The Warne Ballroom. Photo by Benson Photography

Gilded Age

Gilded AgeHome to DC’s venerable Cosmos Club since 1952, the landmark Townsend House was designed in 1898 by architecture firm Carrère and Hastings with all the French flourishes popular during the Beaux Arts era. Its ornate style is exemplified in the Louis XV-style Warne Ballroom (above), which combines gilded details, Renaissance-Revival art, and sumptuous crystal-and-gold light fixtures.

After more than a century of use, the 1,000-square-foot space had become dingy and faded, challenged by outdated repairs and moisture issues. So the Cosmos Club Historic Preservation Foundation tapped John Milner Associates Preservation to restore the ballroom to its Gilded Age splendor.

Working with conservator John Canning Studios, JMA Preservation tackled gilding, ornamental plaster, and woodwork. The white-oak parquet floor was stripped and repaired by hand, while sconces were rewired and reset with crystal elements to match the chandelier. Layers of dirt and varnish were painstakingly removed from overdoor and ceiling paintings to restore their vibrancy. Now complete, the nine-month restoration received a 2017 AIA DC Merit award for Historic Resources/Preservation.

Restoration Architecture: John Milner Associates Preservation, MTFA Architecture, Arlington, Virginia.