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The Warren Brothers

Monroe and R. Bates Warren were the first developers to build new co-ops for general sale in the Washington area. Tilden Gardens, at $3 million, was their grandest and most expensive undertaking. The Warren Latch Key was a promotional publication. Click on the image to read the September, 1930 edition, which was all about Tilden Gardens.

The Development Plan

The architects' original development plan for Tilden Gardens specified that three and a half of the campus’ five acres would be set aside for “one of the most beautiful landscaped gardens and grounds in this part of the country.” For a close-up, click on the image above.

Harry Truman Slept Here

Harry and Bess Truman were Tilden Gardens' most famous residents. They lived here twice in the 1930s. Read all about them by clicking on the image above.

The Tilden Café

The Tilden Gardens Café opened for business at 3000 Tilden Street, N.W. in 1929 and remained in business until 1970. For a close-up of the grand opening menu, click the image above.

Selling the Concept

The Warren brothers invested heavily in advertisements to tout the advantages of co-op living. The campaign paid off and initial sales of units were robust. Click on the image above to see the calculations they used in 1931.

Our History

ilden Gardens was built on a plot purchased from the Chevy Chase Land Company, which had acquired much of the real estate along what is now upper Connecticut Avenue in the late 19th century. After 1907, when the world’s largest concrete bridge was constructed over Rock Creek, Connecticut Avenue was extended northward and the adjacent lands were opened for development. The heavily wooded tract of land, nearly 300 feet higher than downtown Washington, promised spectacular views of the capital and relief from its intense summer heat.

The builders, Monroe and R. Bates Warren, were pioneers in the development of cooperative residences in the District of Columbia. They cut Sedgwick and Tilden Streets, N.W. through, extending Tilden to Reno Road, N.W., and created a five-acre, triangular plot of land immediately south of what was then the National Bureau of Standards. Their vision of seven buildings, each in the shape of a Greek cross, was later modified slightly, and six Tudor-style buildings designed by the architectural firm of Parks and Baxter and Harry L. Edwards rose on the site between 1927 and 1930. The 210 cooperative apartments each featured two or three exposures, and were appointed with nine-foot ceilings, enclosed sun rooms, French doors, crown moldings and oak floors. They also boasted electric refrigerators, radio outlets, built-in ironing boards and incinerators. Each building also featured garages, some of which were fitted with Washington’s first automatic doors.

The convention was for developers to devote approximately 80% of a tract of land to apartment buildings and 20% to open space. The Warren brothers reversed this practice in Tilden Gardens, setting aside only one and a half of the five acres for the buildings themselves. Landscape designer E. H. Bauer left the grounds in as natural a state as possible. “The hungry maws of the steam shovel were not allowed to mar the high wooded land,” the Washington Post declared. “Instead, the natural contours were retained and the buildings so placed as to leave undisturbed the towering oaks, elms, maples, tulip poplars, locust and dogwood trees that now afford shade and seclusion to the grounds.” To these were added shrubs and flower beds as well as a timber pergola, a reflecting pool and gravel walks, plus three terraced approaches from different directions.

Cooperatives were less popular, and less understood in Washington than in other large cities like New York and Chicago, and the Warren brothers invested heavily in a series of advertisements in local newspapers to tout the advantages of co-op living. The campaign paid off and initial sales of units were robust. Their idea was for each building to be incorporated as a separate cooperative after completion, and the first two buildings in the complex followed this plan. The Great Depression occurred mid-way through construction, however, and while it did not stop construction, it did slow sales, forcing the developers to rent out units in the remaining buildings for most of the 1930s. In 1939, these buildings combined to form a third cooperative, Tilden Gardens, Inc. The corporation has been managed since that time by a board of directors to which owners in each building elect representatives.

Asking prices in the F and G building at Connecticut and Sedgwick, the last to be completed, ranged from $7,000 to $18,500 with a 20% down payment and monthly payments as low as $42 plus the maintenance charge. The main building at 3000 Tilden featured a public restaurant, two private dining rooms and a small ballroom. The dining room opened its doors in 1929 and did business until 1970. The space was then rented for many years by the Daughters of the American Revolution, and in 2005 was converted into an apartment.

“In location, environment, beauty of surroundings, an apartment home in Tilden Gardens leaves nothing to be desired,” the Warren brothers declared in a 1929 Washington Post advertisement. “The economic advantages, the comforts and conveniences of this type of apartment home residence speak for themselves.” More than 80 years later, these words are no less true today.

Adapted from James M. Goode’s Best Addresses: A century of Washington’s Distinguished Apartment Houses (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1988), pp. 256-62 and other sources.

© Tilden Gardens, Inc., 2011