The Kalorama area was primarily rural until the close of the 19th century, lying northwest of the original limits of Washington City from L’Enfant’s original plan. In 1795, Gustavus Scott, a commissioner for the District of Columbia purchased the property, which had been a portion of Anthony Holmead’s “Widows Mite” holdings. He constructed a large, classically styled house at 23rd and S Streets, which he named Belair. In 1807, the noted poet Joel Barlow bought the property and renamed it “Kalorama,” which translates from Greek as “fine view.” Barlow lived in the home until shortly before his death in 1812. Barlow commissioned Capitol architect Benjamin Latrobe to enlarge the house and elevate its design. Kalorama (the residence) was destroyed by a fire during the American Civil War while it was used as a Union hospital. The residence was rebuilt and returned to a single-family home until 1887, when it was leveled by the District of Columbia government for the extension of S Street NW.
In the early 1880s, the Kalorama area, being located beyond Boundary Street (now Florida Avenue) and thus outside the city limits, which had hitherto remained primarily undeveloped, began to be subdivided for urban development. In 1893 Congress ordered L’Enfant’s design of the city of Washington extended outward to include the rest of the District. Existing developments were exempted, which is why Kalorama is one of the few portions of D.C. that does not comply with the city’s grid system for streets. Two high bridges over the deep gorge of Rock Creek became important to the development of both sides of Kalorama in this period, the Calvert Street bridge (since replaced by the Duke Ellington Bridge), built in 1891, and the Taft Bridge (on Connecticut Avenue), built in 1907.