Robert and Anne Bass live in historic house in Washington, D.C.

McClatchy NewspapersMay 7, 2012 

WASHINGTON -- Fort Worth billionaire Robert Bass and his wife, Anne, own a piece of Washington history -- a Georgetown home where Gen. Ulysses S. Grant lived after the Civil War.

Valued at $8.2 million, it's one of the most expensive homes in the metropolitan D.C. area. The Bass red-brick pied-a-terre ranked 33rd on Washingtonian magazine's 50 Most Expensive Homes list in its May issue is giving the media-shy investor some unexpected publicity.

"It's one of the premier properties in Georgetown," said Gretchen Koitz, a Washington real estate agent, "both for its size and its historical significance."

Bass is listed as a trustee of the house that he and Anne Bass bought in 1984 for nearly $2 million.

"It's a heck of a house," said Ben Barnes, a former Texas lieutenant governor who now lobbies and spends half his time in Washington.

Barnes, a Democrat, said that he has not been inside the three-story, four-bedroom Federal Revival house, which has 10 fireplaces, but that he's driven by and has talked to people who have been inside.

Known as the Scott-Grant house, the imposing structure, built in 1840, is a standout because of its historical pedigree, although several experts say its connection to Grant is relatively weak. Grant rented the house in 1865 when he was celebrated for leading the Union forces to victory. But the next year he bought another house in the city, where he and his family lived until he became president in 1869. He served two terms, until 1877.

So how did Grant's name get attached to the house in which he lived so briefly?

"Celebrity sells here in Washington," said D.C. librarian Jerry McCoy, one of the city's experts on Washingtoniana. "People just embellish a very thin past."

But the time period, just after the Civil War, had everything to do with Grant's appeal.

"I think he was viewed as the most important figure in the country, far more important than [President] Andrew Johnson," said Joan Waugh, a professor of history at UCLA who wrote the book U.S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth, published in 2009. "He emerged from the war a hero; he was a celebrity. I am not surprised that everywhere he lived would have had a special aura about it."

Grant was so popular, Waugh said, that his headquarters during the war, a log cabin, was sent on a nationwide tour.

The name Scott on the Georgetown house is from its first owner, Alfred Scott.

Property-tax records list the house as having 7,200 square feet of living space and $4.2 million of improvements. In 2011, Bass paid $34,480 in D.C. taxes on the house.

Robert Bass also owns a $1.7 million house on the same street. Bass, 64, one of four brothers whose family wealth grew out of oil, operates his own investment companies. On the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest people in America, he ranked 88, with a net worth of $3.6 billion as of March, according to the Forbes website.

Bass did not respond to requests for comment about the house.

Five years ago, a fire gutted the second floor of the Georgetown library, which is near the Scott-Grant house. McCoy remembers racing to see what he could save when he saw a lot of activity at the Bass-owned home.

"The first thing I saw was people removing the artwork from the Scott-Grant home," he said.

The library's Peabody Room, which has a record of every home in Georgetown, was water-damaged, and its contents were shipped to Fort Worth to Belfor USA, a property restoration company.

Besides that incident, McCoy said, "it's always been a mystery house to me."

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