Photographed by Paul Piaget in May of 1960 and cataloged as HABS MO,96-SALU,54, these images shows what #21 Benton Place looked like right before the rehabbing and rebirth of Lafayette Square began. I looked at the west side of Benton Place earlier this week, which you can see here. The story of the house is an interesting one.
The house is built on Lots 36 and 37 of the Benton Place Addition, as we mentioned before laid out by Julius Pitzman at the behest of Judge Montgomery Blair. Lots 33-35 are also part of the property, and all five were bought from William Maurice, the jeweler and speculator who also owned Lot 27, for $13,000 on June 13, 1870 by General John Cavender. Like I’ve said before, I don’t think those three empty lots have ever had anything built on them, and they seem to have always been attached to #21. It then went through a multitude of different owners after he blew his money in real estate speculation, resulting in the house being sold on the Old Courthouse steps.
The house was built in 1871 by Gen. Cavender in the style of the time, the Second Empire, and its exterior is a little simpler now, it still maintains its original beauty.
Interestingly, this might have been one of the first houses bought due to a renewed interest in historic architecture. John A. Bryan, an author and architect associated with the National Park Service, bought the house in 1959, right before these photos were taken, and perhaps had begun to restore it to its original appearance.
It seems like it was a bit of a secret among him and his friends.