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The Story of Russian Oligarch Oleg Deripaska’s Mansion

Billionaire Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska's mansion at 2501 30th St. NW was raided by the FBI last week. Everyone's Googling around for details on Deripaska, but naturally, we're more interested in the history of the property. So that's what we dug into.
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Billionaire Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska’s mansion at 2501 30th St. NW was raided by the FBI last week. Everyone’s Googling around for details on Deripaska, but naturally, we’re more interested in the history of the property. So that’s what we dug into. How about a brief “If Walls Could Talk” on the now-notable home, just down the street from the former Embassy of Iran.

The current structure is not the original structure, sadly. It was raised to be replaced by the current gaudy renaissance mansion, built in the late 1980s by Herbert Haft. Remember him? Remember Dart Drug? He owned that. We brought him up in a post about rebuilding Columbia Heights and the urban renaissance that didn’t happen then.

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Building Permit Issued

On January 1st, 1928, a building permit was issues and mentioned in the Washington Post stating that the owner, Scott P. Appleby Jr. was to erect a two-story brick addition to the front of the building at an estimated cost of $14,000, which would be about $230,000 today.

Building permit mentioned in the Washington Post

Trophy Explosion Costs Boy’s Hand

Here’s a tragic story from the Washington Post printed on March 29th, 1932. James Scott Appleby, the son of the owners, tragically lost his right hand in an explosion while playing with explosive shells in his father Scott’s trophy room. Maybe don’t keep explosives in your home?

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A cartridge that exploded in his hand while he was playing with it yesterday afternoon caused James Scott Appleby, 10, of 2501 Thirtieth street, to lose his right hand in an amputation operation at Emergency Hospital.

Below is the article from the newspaper.

Paintings Missing from Ransacked Home

What’s more notable than the story is the date it was published, December 7th, 1941. World War II history buffs (and hopefully everyone) will remember that as the date which will live in infamy.

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Evidently, the Appleby family were in Arizona, leaving their home to a caretaker. The man had reported the house was broken into and “furnishings generally upset.” I imagine the home furnishings were also “generally upset” after the FBI paid a visit last week.

Below is a clip of the article from the Washington Post.

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S.B. Appleby Dies at 85

The original home was built by Scott Appleby in 1926 for his family, which included his young son James who lost his hand in the accident. James would eventually live in the home with his family.

Below is the obituary from the senior Appleby’s death in 1965.

Originally from Augustaa, Georgia, Appleby was a wealthy and prominent member of Washington society, being a member of the Columbia Country Club, the University Club and trustee of American University.

Haft Knocks Down Original Tudor-Style Mansion

As we mentioned, the current structure isn’t the original one. That was knocked down in the 1980s to make way for a monster home built of prefabricated concrete to resemble a renaissance home. Neighbor called it “a little mini-Versailles” at the time, clearly unhappy about it’s imposing presence in their posh part of Washington.

Below is an excerpt from the article in the Washington Post covering the controversial construction project.

In 1985, Dart Group Chairman Herbert H. Haft stunned residents of an elegant Northwest Washington neighborhood by paying $1.7 million for the English Tudor mansion at 2501 30th St.–and then demolishing it.

As a reference point, $1.7 million in 1985 is about $2.5 million today. And then, he put $4 million into constructing the new home. The story continues below.

From the outside, Haft’s new home has evoked a mixture of admiration and disdain. “This thing is gauche. Someone said it was a monument to his ]Haft’s] own bad taste,” said Nell McCracken, a longtime resident who moved out of the neighborhood in late 1986 but returned to visit a friend last week.

Haft’s sharpest critic, Ribeth C. Appleby, the widow who sold him the Tudor mansion in June 1985, has stayed away from the construction site. “I don’t want to see what he’s done. I wouldn’t go by to see that monstrosity for anything in the world,” she said. Appleby, widow of financier James Scott Appleby, still fumes at the memory of her old home reduced to rubble.

She said that had she known that Haft would raze the 30-room house built for the Appleby family in 1926, she never would have sold it to him.

There was a bit of coverage of the razing and local reaction to taking the old home down.

The House is Big. Really Big.

In a May, 2003 Washington Post article mentioning Billionaire Rafik Hariri’s desire to build a 103,667 square foot house (why?) this property was listed as one of the largest in the region. Rafik was the Prime Minister of Lebanon and a billionaire. Also, he was assassinated in 2005 by a Hezbelloh truck bomb in Beirut.

Below is the table of top homes by size, with 2501 30th St. NW being listed as the third-largest in the District.

WASHINGTON, DC – The Russian Embassy residence 2501 30th Street NW in Washington, DC Tuesday November 21, 2017. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
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