There Are Castles in Capitol Hill

Well, not exactly castles but castle-like appendages: slate turret roofs all over the Hill! Walk on the 1200 block of E St. NE or the 200 block of 8th St. SE and you will see more than 40 houses on these two blocks alone that have slate turret roofs. When you add these to the hundreds of additional houses in Capitol Hill that have slate turret roofs or slate mansard roofs, we’re talking a lot of slate!

Slate is a fine-grained, foliated, homogenous metamorphic rock derived from an original shale-type sedimentary rock compound of clay or volcanic ash. Sounds technical doesn’t it? For our purposes slate is a natural, stone-like tile, a roofing product that can last 100 years. Slate tiles are frequently gray but also are available in green, red, cyan (greenish blue), and other colors.

A turret roof is a pointed, almost projectile-looking structure that was very common on old castles and can be found in Capitol Hill, Georgetown, Dupont Circle, and many other sectors of the city. These roofs are beautiful, historic, and add much charm to the city.

For this special project we have customers, Mike and Andrea, who live on the 1200 block of E St. NE. Most of the turret roofs in this block are still original, well over a century old. While beautiful, these roofs do eventually create serious problems for homeowners. There are many different ways for water to get into the house. Tiles disintegrate and expose wood to the elements, or the connection to the underlying wood decays and tiles slide down below or onto the ground. Nails fall off, connecting seams erode, and old repair work wears out. Below most of the roofs is a metal built-in gutter (BIG) that collects the water that drains off the slate tiles. Over time the metal also deteriorates and has to be repaired and eventually replaced. We see a lot of structures that have badly decayed wood underneath because of all the years of water seeping in.

For roofers, these are very difficult and dangerous projects to take on. It’s not as simple as putting up a ladder and working on a flat roof. We need special equipment, including possibly scaffolding, and high-level roofing expertise.

Mike and Andrea had an original turret where tiles were missing, water was leaking into the house, and many repairs had been done over the years. They asked us to do an inspection and make recommendations after they had read about our company in Mom’s on the Hill Listserv. It was clear after just a few minutes that the roof and BIG could not be salvaged and that a new roof was needed. Like any roofing concern there is a point when repairs just won’t do the trick and a new roof is the only viable option. This was one of those times.

For a roofing company one of the best aspects about this type of project is that it is true, artistic, historical roofing at its finest. The slate tiles and the copper have to be hand cut to specification, properly aligned, and patiently applied. You could call this “bespoke” roofing. Like bespoke tailoring the roofing materials are tailor-made and customized to fit the structure.

Tom Daniel is the owner and general manager of R. Thomas Daniel Roofing, a third-generation Capitol Hill family enterprise that has provided roofing services for more than 90 years. He is a Hill resident, and the company is the recommended roofer of Capitol Hill Village. He can be reached at 202-569-1080 or Visit the company website at

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