History of the Cady-Lee

Built in 1887, the Cady-Lee is the grandest of all of Takoma's elegant Victorian houses built in what, by the 1880s, had become the fashionable new commuter suburb of DC. Designed by Leon Dessez, the architect who also designed Admiralty House (now the official residence of the Vice President), the Cady-Lee was built by Washington real estate and insurance salesman Henry Cady and his wife, Lucinda.
 
One hundred fifteen years later, the Cady-Lee is now the organizational home of the Forum for Youth Investment. The Cady-Lee, a magnificent Queen Anne Victorian, is a National Register Historic Property. According to Takoma Park architect Paul Treseder, "the mansion is 'rare,' not only because 'it is one of the most elaborate houses ever built in the area,' but because it has 'the original interior settings'" (Washington Post, Oct. 16, 1999).
 
The Cady-Lee has 22 rooms, 50 windows, seven gables, three expansive floors, a full basement and a turreted sleeping porch. It boasts 12-foot ceilings, carved oak moldings, six original mantels and a Tiffany-style stained glass window on the landing of the two-story oak staircase. It sits on half an acre of land at the Piney Branch Road/Eastern Avenue gateway to the District of Columbia. The home has been featured in Historic Preservation magazine and twice on the cover of the Washington Post's Weekend section.
 
The Cady-Lee has only had three owners in its long life. The property stayed in the Cady family (view the Cady family tree) until 1975 when Mary Cady Lee, daughter of Henry and Lucinda, died at the age of 94. Mary had not been able to maintain the family home's grandeur in her later years. She divided it into four apartments, which she shared with elderly relatives. The property was almost lost to the community after her death. The owner of the next-door apartments attempted to buy the property to raze the house and expand his complex, but local residents fought the proposal and secured the historic registry designation.
 
In 1977, the Cady-Lee was purchased by Gerald and Sandra Kurtinitis, who began to restore it, mostly with their own hands. Eventually, however, the restoration effort became too large for them.
 
In 2000, the house was sold to Frances Phipps, a restoration specialist who lives in Takoma Park, Md., who took on the painstaking task of restoring the property. In May 2002, the Forum for Youth Investment purchased the Cady-Lee from Phipps. Both Phipps and Historic Takoma had hoped that a single family would buy the house, but this proved to be a challenge. Karen Pittman and Merita Irby, the Forum's co-founders, convinced all concerned that the Forum was the ideal owner. Nearly half of the Forum staff, including Karen and Merita, live in the Takoma neighborhood.
 
The upper floors and lower-level of the Cady-Lee house the Forum staff and equipment. The first floor has been furnished to provide meeting space for Forum events. In May 2003, the Forum began to make the space available to other nonprofits eager to escape hotel meeting rooms. Forum staff are available to help organizations plan retreats, meetings and events. To ensure the long-term maintenance and preservation of the property, the Forum invites you to become a Friend of the Cady-Lee.