud) as a reflection of history crafted in the modern era: “So much of what we consider to be contemporary architecture is traceable to the ancient Japanese ways of using materials handling and space.” Originally created for David L. Bazelon, Chief Justice of the DC Court of Appeals, and his wife, Miriam, the two-story Modernist house is rectangular in form and accented with traditional Japanese architectural elements. Bazelon is historically significant for his numerous influential court decisions; for example, he is primarily associated with the Durham rule, which states that an accused person is not culpable for a crime if that crime was the product of mental illness or defect.

In 1969, Judge Bazelon sold the house in 1969 to Democratic Senator George McGovern and his wife, Eleanor. Senator McGovern challenged President Nixon’s presidency and ran against the incumbent in the 1962 1972 election. Notably, he ran on on an anti-war platform. Despite his ultimate landslide loss in the presidential race, he remained an influential figure in the Democratic party. The McGovern family sold the home in 1980, and since then various internal changes and updates have been implemented.

DC Inventory: February 25, 2021
National Register: April 30, 2021

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3020 University Terrace NW Washington DC, 20016