Photo by Gayle Krughoff

Kitty Kaupp

Kitty Kaupp arrived on Capitol Hill in 1975 and was awarded a Community Achievement award in 1998, the year of this interview.

The interview covers Kitty’s life on Capitol Hill, the influence that living in Mexico had on her life and art, and her career in real estate sales and development. The wide-ranging discussion also covers the design ideas and aesthetics of her partnership infill development projects and the importance of commercial establishments in the neighborhood.

Read Transcript
Interview Date
March 1, 1998
Ruth Ann Overbeck
Marty Youmans

Full Directory

TAPE 1/SIDE 1OVERBECK: Kitty, when did you come to Capitol Hill?

KAUPP: 1975. I was living in Mexico for eight years. Tatiana was born in Mexico. I went down to get my master’s in painting, and then got married. Tatiana was born there. I continued my master’s and did field work in anthropology and art.

OVERBECK: What brought you to the Hill?
KAUPP: Tatiana’s father was an anthropologist and he wanted to come to Washington to participate in

the various foundations that existed here and at the university.OVERBECK: When you came, did you go immediately into real estate?

KAUPP: I had hoped to get a job teaching art, and I found out that the public schools required more accreditation. I was in the middle of a divorce at the same time, and we were buying property together, and so I took a job.

OVERBECK: Your first agency was with?
KAUPP: Rhea Radin. I worked with her for years, then went straight to Don Denton. And that’s

it—those two.
OVERBECK: You’ve lived in several places on the Hill. I remember your Third Street house.

KAUPP: Right. 108 Third Street. It was the house I bought when we moved here. I bought it with [Tatiana’s] father, and we stayed there till 1980, so we were there fifteen years. That was the one that was on the house tour, and I don’t remember the date.

OVERBECK: I don’t, either. It was right around the Bicentennial, somewhere within a couple of years either side. I would assume it was probably ’77 or so.

KAUPP: I was going to say, it was pretty early, because my house really wasn’t finished. That house was big and unfinished.

OVERBECK: But they’re charming. I remember everybody thinking that it had a very fresh attitude about it.

KAUPP: (Laughter). It was all the Mexican stuff. Remember I had those masks? All of those masks. Three-hundred of them. The Smithsonian Institution got a hundred. The Children’s Museum got a

page 2

Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Kitty Kaupp Interview, March, 1998

hundred. And the International Folk Art Museum of Santa Fe got a hundred of them. So, they’re gone (laughter). I kept twenty.

OVERBECK: What happened to the Chinese furniture?
KAUPP: I still have that. I’ve got that in here. I’ve got everything. It’s quite an ecclectic mix of stuff

from Mexico and all over. Yard sales ...OVERBECK: You grew up where?

KAUPP: In Illinois. A place called Tuscola, Illinois, which is near Champagne where the university is in the central part of the state. I call it the Ukraine of the U.S. It’s so barren, and it’s cold, and it’s hot. It’s very, very cold in the winter. It’s the plains part of the U.S.

OVERBECK: What were you like as a child?
KAUPP: What was I like? Oh, my gosh. How do you describe yourself?

OVERBECK: I don’t know. I heard Kim Basinger last night saying that she was so painfully shy that she would only read aloud in her room, and that her mother each year would call her reading teacher and tell her not to call on Kim in class.

KAUPP: Yes. I sat in the back of the class. I was very shy, I still am. I’m really, painfully introverted. So this whole experience is pretty hard (laughter). I don’t know how you did it.

OVERBECK: Was the town you grew up in small?

KAUPP: Yes. Three-thousand people. As a child, you could run the streets and the dogs were loose. You had everything as your backyard, kind of like the Hill. The Hill is that way. I think the Hill is a small town. It’s really wonderful because it is a small town, more set aside from the rest of the city. We should have our own mayor (laughter). It may be Steve Cymrot, I’m not sure (laughter).

OVERBECK: (Laughter). You had a daughter, and you had the means to leave the Hill. You did not have to move seven children, and fifty-thousand parakeets or whatever. What you made you stay?

KAUPP: On the Hill? Oh, I love the Hill. As I said, it’s like a small town. It’s very personable. When Tatiana was growing up and I was working full time, she could walk to school. We lived right by the Supreme Court parking lot, the Supreme Court garden is there. She would come home—she was a latch key kid. And the neighbor’s child was the same, so they would play together, and the Supreme Court police would watch them! (Laughter). Like babysitters. It was really wonderful. And I could run home if she needed me, or she could walk to the office. I think it’s just a really special place to raise a kid. I mean,

page 3

Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Kitty Kaupp Interview, March, 1998

the schooling is expensive, but I probably would have sent her to a private school anyway, because I believe in its education. So, that wasn’t a problem, but if you had more than one child, I think it would be. It cost ... $300,000 to send a kid to private school, and college, and the whole thing.

So I just really liked it. And I liked having the retailers in a small section the way we have them around the Eastern Market, where they are your friends. They know you, you walk in (in tears). Excuse me. I feel really strongly about this. It’s like a big family. And Libby was a really good friend of mine. Just right away, you met everybody. It was wonderful. And I go into the Eastern Market every day (laughter). I buy every day, that’s the way I do it. And I think living in Mexico was really interesting, because it was a market kind of scene, and we have that here. I really don’t go to the Safeway. I like all of this. It’s a special place to live.

OVERBECK: Real estate consumed a lot of your time, both here and I know you’ve done some work out in New Mexico. You seem to love the Southwest and things that have a Mexican or Spanish influence to them.

KAUPP: I do. I think that that culture is so warm and engaging, the Hispanic culture. Mexico was that way, people are very warm. The Hill’s that way.

OVERBECK: I noticed that you have a real sense of color, and that’s not something I would have necessarily expected from somebody out of the Ukraine of Illinois (laughter).

KAUPP: Yes. It’s true. I think Mexico really changed my way of looking at things. It’s a non-Western thought process that goes on there. Because of the pre-Columbian Indian cultures that still exist there today. It’s a non-Western thought; it’s different. You’re still mixed in Western thought, and I think Tatiana’s influence and color is so formulated by her experience there. This is one of her paintings right here—she’s truly a colorist. I was very influenced by it; it was a wonderful experience, especially coming from a place like Illinois, which is very non-descript—sort of Andrew Wyeth/northern Maine kind of feeling. We did a lot of work with folkart, studying of art and anthropology and various Indian cultures.

OVERBECK: One of the things that a lot of people don’t know about you is a lot of the background generosity you have for the Hill. I think of it as being promotional, as in when you do something for the Hill, you do something, it seems, that is to make the Hill visibly better. Some people do things that are to make individuals more comfortable or their lives have a better quality—teaching children to read, or something. But yours is much more of a context-oriented contribution, I think.

KAUPP: I feel really strong about aesthetics and changing negative situations to positive, and I think everybody should be able to enjoy positive aesthetics around them. I feel that way about my house

page 4

Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Kitty Kaupp Interview, March, 1998

(laughter), and so it just overlaps into the community. Doing these projects was rewarding from that point of view, and we always took an in-fill site that was ugly—we just bought the Post Office—now, that’s about the ugliest thing you could ever buy! (Laughter). And I couldn’t wait to get my hands on that building. I mean, it was just horrible. Amy [Weinstein] and I are working on a design now for that. But I think everybody’s lifestyle is enhanced by their surroundings. I do feel that I want to change things so that they look better and everbody is more comfortable. Now, some people don’t care about that. It’s very interesting that I feel strongly about it.

OVERBECK: Tell me about the snowflakes.

KAUPP: Ah, the snowflakes. I guess I just saw them hanging in Georgetown, and I thought, “Well, we should have them.” Katherine Held was really helpful to me with those. I found the source, I called the people in Georgetown who had done this, and they told me how to go about it through the District government, which was amazing. (Laughter.)

OVERBECK: (Laughter). Is there anything not amazing about the District government?

KAUPP: Unbelievable. Raising the money wasn’t the problem, it was getting the permits and getting it implemented. I just really thought the snowflakes were wonderful, they were magical, so we had to have them. So Katherine and I got the money and put them up. It was a committee of two, and I conned her into being a committee with me. She’s very good about that. And I still get calls from people who love them every year they go up.

OVERBECK: I keep trying to figure out how to get them around Lincoln Park and down my street.

KAUPP: Well, that can be done. The cost of implementing them is not so great; it’s the every-year cost afterward. You have to relamp them every year, and we have to raise money every year somehow to get those things back up (laughter). So far, we’ve done it.

OVERBECK: I was at the ground-breaking dedication for the Green Home Project. I did a little bit of research on the ground, and we did the archaeology excavation through Kiwanis. I got them to do it for free, it was the Historic District and it needed to be done, so went over and put test pits all over place. How did get involved in Green Home, Habitat, et cetera?

KAUPP: Peter Harkness and Pat Harkness, who were the owners with me on that, are very familiar with Habitat for Humanity. We bought that years ago to do three houses on, and we had the plans.

OVERBECK: Two on Potomac and one on—

page 5

Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Kitty Kaupp Interview, March, 1998

KAUPP: I [Street]. We didn’t do it, didn’t do it, and just let it sit there for a long time. And then we came up with the idea of donating it to them because they were building houses for people. I still think they should have put two on it (laughter.)

OVERBECK: (Unintelligible). There’s a lot-line problem.KAUPP: Really?

OVERBECK: Yes. They had to do some negotiations on the one that’s being built on. We’re still involved with that. The framing blitz, when we were putting up the framing? We fed everybody—lunch, and breakfast, and two snacks a day for five days or something. We got the Salvation Army mobile kitchen over there. All of the volunteers could eat, drink anytime they were there. The Kiwanis are going to be some of the interior hands-on. We did not have the exterior built. Anyway, we’re back over at the site.

KAUPP: Did you get the lot to right of it as you face it on Potomac?

OVERBECK: Yes, I think so.

OVERBECK: In keeping with our philosophy about the Hill being a good place to live and a good place to raise children, and a good place aesthetically, if you were queen for the day, what would you do to the Hill?

KAUPP: (Laughter.) That’s a big question. I still see so much renovation that needs to be done. If I could pass a magic wand, I’d make all the fronts historically in keeping, renovate them to make them right, make the signage correct. I mean, it’s all visual. It would all be visual. I’m so impressed with Alexandria when you go over there, because the whole community really works to make the signage right, the storefronts right, the color in keeping. It’s just charming; it’s just wonderful to wander around there. There’s just no reason why we can’t do that, especially right now on Eighth Street, which they are working on and that’s great. I think the Shakespeare Theatre taking that building over is a real plus. That’s what I would do—I would pass my magic wand and make it all work. It’d be fun.

OVERBECK: Besides aesthetics, what are some of the needs you see for the Hill?

KAUPP: Well, there’s a need for balanced commercial services, which is so hard to get people to come here and do. And Ken—my partner—and Frank and I have pursued and pursued and pursued tenants that we think would be good here. You just don’t see the density, even though there are—what—55,000 people here? Which is the size of Santa Fe, and I go to Santa Fe and I see all of these services. Why we can’t get them here ...

page 6

Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Kitty Kaupp Interview, March, 1998

Part of it is that we don’t have massive commercial strips where we implement a lot of retailers together. We’re broken up into pockets of commercial zoning. So that makes it hard. There are no large areas that could be built out. We’re really a small, little town with our commercial. And that’s pleasant, too.

OVERBECK: If you think about Eighth Street, Seventh Street, and Pennsylvania Avenue, that’s a larger commercial aggregate than, say, the Plaza in Kansas City or than the Highlands Park shopping center in Dallas, and so on. And those are places that do not have the mall appearance, because you can’t get inside and just hide and go from building to building.

KAUPP: I guess I’m thinking more along the lines of the King Street strip in Alexandria. You have pockets of antique shops and pockets of this. We don’t have that here; we’re really broken up, which creates different shopping areas.

OVERBECK: How long do you see yourself staying on the Hill?
KAUPP: I don’t really see myself leaving, I really don’t. I like it here. I like having the second home out

in Santa Fe, going for the summer—

OVERBECK: A lot of us would like that! The Hill West (laughter).

KAUPP: Yes, right. The Doughertys love it out there. Do you know Caroline?


KAUPP: I think she’s buying something. I’m going to have to call her and ask her that.

OVERBECK: I know you’re very active in the Broker’s Council. I know you’re very active in CHAMPS. Are you active in the Arts Workshop?

KAUPP: No, I’m really not. Between real estate and then development, it’s like two jobs. And then last year, I had an art exhibit, the first one since I graduated from college. The two jobs are really time- consuming, and I’d like to be more involved in the arts but I’m not.

OVERBECK: Do you see yourself doing more art in the future?
KAUPP: I’m hoping to, yes. I still have a studio and (unintelligible, 218) and paint every weekend. I try

to—it’s fun.
OVERBECK: Is that your R and R?
KAUPP: Yes. It is—it’s good therapy. It’s very relaxing and stimulating.

page 7

Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Kitty Kaupp Interview, March, 1998

OVERBECK: Do you draw on the Hill for any of your themes in your paintings?
KAUPP: I think, yes. It’s a lot of flower paintings. I think the Eastern Market with the flowers inside and

out is so wonderful. I don’t do buildings.

OVERBECK: I just wonder if people or themes—strings of consciousness—that come from the Hill go into your painting?

KAUPP: I don’t have an answer to that. I don’t know. Everything is part of it. There’s nothing that comes to mind ...

OVERBECK: Okay. Describe your parents, or the household in which you grew up.

KAUPP: My mother was very creative—is still. And she allowed us to have projects all the time—my sister and I. And my daughter, who visited her as a child—we all remember the basement filled with categorized things that you would use. Nothing was thrown away. Everything was at your finger tips to play with. It was fun. So my mom would decorate wedding cakes for people, and she also was a seamstress, and her mother painted. And so I grew up in that atmosphere. My father was a coach and taught manual training. So I can hammer (laughter), all those things. It was a good atmosphere, it was a very creative atmosphere.

OVERBECK: And you went to college?
KAUPP: I went to Washington University in St. Louis and studied art, and then ended up going to

Mexico, to the University of the Americas to get my degree there.OVERBECK: And that again was in fine art?
KAUPP: Yes. Painting.
OVERBECK: What’s your favorite medium?

KAUPP: Oil. You can squish in it (laughter). You can cover up a lot of things!OVERBECK: And you have time.
KAUPP: Yes, you do. It’s moveable.

OVERBECK: Your daughter, Tatiana [Kaupp]. The last I kept up with her, she was still teaching at Capitol Hill Day School?

page 8

Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Kitty Kaupp Interview, March, 1998

KAUPP: Yes. She’s back there. She took a year off and went to work on a master’s program in painting and decided not to finish (laughter). So she’s back here at the Day School and wants to change her master’s program to decorative art, but so far hasn’t done it. She’s still painting.

OVERBECK: Whose art is hanging in the party shop?

KAUPP: Tatiana’s. Those were the two she did at Albuquerque last year. And there’s no paint on them. They’re all pieces of paper imbedded in a rosin kind of thing that she concocted, and this was her painting course (laughter).

OVERBECK: I think I understand why she wants to paint [change?] majors.

KAUPP: Yes (laughter). She was really fighting it, to the utmost. It’s very interesting. They look like paintings—but they’re all paper and wire and buttons, all the stuff from my mom’s basement (laughter)—literally!

OVERBECK: And where is your basement?
KAUPP: We have a garage that’s filled with stuff!
OVERBECK: Do you have it categorized like your mom did?
KAUPP: No. I’m not organized like she was. I take great delight in not being organized (laughter).

OVERBECK: I know Mexico had a great influence on your sense of color, and so on. Have you had anything for you that you think is a seminal experience, or something that changed your approach to the way you live, dramatically?

KAUPP: Oh, gosh. That is a big question. The things you change radically very often, don’t you? From experiences and things that occur in your life.

OVERBECK: Sometimes, yes. But for the most part, mine are more imcremental, and all of a sudden, I wake up and think, “Oh, this is an aggregate of change.”

KAUPP: It is, it is. I think coming here and building has been a very rewarding experience, and very helpful in aesthetics and art, and working with Amy in the architectural part of it, which is a much more defined art form. Very solid.

OVERBECK: You certainly have to pay for your mistakes.
KAUPP: Yes, you do (laughter). It’s a very expensive art form! It really is. It’s a big risk. It’s probably

the highest form of gambling that exists. I never thought of it that way, but the risks have been so
page 9

Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Kitty Kaupp Interview, March, 1998

incredible. And they don’t all work from a financial standpoint. Aesthetically, they’re great, but they don’t all work. We made it through the recession, which was a tough period. And not everybody did. I just do things. I guess I think about them, but I just believe that if you keep working toward the end, it works.

OVERBECK: Do you set your goals short-term, medium-term, long-term?

KAUPP: I’m very patient. I think all of this takes forever, it really takes forever. And all of ours were variances. Just the fact that those projects, like (unintelligible, 302) Sid’s Tax Service, took thirty-two neighborhood meetings and three years. And then a year in the mayor’s office for the demolition permit. All of that. You just have to have a lot of patience. So, no—none of them are short-term. I don’t see any reward as being short-term.

OVERBECK: I know that you’re very involved with Stanton Development Corporation, and you have partners, and so on. Do you do any of the development on your own, or have done any development outside the partnership?

KAUPP: No. We are really a good partnership. We each have our own facet of expertise in the partnership. And none of this could have happened without all three of us. It’s really important that the public knows that.

OVERBECK: What is your niche?
KAUPP: In the partnership, mine is the design and the architecture and working with Amy. The idea that

I can see the building before it’s finished (laughter).

OVERBECK: That’s very important, because there are a lot of people who cannot conceptualize in the abstract.

KAUPP: Yes. I have no problem with that. In fact, it’s maybe what gets me in trouble. I can walk around the Hill and see something totally changed. In any of the projects we did, the vision was there. Amy is so great as an architect, and together we work so well in fulfulling those visions. So I do that part, the design part, and work with the prospective tenants from the leasing and sales point of view. Ken is basically more into the financing part of everything and tenant work, too. He did the Willard with his dad. Frank is more legal and troubleshooting.

OVERBECK: (Laughter). Making sure the District behaves?

KAUPP: Yes. He’s the real money man! Ken worries about the money, and I spend the money! And fight them for spending the money. And they have been good to listen to that. It’s important.

page 10

Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Kitty Kaupp Interview, March, 1998

OVERBECK: Now, that relationship grew out of your real estate business, I assume. Or did it grow out of a social environment?

KAUPP: Well, I knew Frank, and we were looking at the Bosley Animal Hospital. And then Ken came along, and we formed a partnership. Actually, it was Ken and his father who were looking at the Penn medical site. I was working for Rhea, and Ken called to look at that site with his father, and I met him then. And his father kept saying, “Well, why don’t you buy the Kresge dime store site?” (Laughter.) I said to him, “I’ve already contacted the owners.” And there were five owners. We still only have two lots and lease the other three lots under that building. It’s a very complicated situation. So, then we got together, and Amy was picked from three architects we looked at to do the Bosley. And we stuck with her all the way through. She’s wonderful. I think the Hill is so lucky to have her buildings, and the heavy concentration of them here. It reminds me of Philadelphia and the Frank Furness structures that are in Philadelphia. In a hundred years, it’ll be the Amy Weinstein on Capitol Hill like Frank Furness and Philadelphia! I think her designs are just so elegant and wonderful. It’s been a great pleasure to work with her; she’s so incredibly talented.

OVERBECK: How much of the final design starts with Kitty?

KAUPP: There’s no start and finish. We [Amy and I] think so much alike. We see it. In fact, I went up there last week, because she was getting ready for vacation. She says, “I’ve only got an hour for lunch.” I said, “Well, are you sure we can do this?” She said, “Well, let’s do it.” And we had to do a front façade for the Post Office to get it into historic preservation by this Friday. And she’s leaving town. She says, “I’ve only got an hour.” And I said, “Let’s give it a shot!” (Laughter). So I went up there, and we came up with a theme that I hope passes the review board ...

She and I both love the Opera House [Palau de la Musica] in Barcelona. Well, Luis Domenech i Montaner, the architect, has these columns that he mosaicked with all of the floral patterns. And Amy just did the lobby of 228 with the flat columns. They’re colored. I think there 18 different paint colors in the lobby. So we conceived this idea, and we both hit on it, because we love Dominic. And I hope this works (laughter). Doing a glass door front with columns, and the columns are flat pilasters that are mosaicked in Victorian patterns very similar to 228 inside, the flat silhouettes up against holding that awful concrete thing that sticks out and painting everything. We have to work within a budget this time, which, alas, so we were warned heavily by Frank and Ken. And I think this could be very interesting, this adaptation. And she says, “well, where else do they have this?” And she says, “Library of Congress! The floor! The ceiling! The mosaic.” I said, “Yes!” We’re going to see. We’re working on it. That could be really fun!

page 11

Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Kitty Kaupp Interview, March, 1998

It’s really fun to work with her. It really is. And I like the building, I like the whole thing, all the way from the ground up. Hate the (unintelligible, 395). Seeing it grow out the ground is really an experience. It’s a real big piece of sculpture; architecture is a piece of sculpture.

The other thing that I think we do that some don’t do is that the inside and the outside of the building have to be compatible. So I really like it when Amy continues with the tenant improvements inside. So you have a whole flow of cohesiveness in and out.

OVERBECK: That can be very tough to do with modern requirements inside, with historically compatible facades.

KAUPP: It’s very hard.

OVERBECK: Everybody has their own concept of what an interior landscape should be—

KAUPP: Yes. It’s true—

OVERBECK: —what it must have to work.

KAUPP: The building is exciting. Stressful and exciting, at the same time.

OVERBECK: You work with clients all the time who come to the Hill?

KAUPP: Yes, I do. I’m active one-hundred percent in the sales and leasing of commercial and residential sales.

OVERBECK: Your number one selling point? And if you have a caveat, a kind of, “Don’t come here unless ...” If you like this, the Hill’s for you. If you don’t like this ...

KAUPP: I keep coming to the small town. There are people who live in a city who want anonymity, and you can certainly have that here. You can. I continue to meet people that I didn’t know were here, and never see. It is amazing.

OVERBECK: They’re like mushrooms (laughter).KAUPP: They are!
OVERBECK: They grow in the basement.

KAUPP: They do. But if you come here, you’re an activist. You want to be a part of it, you want to help make it better. As you know, the underlayers of things that are going on that people contribute to, it’s a finely tuned mechanism without its being orchestrated. Everybody has their thing they do, and it makes it

page 12

Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Kitty Kaupp Interview, March, 1998

all better. I think the Hill has just progressed beautifully. In spite of the recession, in spite of the crime problems, and everything else that’s occurred, the Hill looks great! A friend of mine, Michelle Hiyakawa, who used to live here, came back last weekend because she wants to open an art gallery in one of our sites. And she said—

OVERBECK: Believe it or not, I had already heard that.KAUPP: Did you? You’re kidding!

OVERBECK: Yes! That somebody was trying to get in touch with you and get you convinced to let her have the space over there.

KAUPP: Yes. We were trying to. We’ve got some mix problems that we’re trying to work out. We have more tenants than we have space, all of a sudden.

OVERBECK: Don’t cry (laughter).

KAUPP: I’m not! Just making sure we pick the right things together to make it work. She commented on, when she left, how shabby things had been and how beautiful everything looks [now]. And I think that’s true. I think we’re really getting there.

OVERBECK: And I think a lot of that, Kitty, has to do with the attention that’s being paid to the yards almost as much as anything else.

KAUPP: I do, too. There are flower boxes out front. And I think it’s great that Frager’s now has a garden center. That has made a big difference for people who don’t have time to drive somewhere. You can run over there, and you can beautify everything—it’s not expensive.

OVERBECK: It’s actually comparable to Behnkes or Merrifield. And you don’t have to drive out there.KAUPP: Exactly. And you can keep doing it every weekend, instead of one big trip. I just think that

that’s been a real plus.OVERBECK: I do, too.

KAUPP: It’s such a little thing! But it’s wonderful. And then Through the Grapevine is opening a little landscape shop next to where Remax was or is, on D Street. Well, I just see a big vitality now. People have a lot of energy about the Hill. Somebody will paint a façade or do a project or clean up something, then somebody else wants to. It just propagates. I can’t wait for the Shakespeare Theatre to be done. I handled the sale of that—Katherine and I. And, my gosh, that was a long, drawn out, two- to three-year process. But we were patient, and everybody worked it out.

page 13

Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Kitty Kaupp Interview, March, 1998

OVERBECK: It takes that, in large-scale things.
KAUPP: Yes, it does. They all require variances and this and that.OVERBECK: Do you remember your first sale on the Hill?

KAUPP: I do! And she’s still my close friend. She lives in Santa Fe. Her name was Lynne Mann. She worked for Senator Birch Bayh. She was this private secretary [ed: legislative assistant], and she called me on the phone, and we met at this house, and she decided she was going to buy it. She had to sell her squash blossom Indian necklace, her 280Z, and a motorcycle in order to get the down payment! And I worked with her with that! I wouldn’t let her sell her necklace. She still has it, I wouldn’t let her sell it. But the car and the other thing—fine. We were friends here. She was here for fifteen or so years; now she’s been out in Santa Fe. That was funny. Yes, I remember the first house. It was one of Jack Spicer’s houses. And then you had to fight him to get it done, you know? You know what I’m talking about (laughter).

OVERBECK: What does the Hill need more than anything else? A better commercial mix? The diversity seems to be somewhat stablized at this point.

KAUPP: You know, it’s very interesting, because we were such a pocket out here alone. And then when Union Station said it was going to do this whole commercial thing, there was so much animosity out here. “Oh, they’re going to take away from our commercial!” And it was a plus, it was a beautiful plus to have that historic and wonderfully done building. Pentagon came in, and they said, “Oh, we’re not going to be able to sell our clothes anymore. I’m going to close my shop,” and all this stuff. That didn’t happen. Look at Debbie Danielson? And there are people like me who want to be able to walk into her store. I don’t want to go to a big shopping mall.

OVERBECK: “Debbie, do you have ...? I’ve got to go, now”?

KAUPP: Yes. “Call me when it comes, what I like,” sort of thing. And so that really didn’t hurt us. I think it so helped us. I think Pentagon is wonderful because people who live closer to those kinds of things, especially in suburbs, can now see themselves coming in here. This is like a little town. Or call it a suburb if you want to. And you still have the Pentagon shopping center, and you’ve got twenty-five new movie theatres coming in across the street from it, and it’s not in our community. We don’t have to put up with it. We can keep our historic look. The thing about the Hill that I like is that when you come up here, it’s like you’ve gone back into another century. The architecture puts you into a place I like to be mentally, in that whole atmosphere of wonderful beauty.

page 14

Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Kitty Kaupp Interview, March, 1998

So we don’t have to put up with shopping things, but we have them. I think it’s made a big impact on people wanting to be here. In ten minutes, you can get there and get what you want that you can’t get here.

OVERBECK: And you don’t have to go to Tyson’s, which is a pain in the—

KAUPP: Yes. I never went out there.

OVERBECK: I’ve been once. I hated it.

KAUPP: I did, too. I was ... distraught (laughter). I really was.

OVERBECK: (Laughter.) I thought that if wanted to live in Dallas, I’d go to Dallas!

KAUPP: Oh! And it’s like visual and noise pollution all at once. It’s too much. So, I don’t know. Maybe we don’t need anything else here.

OVERBECK: You’ve been involved in Day School auctions, I know. You have given things to the auction. Do you have a church affiliation on the Hill at all?

KAUPP: I don’t. I was raised Catholic, and I’ll go either to St. Peter’s or St. Joseph’s, but I’m not active in either one or any of it. But that’s another part of my dysfunctionalism! (Laughter).

TAPE 1/SIDE 2OVERBECK: Not necessarily. It could be a part of your growth.

OVERBECK: Certainly having been in Mexico, it would have been saturating in many ways. It’s vitally

different—Catholicism in Mexico.
KAUPP: Yes, it was. It was totally different. (Tape interruption.)OVERBECK: So, you’re going to be here. You don’t see yourself moving.KAUPP: No, I don’t. I like it here. There are so many wonderful people here.

OVERBECK: I cannot imagine an environment better suited for you to move than where you live. I can’t even imagine you looking for a place unless you decided you were going to pare down and go condo some day.

KAUPP: I can’t, either. I just love this house. It’s really a great house. It’s a little big now, being alone. But it’s great. Amy did the exterior design of this house.

page 15

Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Kitty Kaupp Interview, March, 1998

OVERBECK: If you had a different occupation than real estate, would it be art?KAUPP: Yes. Definitely. Something in the arts.

OVERBECK: Do you think you will change your balance as time goes on—the ratio of art to real estate over time?

KAUPP: I think so, yes. I’m trying to do that now. I really like working with people and finding them houses. And I like the office a lot. I like everybody in there. Sometimes, I think it would be lonely not to be in there. But I really do need to get in [the arts]. Doing the projects was a form of art, but now that we’re not doing that, I miss that with Amy. I really miss it. So, yes. There has to be some supplement to it. I don’t know what it’s going be. We’re so busy now. The market has become incredible.


KAUPP: It is just incredible. So I’m working twelve- and fourteen-hour days again. Now, we make money! Working was worrying about it and never making money in the last five years! (Laughter.) Oh, it was horrible. There were so many people who just couldn’t sustain themselves in real estate. It was tough. Now, we don’t have any listings left, and we’re in the same situation!

OVERBECK: Do you see this current upswing changing the Hill again?

KAUPP: Yes. This $5,000 tax credit has brought a lot of people to the Hill. And a lot of youth, a lot of young people. Which we need. We need people to take over what we’ve been doing, so we can rest! (Laughter).

OVERBECK: I think that’s so important nowadays. I thought, “This is not really the time. This is the time you ought to be able to be spending more time in the gallery.”

KAUPP: Exactly. We still have that tax service, which we’re trying to sell, because that economically never worked. Great building. If that happens, I’ll be less stressed.

OVERBECK: The young people who are availing themselves to the tax credit. Are they the kind of people who are going to come and stay, find their niche of contributions in volunteerism?

KAUPP: I think if you come here and you become a part of this community, you’re forced to become a part just by moving here, because it’s so small and so intimate. It’s truly an intimate community. You can’t not participate. You just have to; you want to. You want to be a part of it.

Yes, I think so. I hope so. Because we’re going to be pretty worn out if we don’t get some replacements (laughter), right? Yes, I think so.

page 16

Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Kitty Kaupp Interview, March, 1998

And that tax credit is for anybody up to $110,000 in income. One of our agents just moved back from Virginia. She moved out there a year ago, she was going to leave, she didn’t want Marion Barry. This year, she’s already moving back in. She can’t wait, missed everybody on the Hill, missed the Hill, missed the Market. It’s very interesting.

OVERBECK: Well, do you have anything that I’ve left out that you want to add?KAUPP: No (light laughter). I’m okay.
OVERBECK: You are?

OVERBECK: I thank you very much.KAUPP: Thank you.


page 17