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1734 N Street

In 1901, the 56th U.S. Congress granted the General Federation of Women’s Clubs a Federal Charter, which stipulated that GFWC maintain its headquarters in Washington, D.C. GFWC maintained temporary war service and editorial offices in the nation’s capital during WWI, and in 1920 adopted a resolution to establish permanent headquarters there that would “be commensurate with the dignity, size and influence of the organization.”  In 1922 GFWC clubwomen purchased 1734 N Street NW in the fashionable Dupont Circle neighborhood, acquiring the colorful stories of all its former owners along with the elegant Victorian mansion.

When retired Rear Admiral William Radford (1808-1890) built the grand home at 1736 (now 1734) N Street NW in 1875, the neighborhood’s central feature was known as “Pacific Circle.”  It would not be identified as “Dupont Circle” until 1884 with the erection of a statue memorializing Rear Admiral Samuel Du Pont. The Radfords lived in the home for several years; in one of Washington society’s most notable events, Admiral Radford’s daughter Sophia married Russian diplomat Vladimir de Meissner in the family home in 1878.

A unique feature of 1734 N Street is the long, narrow room above the former carriageway (now the entrance to the Iron Gate Inn), constructed in 1884 by owners Thaddeus and Augusta Markley. Having purchased a portion of the adjoining lot to create a grand driveway and admit more light into their home, the Markleys were dismayed to discover that plans for neighboring 1728 included windows overlooking their property. They constructed a wall to protect their privacy, but city building regulations limited its height; undeterred, they built an extension from the second floor, creating a space 12 ˝ feet wide by 65 feet long that neighbors dubbed the “spite room.”  

The unusual gallery-style space attracted later owners. The Washington Post described it as “probably the largest and best-fitted room for a library of any private dwelling in the city” when newly-appointed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Edward Douglass White rented the home in 1894.

General Nelson A. Miles (1839-1925), who achieved military notoriety in the American Civil War and Indian Wars, was the home’s next owner. In late 1895, soon after Miles’ transfer to Washington to assume command of the U.S. Army, “The General Miles Testimonial Association” organized in New York to raise funds toward the purchase of a home for him in the capital city. The Washington Post later reported that about $40,000 was collected for the purchase of 1736 N Street NW.

General Miles used the long gallery over the carriageway, which was adjacent to his library, to display the many artifacts he had collected during the Indian Wars, “a veritable museum of historical and ethnological objects” according to a February 1899 New York Times feature story on the home.

General Miles sold the home to New Yorkers John and Grace Hoffman White in 1908. The Whites extensively modernized both the exterior and interior of the home. The décor reflected Mr. White’s interest in exotic animals and birds, such as those depicted by noted muralist Albert Herter on the painted wall canvasses in the drawing room. Like General Miles, John White used the room above the carriageway to display artifacts and big game trophies. Grace Hoffman White, a suffragist, peace activist, and writer, decorated some of the home’s furnishings with poetic sentiments. A few of these are now in GFWC’s collections, including the music room mantel engraved with the words:  “I can not warm you if your heart be cold.”

The Whites leased the home to Uruguay for its legation during World War I, and to the new nation of Czechoslovakia after the war, before selling it to GFWC in 1922. GFWC Headquarters was named a National Historic Landmark in 1991.

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