This picture of a venerable LeDroit Park house is not a Photoshop fantasy. Through a car window, I thought this might be a "flounder house". A flounder house suggests the fish with a featureless side because a blank wall supports the high end of its steeply-pitched roof.

The reason why many flounder houses exist is mysterious, probably because no one brags about a real estate investment gone sour. Often the builder intended the flounder to have a mirror-imaged twin to suggest a single very large house, but lacked the capital to build both units simultaneously. Eventually plans changed, the market stayed sour --- all the usual reasons why great dreams remain dreams, and the flounder stayed unmated.

I started to doubt the flounder house theory as I walked up T Street for a close look. Against a bright, overcast sky with a suggestion of spring thunderstorms to come, the house looked as if it might be the survivor of a vanished twin. I thought that if I walked past the house and looked back, I'd be able to see into the rooms like a child in back of a doll house. But here the "tall side" wall is intact and appears further protected by a coat of waterproofing cement, while the blue shroud shields the porch side from the weather. (2002)

A  reader brought to our attention that this house was once the home of civil rights leader Mary Church Terrell. A detailed account of its history is on-line at

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