Helen Wade Carey

A Real Estate Doyenne
Helen Carey in her garden.

Helen Wade Carey, long time real estate pioneer on Capitol Hill, died on November 14, 2012 at her home in Alexandria after a long illness. Carey, a doyenne to a generation of young real estate professionals, was a real estate broker, property manager, and landlord as well as among the first to begin to renovate houses in the mid-sixties on the Hill, opening the door to the area as a must live-in community.

Carey was born June 21, 1923 in Pittsfield, MA. Her parents were natives of the Kennebec River region of Bath, ME. Carey graduated with a degree in political science from Duke Women’s College in 1945. According to her son, Wade Carey, she deliberately chose Duke because it was as far away as possible from where she had been brought up: a first step in her lifelong pursuit to experience as much of the world as she could.

Carey lived for a period in New York’s Greenwich Village, a geographic reflection of a love of the arts, before marrying John Wade Carey on September 11, 1948. They met while both were attending Duke. Helen Carey often joked that he was easy remember because she shared her maiden name with that of her husband John’s mother. One longtime friend Roxi Slemp tells a story of Carey losing track of her future husband John only to “re-meet him” after spotting him on a Village street, identifying him by his characteristic walk : “ Nobody walks that way but John” she is said to have said.

Carey and her husband moved to the Washington DC area to pursue additional studies. Initially they settled in a house in Georgetown and began to raise a family. Another early Hill real estate magnate, Barbara Held, was her neighbor. In 1955, after a serious house fire, she and her family moved to the North Ridge community in Northern Virginia where Carey became active in the Fairlington Players and the Little Theatre of Alexandria. Carey was an early and long time supporter of the Arena Stage and remained an avid subscriber to local theatres and the Folger Consort throughout her life.

In the late 50s and early 60s, Carey served as a volunteer with the League of Women Voters, rising to positions of leadership. She also lobbied Congress in favor of clean water and public transportation. Carey was actively involved for years as a patron and supporter of the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW).

In the early 60s Carey began working in real estate initially managing newly renovated mews (alley) dwellings in Foggy Bottom. Carey received her broker’s license in 1964. Soon she established her business on 7th Street SE near the Eastern Market. With the growth of her business, she opened an office at 711 E St SE where she remained until her retirement. Carey worked from this location from an old oak roll top desk that she inherited from her father, remaining active for four decades in the business and civic life of Capitol Hill.

Known for her love of wide-brimmed, over-the-top hats and a passion for convertibles, Carey found great pleasure as an amateur photographer and was a water colorist of both still life and landscapes. Her favorite subjects were often scenes of Capitol Island in Maine where she regularly summered from childhood. With the death of her husband in 1990, she traveled widely to European locations and the eastern Mediterranean as well as to Argentina.

Carey is survived by two sons, John Wade, Jr. (husband, Edward Coltman) of Washington DC and David B. Wade (wife Neill Crawford) of Richmond, VA; and a daughter, Jean Louise Gudaitis (husband Richard and their son, Charles Wade) of Falls Church, Va.

A memorial service will be held on December 1, 2012 at 2 p.m. at the Everly-Wheatly Funeral Home, Alexandria Va. In lieu of flowers the family requests donations to the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop in Washington DC.

There will be a special service at CHAW on December 15 for Capitol Hill friends to gather together to celebrate Helen Carey’s life.

There is an interview with Helen Carey ( www.capitolhillhistory.org) recorded and transcribed as part of the Ruth Ann Overbeck Oral History Project, funded by the Capitol Hill Community Foundation (www.capitolhillcommunityfoundation.org)


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