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Hostage US Launches in DC

May 15, 2016

"He was an ordinary bloke from the Midlands when suddenly he found himself front and center of an international incident." It was 1996, and Rachel Briggs was a Geography major at Cambridge University when her uncle was kidnapped in Colombia while working as an engineer at a cement factory. Her family and friends sought to understand what had happened and how best to free him and three fellow hostages from Denmark, Germany and Columbia.


Fortunately, her uncle was released seven-and-a-half months later but Briggs had found her calling. Inspired by this incident, in 2001, Briggs wrote “The Kidnapping Business,” a report seeking answers. It was then, while at a London Think Tank, English humanitarian, author and former hostage Terry Waite saw her thesis and said, "We need an organization that supports family."


Terry Waite with families of hostages (Photo by: hostageuk.org) Terry Waite with families of hostages

Waite immediately recruited Briggs, and together, starting with $7,000, they “built it brick by brick and launched Hostage UK in 2004.” Providing financial help, counseling, trauma therapy and general assistance was their mission, to help families cope with a frightening and hopefully, once-in-a-lifetime event.


As Briggs explained, “Most kidnappings happen under the radar, and hostage families suffer at home in silence. They are the unreported victims of this terrifying crime. Hostage US helps families to survive and hostages to rebuild their lives – I can’t think of a more important mission to dedicate my life to.”


Modeled after Hostage UK, Hostage US, was launched in April 2016, with new Georgetown resident Rachel Briggs at the helm.


Offering “concierge service,” Hostage US helps families and former hostages navigate their way through the myriad of medical, psychiatric and financial challenges. Hostage US and Hostage UK are not involved in efforts to free hostages or negotiate, but provide a wealth of support services to help families survive and hostages get back to full health. 


Though there are no published statistics, Briggs estimates 200-300 US hostages are held every year. While the Middle East is a fertile kidnapping ground, says Briggs, “You’re more likely to be kidnapped in Mexico and South America than anywhere else."


Currently in fund-raising mode, the organization seeks donations through their website, and always needs professional expertise (legal, medical, financial, media). All Hostage US assistance is pro bono. 


For more information, visit Hostage US.

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Fabulous Freedom Place

May 10, 2016

"We're both honored to be selected to represent this seller," says Kerry Fortune Carlsen on behalf of herself and Kira Epstein, as she takes The Georgetown Dish on a VIP tour of Freedom Place, just listed by Washington Fine Properties. This historic Sheridan-Kalorama residence is documented to be the Presidential Guest House under the Kennedy administration at the time Blair House was being renovated.

(Photo by: homevisit.com)

Originally constructed in the Beaux Arts style circa 1910, by Charles Doolittle Walcott, the American Paleontologist who was Secretary of the Smithsonian Institute from 1907 to 1927 and encompassing nearly twelve thousand square feet of finished interior space, this exceptional ambassadorial residence, coined “Freedom Place” by its current stewards, is a unique property.   

The four prior occupants of this home include prominent world leaders in the fields of science and the arts, business and banking, philanthropy and world politics; each owner expanding and improving upon the property adding bespoke details with thoughtful care resulting in what has today become one of the most admired homes in DC.

Featuring 8 bedrooms, 6 full and 2 half baths, an elegant elevator to all floors, 5 fireplaces, staff accommodations, a heated pool with jacuzzi, and parking for 3 cars in the attached garage and driveway, the property boasts countless unique features. Among them several surfaces custom faux-painted by the renowned interior artisan Malcom Robeson, imported European millwork and paneling, the finest custom fixtures and fittings throughout, and radiant heat floors.

The residence is perfectly suited to the most formal entertaining, hosting significant diplomatic events, and housing world recognized art collections, as well as for more casual family gatherings.

(Photo by: homevisit.com)

Freedom Place has views from every window of the classic expansive DC skyline, the private neighboring gardens of Decatur House and the property’s own verdant and mature walled gardens which feature specimen plantings and the finest landscaping and hardscaping.

Entering the home from the virtually private cul-de-sac at 22nd and S Street and passing through a stately entry door with a fan light crown, on the first floor is a wide gallery receiving area.  This opens on one side to an intimate English-style living room featuring antique authentic French Regency entry doors, a wood burning fireplace, custom faux finishes and a balcony overlooking the walled garden and swimming pool.  On the other side, the warm and inviting sitting room offering another fireplace and three large windows, rebuilt from historic raised paneling imported from a Virginia English farmhouse where Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington. The embassy-sized 21 x 16.5 foot formal dining room is perfect for enjoyong meals with its wainscoting and double French windows overlooking the neighboring gardens. 

(Photo by: homevisit.com)

From the dining room is a wonderful example of an authentic Chinese Moon Gate in situ in the city and from here the balance of this floor leaves the carefully restored past behind and moves to the updated and recently completed chef’s kitchen.  No detail has been spared to create this culinary dream-space, suitable for gourmet meal preparation as well as family dinners, featuring a remarkable custom commissioned copper vent hood stretching the width of the center island, a built in gas-fired wok and hand-made cabinetry with Asian inspired glass and exotic wood details.  From here, a glass walled solarium provides both, a living area, complete with interior water feature providing a magnificent transition from inside to outside and opening to the pool deck and walled garden. 

A causeway connect the historic home to the more recently constructed award-winning 3 level carriage house.  There, a completely private guest suite with full bath, butler’s pantry and juliette balcony overlooking the swimming pool, as well as an executive office suite and the home’s garage and parking.

Leading upstairs from the main entry gallery, an elegant a wide curved stairway with authentic ivory finial leads to the second level where a vast master suite with his and hers dressing areas encompass the entire floor.  The third level offers three more bedrooms, two full baths and access to the roof top gazebo room and covered deck allowing for the finest 360 degree city views in the area.   The entertainment level boasts casual spaces for intimate gatherings; a family room, a bar, an additional walled garden, a large laundry facility, staff quarters and the home’s mechanical room and wine cellar.

(Photo by: homevisit.com)

Near diplomatic residences and embassies, the distinguished twelve thousand square foot home enjoys a prominent location on a private peninsula overlooking the Decatur Terrace steps.  Locally referred to as the “Spanish Steps” - the delightful four tiered stone and concrete staircase, framed by ornamental lampposts and capped by a granite lion head fountain, was designed by Robert Cook and placed in 1911 on a steep strip of land deeded to the city by noted artist (and 3rd wife of Charles Walcott), Mrs. Mary Veaux Walcott.  The Steps were built to create a pedestrian link from S Street to Decatur Place and are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as is the entirety of Sheridan-Kalorama.       

Click here for a virtual tour.
For more information, contact Kerry Fortune Carlsen at 202.257.7447 or kerry.fortune@wfp.com and Kira Epstein at 240.899.8577 or kira.epstein@wfp.com
Kira Epstein and Kerry Fortune Carlsen (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Kira Epstein and Kerry Fortune Carlsen

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Georgetowners Kick Off House Tour in Style

April 21, 2016

The annual spring tradition of peeking into 10 amazing historic homes, the Georgetown House Tour, kicked off Wednesday evening with a lavish Patron’s Party at the home of Bill Dean.

Robin Jones, Jill Altman and Elizabeth Miller (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Robin Jones, Jill Altman and Elizabeth Miller

Frida Burling, Georgetown's own, created the Patron’s Party sixteen years ago to raise additional funds for the Tour. The first Patron’s Party was hosted by author Kitty Kelley

Kitty Kelley and Christian Zapatka (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Kitty Kelley and Christian Zapatka

This year's Hosts are Jill and Capt. Scott Altman. A veteran of four NASA space flights, Altman spent more than 50 days in space and commanded the final two Hubble servicing missions. He also flew F-14s in the movie “Top Gun.”

Bob Laycock and Tom Vogt (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Bob Laycock and Tom Vogt

When the women of St. Johns Episcopal Church ran the first tour 85 years ago, Georgetown had streetcars and Herbert Hoover was President. Today, St. John’s continues to welcome its neighbors and guests for a special day of touring, tea and music.  

Constance Chatfield-Taylor, Barbara Crocker and Amy Strobe (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Constance Chatfield-Taylor, Barbara Crocker and Amy Strobe

Patrons and host committee members mingled with party co-chairs Avery Miller and Elizabeth Miller and 350 (up one hundred from last year!) oh so chic guests.  


Ann Shack, Ray Kikulski and Ambassador Tatiana Gfoeller (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Ann Shack, Ray Kikulski and Ambassador Tatiana Gfoeller

Cocktails and champagne flowed freely as hors d'oeuvres were served under a tented patio and tree-lined pool area.

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

Inside, guests enjoyed an exquisite buffet and bar service while catching up with friends throughout the elegantly appointed, quintessential Georgetown residence. 

Michelle Seiver and Laurie Kusch (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Michelle Seiver and Laurie Kusch

The 2016 Georgetown House Tour is Saturday, April 23rd. Doors open from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm. 

Krista Johnson and Erica Schille (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Krista Johnson and Erica Schille

For tickets, visit Georgetown House Tour.

Dennis and Marnie Kenny with Joe and Hilary Gibbons (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Dennis and Marnie Kenny with Joe and Hilary Gibbons

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

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