Russell Hitt: Builder of Bently Hall and benefactor today
Posted: Wednesday, August 31, 2011
If you have ever been inside IWP's library building, you have seen the work of Russell Hitt's company. After Mr. Donald E. Bently purchased the Marlatt Mansion and its adjoining buildings, Hitt Contracting, Inc. conducted an historic restoration of what is now known as Bently Hall.
This was not an easy task. According to District of Columbia regulations, the historic facades of these buildings (one of which once belonged to a passenger who perished in the sinking of the RMS Titanic) needed to be preserved, but the interiors of both structures required complete renewal. Under project manager Andy Schwind, metal framing was put in place in Bently Hall, and the entire carriage house was moved to where it currently rests on Church Street. Today, behind its two classical Sixteenth Street facades, Bently Hall provides modern amenities to the IWP students who use the school's library, as well as to the building's other tenants. When IWP Founder and President John Lenczowski reflected on the painstaking effort, he commented, "In my experience, Hitt is one of the finest construction companies in America. They did everything with the utmost professionalism."
Mr. Bently recalls, "Dr. John Lenczowski and I were searching for a place to start John's school. We were going out on 16th Street toward Silver Spring, Maryland, and noticed that the Marlatt Mansion was for sale along with two apartment houses, a brownstone and a greenstone. I bought the Marlatt Mansion and the adjacent brownstone and the greenstone up to the alley, which is known as Felony Alley. These buildings are about a mile from the White House.
"At this time that particular area of 16th Street was a slum; it was filled with transients and they paid $1 a night to sleep there. With the expert assistance and work of HITT Contracting we cleaned up the area and got rid of the tramps. This part of 16th Street is now included as part of downtown Washington, D.C. and is the headquarters of The Institute of World Politics."
Since this restoration in 1997, Mr. Hitt has stayed involved with IWP. A true patriot and DC area native, his ancestors came from Germany to Virginia in the early 1700s, and his parents began their family business in 1937, which originally focused largely on painting, decorating, and renovations. The family quickly came to understand the toll that war can take when the company's workload became heavier and heavier during World War II, and almost a dozen of the company's employees went off to war. One of them was shot down, and spent two years in a German concentration camp before he got back to America and continued to work for Hitt Contracting.
Patriotism has remained an essential value for Mr. Hitt, and also for his son and son-in-law, who are now Co-Presidents of Hitt Contracting. Mr. Hitt now supports a variety of causes, all of which serve our country. Of IWP, he observes that "I'm very interested in what the Institute does, and I want to see it carry on. I think the school does good things, and teaches subjects that are vital for our country."
Meanwhile, Hitt Contracting continues to improve the DC area, and has worked various high-profile projects such as the BAE building in Reston, VA, the DirecTV building in DC, and the Microsoft building in Chevy Chase. IWP alumni who now work at the Pentagon have been able to enjoy the company's interior renovation and construction work at that building as well. Recalling his experience working with Mr. Hitt's team, Mr Bently says: "HITT Contracting helped me throughout the renovation on the Marlatt Mansion and the other buildings. I consider HITT Contracting the best renovation firm in Washington, D.C. Thank you, Russell, for your help in the renovation and for being a supporter of IWP."
Thank you for your support, Mr. Hitt!