Surry Hill. So reads a plaque at the end of the long, winding private road that leads to the crown jewel of McLean, Virginia: the 18,000-square-foot mansion that Republican lobbyist Ed Rogers and his wife Edwina call home. To get there from Washington, you drive across the Potomac River and along a parkway that, in the summer, is canopied by lush green trees. Shortly before the guarded entrance to the CIA, you turn off McLean’s main road and then down a private lane, passing through brick gate posts adorned with black lanterns and into a grand cul-de-sac. A massive brick Colonial with majestic, white Georgian columns looms above a perfectly manicured lawn. Tall trees surround the house; no other buildings are in view. But the best way to appreciate the grandeur of the estate—originally zoned for nine separate homes and featuring streams, ponds, and a pair of waterfalls—is from above. The Rogerses once hired a helicopter to take aerial photos of the property, which they converted into postcards—a project requiring a paranoid, post-September 11 CIA’s grudging approval.
On a recent summer afternoon, Edwina, a petite Alabaman with a demure Southern charm, opened the door to her house. Edwina doesn’t know the total number of rooms in Surry Hill, but an elevator services the house’s three floors. Upstairs, Edwina’s bathroom (one of eight) features a small fireplace by the tub. But she is proudest of her home’s dazzling—and eclectic—art collection. “We do a lot of lobbying for foreign governments. I just can’t imagine any country we haven’t gotten a piece from,” she explains. Sashaying from room to room like a docent, she points out the eight-foot steel-plated pantry door from Rajasthan, the light fixtures from Venice, and the four Taiwanese stone statues, each weighing 300 pounds, embedded in her dining room wall. (The floor had to be reinforced with steel to support them.) Her most delicate pieces are housed in their own “art gallery”—a white-walled room where ancient figurines, pottery, and pieces of jewelry lay on cream-colored stands under Plexiglas. “We hired the company that does the Smithsonian’s display cases,” Edwina explains. One tiny statue, from Peru, is labeled:
Within Republican circles, Surry Hill is an iconic place—a Shangri-la for those who toil on Capitol Hill and along K Street. (“Have you seen Surry Hill?” Republicans are apt to say. “You’ve got to go.”) It’s also a testament to the rewards awaiting ambitious conservatives in modern Washington, where unprecedented wealth is being made from the business of politics. Just ask the Rogerses, who have ridden a boom in Washington lobbying during the last decade. Edwina, a former Republican Hill staffer and Bush White House aide, worked at the Washington Group, chaired by former GOP Representative Susan Molinari, whose clients have included Boeing and the government of Bangladesh. Ed, a former aide in the Reagan and first Bush White Houses and a regular on shows like MSNBC’S “Hardball,” co-founded the powerhouse lobbying firm of Barbour Griffith & Rogers in 1991. Last year, the firm—whose clients include Eli Lilly, Verizon, Lorillard Tobacco Company, and the governments of India and Qatar—reported revenue of $19 million. Built from these lobbying riches in 2002, Surry Hill is the psychic center of McLean. And McLean, in turn, has become the psychic center of the Washington Republican establishment.
McLean covers just 18 square miles and has a population of 40,000. But it is packed with the people who impeached Bill Clinton, elected George W. Bush, launched the Iraq war, and have now learned to make millions from their association with government. Some are famous—people like Bill Kristol and Colin Powell, Scooter Libby and Newt Gingrich, several current and former Republican senators, and Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. Dick Cheney once owned a McLean townhouse—until he sold it to Bush’s 2000 campaign manager, Joe Allbaugh. Less well-known are the countless lobbyists, lawyers, and businessmen whose names rarely turn up in The Washington Post and who like it that way—people like super-lobbyist Ken Duberstein, Ronald Reagan’s former chief of staff; Frank Carlucci, former chair of the Carlyle Group, the notorious global private equity firm with close ties to the Bush family; and Dwight Schar, a construction mogul who is currently finance chairman of the Republican National Committee.
These people live in a leafy suburb among landmarks that neatly represent the modern GOP era: McLean Bible Church, a holy destination for GOP senators and Bush aides; the storied Saudi Arabian ambassador’s personal compound; and the forbidden palace of CIA headquarters. (“Never accidentally turn in,” Edwina cautions. Legend has it that many an illegal-immigrant housekeeper who did has never been seen again.) When Bush rushed to open a presidential transition office during the 2000 Florida recount, Cheney had his daughter scout out locations in McLean, and it was from there that the Bush team would lay its symbolic claim to the White House.
Conventional wisdom has been slow to assimilate this new reality. In the parlance of Beltway-bashing populists, “Georgetown” is the sneering shorthand used to describe Washington’s clueless, cosseted elites. That shorthand, however, reveals how little these critics really understand contemporary Washington. Georgetown—and the establishment that resided there—faded from importance long ago. Over the last decade of growing Republican dominance in the capital, a new establishment has risen up to replace it. In a sense, McLean is the new Georgetown.
As Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski faced down the Soviet Empire with nerves of steel. As he discusses what’s become of his neighborhood, however, the 25-year McLean resident seems at wit’s end. “When I moved in, there were more or less fields as my neighbors,” Brzezinski explains in his sharp, no-nonsense cadence. “I had a barn, my kids had three horses, and they would go riding in the vicinity.” Those were days when McLean was a pastoral refuge from the hectic capital. The Kennedy boys played touch football on the lawn of Hickory Hill, Ethel Kennedy’s estate just off McLean’s Route 123. And, perhaps a mile from what is now Surry Hill, Gore Vidal and his half-stepsister Jackie Bouvier frolicked around Merrywood, the bucolic 46-acre riverside home of Jackie’s stepfather, Hugh Auchincloss. To this day, McLean lacks a proper downtown.
But the houses! “The vicinity is dominated by these…McMansions,” harrumphs the 78-year-old Brzezinski of the multimillion-dollar homes that are “pretentious, pompous, much too large for the typical family of two adults and one child—plus the requisite visiting divorce lawyer.” Most galling to this former Harvard professor are what he sees as touches of fake class. Those despised McMansions are “totally phony, in that they imitate European aristocratic mansions, chateaus, and castles,” he grouses.”The height of absurdity being reached by some that were clearly designed for northern Europe, with spires and roofs to deal with the snowfalls, but these are now located on postage-stamp lots in semi-tropical Northern Virginia.” The biggest culprits of all, Brzezinski says, are the posh gated communities and “exclusive” developments. “If you just drive around, you will see one development after another with absolutely phony names, evoking some connection with British aristocracy—or Irish aristocracy—and now increasing Francophone tones: Le Reserve,” he hisses.
If Brzezinski is a bit ornery, it may be because he’s one of the few McLean residents who can recall life in old Georgetown. Soon after coming to Washington in 1977, Brzezinski lived briefly in the N Street home of legendary Georgetown hostess Pamela Harriman and her statesman husband, Averell—and for years after, he became a regular at elite Georgetown dinner parties. The Georgetown salon set didn’t need to make money; they already had it. They were drawn to Washington by a mandarin’s fascination with power and by a Skull and Bones-ian spirit of noblesse oblige. Even their architectural aesthetic befitted a class with nothing to prove. They generally lived in nineteenth-century townhouses that were cramped and even shabby. Dining rooms were small, lending an intimate quality to the salon atmosphere, and no one had to worry about driving home. Hostesses like Susan Mary Alsop, Harriman, and, later, Katharine Graham brought together policy wonks, socialites, intellectuals, and political operatives for nights of boozy, freewheeling conversation. Throw in its collection of French restaurants and antique shops and, to a crowd that hailed from blue-blood Northeastern cities like Boston and New York, Georgetown looked and felt like home. To this day, says one prominent Washington journalist, people in Georgetown “hate the idea of commerce driving social affairs. No one cares how much you make—they care about what you do.”
The Georgetown era began to fade in the 1990s, hastened by the demise of the Democratic Congress in the 1994 elections. Harriman died three years later. And six months after Bush’s 2001 inauguration, so did Graham. No true successors ever emerged. Today, many of Georgetown’s best-known residents are media luminaries like George Stephanopoulos, Maureen Dowd, and Bob Woodward—none well-known for their entertaining. One of the few remaining power hosts in Georgetown happens to be a Republican, C. Boyden Gray (whose mansion was memorialized as the site of a cocktail party scene in the movie Traffic); but Gray, it’s worth noting, is a Harvard-educated patrician who may have more in common with Averell Harriman than with Ed Rogers. “The whole Georgetown liberal inner sanctum, I just don’t think that exists anymore,” says Sally Quinn. “That whole little social class has just disappeared.”
In recent years, a new one has replaced it. Beyond their cultural preference for the suburbs, Washington’s cadre of movement conservatives had no interest in joining the Georgetown set—they had come to Washington to defeat it. Certainly, these post-Reagan conservatives—many from the South and the Sunbelt—hailed from a different class. Edwina Rogers, for instance, grew up in the rural Alabama town of Wetumpka. (“Dirt road, no telephone.”) Ed is from Birmingham. (They met when she was a University of Alabama law student and he was working for the 1984 Reagan campaign.) As Edwina explained it, “Georgetown is more for the social elite, the intellectual elite. The people in McLean are more from humble backgrounds, state universities, not coming in from Yale or Harvard. It’s middle-American nouveau riche.”
Indeed, the migration of power from Georgetown to McLean represents the shift in American politics in microcosm. The Northeastern liberal elite drawn to the urbane sophistication of Georgetown has receded. In its place has risen a new conservative striver class—more likely to have grown up in Texas (or, as with the Rogerses, Alabama)—that has set itself up as landed gentry across the Potomac River in McLean.
But it’s not merely political power that has accumulated in GOP circles over the last decade-plus. It’s also money. The modern Republican brand of corporate conservatism, embodied in the capital by Tom DeLay’s K Street Project, cultivated a climate of unprecedented access—and therefore profit—for lobbyists. If the Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham scandals didn’t tell you everything you need to know, consider some statistics: Between 2000 and 2005, the number of registered Washington lobbyists doubled to about 35,000—and overall spending on lobbying grew by 30 percent, to $2.1 billion. A well-connected congressional aide can easily win a $300,000 starting salary on K Street.When John Boehner became House majority leader last winter, watchdog groups pointed out that a whopping 14 of his former aides had gone on to K Street lobbying jobs. Meanwhile, where it was once considered tacky for former members of Congress to lobby, they now routinely cash in their access and know-how for seven-figure earnings. In Washington, the spirit of public service has been overtaken by the profit motive.
Much of that profit has followed the maturing conservative establishment into McLean. “You’re seeing now what I call the Gingrich Republicans, the revolutionaries-—all the staffers are in their early forties now, and they’re married; they’re moving off Capitol Hill,” says one former House GOP aide-turned-lobbyist. “And they’re deciding, OK, where am I going to be for the next 20 years. And, three-to-one, people move to McLean.” That helps to explain why McLean’s median income is among the highest in the country—topping such ritzy enclaves as Greenwich, Highland Park, and Malibu.
As incomes have risen, so have real-estate prices. Last year, the average price for a McLean home was $905,622—more than twice that in nearby Alexandria, Virginia. One property with the name of “Tall Oaks” was listed earlier this year for $7.2 million. Washington Life magazine described Tall Oaks as “an exquisite fenced and gated estate sited on 4.3 rolling acres,” capped by a 15,000-square-foot house featuring “[c]ast stone porches, slate and copper roof surfaces, mahogany wood doors, and French casement windows.” Another $7 million home is touted by one realtor as “the ultimate haute couture estate,…combining Jeffersonian authenticity [with] Versailles opulence.”
Such price tags may be aimed mainly at McLean’s booming CEO class, which includes the likes of homebuilder Joe Robert, AOL co-founder Jim Kimsey, and former AOL Chairman Steve Case. But plenty of its well-heeled Republicans can spend several million dollars with ease. Earlier this year, for instance, former Oklahoma Senator Don Nickles, who retired last year to found his own lobbying firm, the Nickles Group, dropped $2.7 million for what Washingtonian magazine described as “a five-bedroom, seven-bathroom Colonial” with “a conservatory, media room, and gourmet kitchen with a wine refrigerator.” And Spencer Abraham, who stepped down as energy secretary last year and promptly opened a “strategic consulting” firm, recently purchased an eight-bedroom home with, according to Washington Life, “an astounding eleven bathrooms, maid’s quarters, swimming pool and pool house.”
Of course, the true McLean titan isn’t content to move into someone else’s house. He tears it down and rebuilds it to far more epic specifications. The “dream house” business is booming, explains Larry Weinberg of McLean-based Bowa Builders. Weinberg’s customers expect the very latest in custom-home accoutrements—from “distributed audio-video throughout the house” to outdoor fireplaces and computerized lighting systems that can cost thousands. “We’re seeing much more elaborate pools and spas,” he adds.
“There’s definitely more money in Washington than there was twenty or thirty years ago,” agrees Fred Malek, a venture capitalist and Bush family intimate who managed George H.W. Bush’s 1992 presidential campaign and co-owned the Texas Rangers with George W. Bush. But Malek, who has lived in McLean since 1969, contends that people like Brzezinski overstate its gilding: “I see a lot of families with kids, greenery. It’s a wonderfully close-in suburb that offers an island of tranquility in a sea of turbulence.”
Of course, it’s natural to have that view when you live, as Malek does, on Crest Lane, among some ofMcLean’s poshest homes. One property here, said to have been rented by Queen Noor of Jordan, listed in 2003 for $11.5 million. A realtor’s brochure describes it as “a spectacular estate,” which “curves dramatically on the top of a hill. …Watch the American eagles glide by!” Other Crest Lane residents include governor-turned-lobbyist Frank Keating and Richard Darman, a former Reagan official who is now a senior figure at the Carlyle Group.
Malek’s house lies at the end of a long arching driveway that passes lush gardens. On a recent morning, he sat in his living room filled with antique furniture, a gigantic fireplace, and a stunning view of the Potomac churning over rocks below. “It’s pretty nice,” he said matter-of-factly.
Malek sat and chatted about life in McLean for a while. Then the phone rang. He took the call and returned a few minutes later. “One of my airplane’s engines had a problem. That was the mechanic.Fixed.”
Last May, not far from Malek’s house at the Saudi Arabian ambassador’s compound, Prince Turki Al Faisal, the Saudi kingdom’s new emissary to the United States, hosted a gala party. The scene, according to the descriptions of those who attended, was straight out of the film Syriana. White drapes and soft lighting lent the compound’s pool house a dreamy atmosphere for the gathering of a few hundred of Washington’s biggest names in politics and media: Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, George Tenet, Paul Wolfowitz, Bob Woodward, Ted Koppel, John Negroponte, Syrian ambassador to the United States Imad Moustapha, and TV-hollerer John McLaughlin, who pulled up in a silver Porsche.The enormous compound—with a 38-room main house, 12-bedroom staff house, tennis court, and guard house at its front gate—has long been the scene of Washington intrigue. Its last occupant, Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, used to informally host visitors like New York Times reporter Judith Miller and Tenet, who sometimes stopped off for a drink on his way home from CIA headquarters.Faisal’s gala didn’t run late—”there was no alcohol,” complains one attendee (unlike the more hedonistic Bandar, Turki forbids booze). But his obvious purpose of stroking Washington’s power elite had been served.
In the new McLean, socializing and lobbying are one and the same. An enormous amount of conservative hobnobbing is organized around fund-raisers or lobbyist-subsidized entertainment. Malek and his wife, Marlene, have hosted fund-raisers for Arnold Schwarzenegger, Olympia Snowe, George Allen, George Pataki, Arlen Specter, and George W. Bush. And events like Turki’s, designed to win favor and influence, are conducted on a massive scale. A notice in The Hill for last September’s installment of GOP lobbyist Tim Rupli’s annual Pig Pickin’ party expected around 500 guests, including several senior Capitol Hill staffers, who could enjoy a honky-tonk band and the roasting of three hogs.Alcohol was provided gratis by the DC-based wine and beer wholesalers’ associations. Indeed, the closest thing to an intimate Georgetown salon one can find in McLean may be regular dinners—including annual seder meals—hosted by Bush foreign policy aide Elliott Abrams and attended by such fellow neoconservatives as Bill Kristol and Paul Wolfowitz.
In this crowded field, Edwina Rogers holds her own, hosting as many as 400 guests at what she says are mainly fund-raisers for local arts and community groups. “My house is like a banquet hall,” says Ed.”We’ve had every kind of McLean fund-raiser.” But they can throw a power party, too. One 2003 gathering for former National Economic Council chief Lawrence Lindsey, under whom Edwina worked for a time, drew the likes of Alan Greenspan, former Commerce Secretary Don Evans (then a McLeanresident), and—are you ready for this, Joe Wilson?—Robert Novak, Scooter Libby, and Karl Rove.
The lobbying simply never stops in McLean. Even landing your children in the right school is a matter of getting access to the people with influence. McLean’s public schools are excellent, including Langley High, where average SAT scores approach 1200. But Edwina is determined to see her two children admitted to McLean’s private K-12 Potomac School, an 87-acre campus with a $22,000 tuition tag. And the lobbying for her small children has already begun. “We’re calling Terry [McAuliffe], we’re calling Dick Darman, saying, `Can you help us get in?’” she says.
That may not be so different from the anxiety of any well-meaning suburban mom. But, in a town where a fair share of parents have experience lobbying congressmen and foreign governments, looking out for their children can be intense, and there is expensive competition over the smallest things. Consider an annual custom at McLean’s Country Day preschool: Every year, Country Day holds an auction for the right to rename the small private drive that runs through its bucolic grounds. The bidding can be fierce. This year, the Rogerses squared off with developer Joe Robert. (Robert lives in a gated compound on the same dead-end lane as Colin Powell.) Edwina was determined that the lane be named after her daughter, Sabra. This was a matter of simple fairness: The previous year, the Rogerses had won the honor for their son, Haley (who is named after Ed’s former lobbying partner and now Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour). The Rogers-Robert bidding war wound up ballooning into the five figures. But, today, the sign in the school’s driveway reads SABRA LANE.
The Georgetown of old was clubby, but it was not highly partisan; its heyday coincided with the era of postwar political consensus. The culture of McLean, by contrast, seems built around a politicized Republican identity. Just ask Terry McAuliffe, one of the few prominent Democrats there.(Not shocking in McAuliffe’s case, given that, as a millionaire former business mogul and golf enthusiast, he is perhaps Washington’s most culturally Republican Democrat. He also arrived inMcLean in 1991, during a less conservative era.) “When we got out here, it was like animals in the zoo—’Guess who’s moved into the neighborhood?’” jokes the former Democratic Party chairman.McAuliffe was once stopped at a red light in the middle of town when a stranger got out of his car and berated his politics. During Mark Warner’s 2001 gubernatorial campaign, McAuliffe planted a large warner for governor sign on his lawn. “Every couple of nights someone would come out after one or two in the morning and spray-paint all kinds of awful things.” Each time, McAuliffe would replace the sign with a fresh one. “This went on no less than fifteen times!”
GOP graffiti artists were likely less brazen in decades past, when McLean had a more Democratic veneer. Ted Kennedy lived for years on McLean’s Chain Bridge Road, next door to the Saudi compound. But, in 1997, he sold his house and decamped to Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood.Ethel Kennedy put her Hickory Hill estate on the market for $25 million three years ago. (Though it has since been reduced to a mere $16.5 million, the problem being not the Kennedy name but rather that, by McLean standards, the historic house is rather shabby. “You literally have to put five to ten [million] into it,” says one neighbor.) And the magical Merrywood estate where Jackie Bouvier frolicked as a girl? In a perfectly fitting symbol of McLean’s larger transformation, it was purchased in 1999 by Carlyle Group executive William Conway. (Conway later sold it to AOL’s Steve Case for $24.5 million.)
Nowadays, it’s rare to spot a famous Democrat around McLean (although some remain, including House baron John Dingell and Senators Patrick Leahy and Byron Dorgan). By contrast, there’s a “Where’s Waldo” quality to the frequent sightings of big-name Republicans: It’s not at all uncommon to see Newt Gingrich pulling into Crown Books in his white SUV, Colin Powell buying shampoo at the CVS, or Dick Cheney purchasing 10EEE shoes at Johnston & Murphy (all actual sightings). McAuliffe recounts a recent Little League soccer game his daughter played with Liz Cheney’s children. It was a peaceful Saturday morning, and McAuliffe was chatting with the vice president’s daughter, who, naturally, lives in McLean, when he suddenly noticed a large motorcade roll into the parking lot. “Lo and behold, who comes down the hill? Dick Cheney!” After Cheney did what McAuliffe describes as a “double-take,” the two awkwardly slogged their way through some cordial chit-chat.
Even churchgoing has a political cast in McLean. Worshippers at Trinity United Methodist Church, just off McLean’s main drag, listen to sermons from pastor Kathleene Card, wife of former White House Chief of Staff Andy Card. (The church’s signage recently advertised a somewhat belated sermon on CHRISTIANITY & WORLD RELIGIONS: UNDERSTANDING ISLAM.) For evangelicals, there is McLeanBible Church, a $90 million complex that seats 2,400 parishioners. (“The Wal-Mart of churches,” one former church employee told the Post in 2004.) McLean Bible is led by the crusading Reverend Lon Solomon, who preaches a particularly doctrinaire and conservative gospel with the aid of elaborate mood lighting, 92 speakers, and the occasional fog machine. Solomon has attracted such prominent Republicans as Kenneth Starr, Dan Coats, Don Nickles, Don Evans, Senator John Thune, Senator Elizabeth Dole, and a clique of young Bush White House staffers. “It’s really because of Lon Solomon that I go,” the conservative Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, who sometimes takes notes during Solomon’s sermons, told the Post. “He does things that many others don’t do. He’s not afraid to say things and talk about political issues. He’s very pro-life and strong on opposing homosexual [marriage].” In one sermon during the Clinton impeachment, Solomon reportedly issued a thinly veiled Clinton-bashing spiel about how lying to the American people is wrong. That would be little surprise, given that Solomon is close to Ken Starr, to whom he sent encouraging personal notes during the Clinton inquisition. Perhaps because of Solomon’s fearless mixing of religion and politics, McLean Bible is a networking hub for young Washington conservatives, and many a GOP power couple has formed there. One McLean lobbyist, a former aide to Senator Phil Gramm named Jay Velasquez, told Roll Call that he met his future wife in the church’s lobby when she complimented his cowboy boots.
McLean’s schools also reflect the political culture. The Post recently said of the Potomac School—attended by two of Dick Cheney’s grandchildren—that “students who speak favorably of President Bush might be less likely to be hazed than at, say, Sidwell Friends,” Chelsea Clinton’s alma mater.Langley High, meanwhile, holds an annual day of mock Supreme Court arguments, which Ken Starr has overseen at least four times. Antonin Scalia, who has sent seven of his children to Langley, personally chose last school year’s winner.
In his 1995 memoir, Palimpsest, Gore Vidal recalls the time he spent as a boy at Merrywood. In his childhood, he writes, the estate was an idyllic, pastoral place: “a mock-Georgian brick house set among some forty acres of woods on the high Potomac palisades. From terraced lawns, there was a steep rocky drop to the river.” At the time, McLean was still a quiet refuge, and the Georgetown establishment was just beginning to emerge in earnest. Decades later, in the mid-’90s, Vidal returned to Merrywood for a BBC documentary on his life. He was startled by the changed landscape. “[N]ew houses everywhere,” he observed, somewhat haughtily:
The original forty acres have dwindled to five or six. The new owner—a real estate developer—has completely redone what was a rather chaste house in the Georgian style. Two wings have been added, and a turret sprouts mysteriously on the roof. …The interior is like a Las Vegas casino. Artworks of great singularity clutter expensive rooms. A ceramic near– life–size giraffe dominates a new end room. Also on view: dozens of heavy silver-framed portraits of Reagan and Bush and other Republicans to whom the owner has contributed some of the money their regime made it possible for him to make. …[I]t would have been far cheaper for the owner to build himself a Las Vegas casino rather than to wreck so deliberately and elaborately what was, in the words of Virginia’s senator [John Warner], ‘a historic house.’ An embroidered pillow says, better nouveau rich than not rich.… There is now a swimming pool near the house. Beside the pool, the gilded necks and heads of two giant plaster horses emerge from the earth like Pluto’s chariot, surging upward from Hades in pursuit of Persephone and the spring of the year—to put a classical gloss on all this horror. In front of the house, a half-dozen life-size plaster sheep, painted brown and white, await a plaster shepherd. If the 1 percent that own the country spend their money in this way....
Vidal does not complete the thought; there is no need. The whole of McLean completes it for him.McLean’s housing boom has left virtually no unclaimed or unspoiled land here--a large housing development now under construction off its main drag may be the last of its kind. But one oasis does remain in the midst of all McLean’s wealth and power. It is a green patch of land virtually across the street from Ethel Kennedy’s Hickory Hill estate. On a recent afternoon, Edwina Rogers pulled her silver Jaguar alongside it. The untended grass had grown long, and tree boughs drooped lazily overhead, scattering golden sunlight, and, for a moment, one could almost imagine the horses that might have peacefully wandered here decades ago. This pristine property is owned by Vice President Dick Cheney. When he is finished with government service, locals expect him to develop this land and to return, where he belongs, here in McLean.
“A prominent five-acre estate with approximately 25,000 square feet in McLean, Virginia, only minutes from the Nation’s Capital. The residence includes nine bedrooms, twelve full baths, five half baths, ample staff quarters, an elevator, six-bay garage (two of which accommodate limousines), designer marble and onyx and eight fireplaces. This is a very powerful home that exceeds all expectation. Truly a one-of-a-kind custom-built masterpiece. $16,500,000.” —From a Real Estate Section ad in the Wall Street Journal
The Ultimate Haute Couture Estate—”The Mansion on Bellview”
“Long admired for architectural integrity, combining Jeffersonian authenticity with Versailles opulence.Approximately 17,000 square feet, 35 rooms, 8 fireplaces, 13 baths, 3,000 bottle wine cellar, 2-story library (6,000 book capacity), embassy rooms, 14 foot and higher ceilings, bistro bar and dance floor, media room, billiards lounge, separate guest house, pool, spa, cabana, 4 car garage…”—Listing from McLean-based Weichert Realtors
Michael Crowley is a senior editor of The New Republic.