Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site
|Mary McLeod Bethune Council House
National Historic Site
Mary McLeod Bethune Council House
|Location||1318 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington D.C., USA
|Area||0.07 acres (283 m²)|
|Established||October 15, 1982|
|Visitors||8,570 (in 2005)|
|Governing body||National Park Service|
The Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site preserves the house of Mary McLeod Bethune, located in Northwest Washington, D.C., at 1318 Vermont Avenue NW. National Park Service rangers offer tours of the home, and a video about Bethune's life is shown. It is part of the Logan Circle Historic District.
The house is about five blocks north-northeast of the McPherson Square Washington Metro on the Blue and Orange Lines, and about five blocks south of the U Street Metro station on the Green and Yellow Lines. It is a half block southwest of Logan Circle.
About the site
The site consists of a three-story Victorian townhouse and a two-story carriage house. The carriage house contains the National Archives for Black Women's History. The archives and a research center at the property are open only by appointment.
Bethune made her home in the townhouse from 1943 to 1955. She purchased it for $15,500. Bethune lived on the third floor, while the National Council of Negro Women occpied the first and second floors. The floor plan of the home remains unchanged from the days when Bethune lived there, and most of the furnishings are original to the home and owned by Bethune and the NCNW.
Becoming a National Historic Site
After Bethune's death, title to the house passed to the National Council of Negro Women, who continued to use it as a headquarters. The Council of the District of Columbia added the site to the D.C. Register of Historic Places in 1975, and began a major restoration of the home, carriage house, and grounds. Archivist and historian Bettye Collier-Thomas was hired to manage the house, which the NCNW and the city hoped to turn into a research archive and museum. Collier-Thomas turned the museum into a nationally prominent one. After a $150,000 restoration, it opened to the public as a museum in 1981. The American Institute of Architects awarded the facade and first floor restoration effort a historic preservation citation of merit.
The structure was proposed as a National Historic Site the same year, but the National Park Service controversially refused to conduct a study that would make this determination. In 1982, Congress passed legislation requiring the United States Department of the Interior to sign an agreement with the National Council of Negro Women to further restore the house and carriage house, and to establish and maintain a museum and archives in the structure. Although the NCNW would retain ownership of the house, it would "affiliate" with the National Park Service. The museum and archives were established. Another $1 million in federal money was spent refurbishing, renovating, and conserving the house. By 1987, the federal government was paying $300,000 a year to maintain the house and museum, with the remaining two-thirds of the museum's budget coming from corporations, foundations, and private citizens. Collier-Thomas left the museum in 1989.
The National Park Service purchased Council House in 1994 and renamed it the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site. The National Council of Negro Women purchased as its new headquarters Sears House—an $8 million, six-story, 42,000-square-foot (3,900 m2) historic building at 633 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The Council House was transferred to the Park Service in October 1996.
- Latimer, Leah. "Bethune Home Is Center of Historical Site Debate." Washington Post. May 26, 1982.
- Ewert, Sara Dant and Rothman, Hal. Encyclopedia of American National Parks. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 2004, p. 406; Kaiser, Harvey H. The National Park Architecture Sourcebook. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2008, p. 441; Danilov, Victor J. Women and Museums: A Comprehensive Guide. Lanham, Md.: AltaMira Press, 2005, p. 29.
- Some sources say the house is Second Empire in style. See: Vorhees, Mara. Washington, D.C. Melbourne, Australia: Lonely Planet Publications, 2004, p. 91; Fitzpatrick, Sandra and Goodwin, Maria R. The Guide to Black Washington: Places and Events of Historical and Cultural Significance in the Nation's Capital. New York: Hippocrene Books, 2001, p. 151; Murphy, Kevin D. and Kurzaj, Radek. The American Townhouse. New York: Abrams, 2005, p. 155; "Bethune Home Gets Official National Landmark Status." Jet. December 30, 1991-January 6, 1992, p. 7.
- Moker, Molly. The Official Guide to America's National Parks. New York: Fodors Travel, 2009, p. 109.
- Pohlen, Jerome. Progressive Nation: A Travel Guide With 400+ Left Turns and Inspiring Landmarks. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2008, p. 174.
- Holland, Jesse J. Black Men Built the Capitol: Discovering African-American History In and Around Washington, D.C. Guilford, Conn.: Globe Pequot Press, 2007, p. 93.
- Minetor, Randi. Passport to Your National Parks Companion Guide: National Capital Region. Guilford, Conn.: Falcon, 2008, p. 82.
- Eisen, Jack. "Bethune's Home Will Be A National Historic Site." Washington Post. September 24, 1982.
- Elder, Charles. "Funds Sought to Keep Bethune's Legacy Alive." Washington Post. April 27, 1989.
- "Black Women's Museum Dedicated." Washington Post. November 12, 1981.
- Suave, Frances. "Architects Laud Bethune Museum's Restoration." Washington Post. October 20, 1982.
- Jackson, Leigh. "Bethune Founder Leaves To Take Temple U Post." Washington Post. November 16, 1989.
- "Council of Negro Women Buys Building." Washington Post. December 9, 1995.
- Trescott, Jacqueline. "An Affirmative Action." Washington Post. September 21, 1996.
- National Park Service: Mary McLeod Bethune Council House
- The Mary McLeod Bethune Council House: African American Women Unite for Change, a National Park Service Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) lesson plan