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Historic Iron Gate Inn

Visitors to GFWC Headquarters at 1734 N Street NW, in Washington,D.C., are always amazed by the wonderful treasures and stories the National Historic Landmark building holds. Many have shared their discoveries over a meal in the rustic dining room or on the vine-covered patio of the Iron Gate Inn behind the mansion, without realizing the GFWC history that is there, too.

In 1922, GFWC became the new owner of the elegant N Street home that was built by Admiral William Radford in 1875. By the spring of 1923, the Federation was a home builder, constructing a demonstration show house in Washington, D.C., to promote the second National Better Homes Campaign. The house, built on parkland behind the U.S. Treasury building, was a modernized replica of the Long Island residence of John Howard Payne, author of the poem Home, Sweet Home. Long a proponent of the growing field of home economics, GFWC ensured the home was fully equipped with the latest in home furnishings and technology. The home drew thousands of visitors during the year of its exhibition.

Inspired by the success of the show house, GFWC clubwomen realized the potential of the charming Spanish-style stables behind GFWC Headquarters, which once housed the elegant bay horses of former resident General Nelson A. Miles. Although GFWC had created a simple tea room for guests in the old stables shortly after purchasing the property, in the spring of 1924, the Federation completely renovated the building for food preparation, fine dining, education, and entertainment.

National manufacturers outfitted the state-of-the-art kitchen to demonstrate their modern appliances. The warm, welcoming dining room used the quaint horse stalls for booths, which were electrified for the convenient use of tabletop appliances provided by Westinghouse. The new facility also provided a comfortable sitting area for reading, writing, and listening to the Victrola. Guests could attend lectures and demonstrations on the value of efficient homemaking. Along with providing revenue from its meal service, GFWCís tea house provided a laboratory for launching the Federationís groundbreaking national Home Equipment Survey in 1925.

By 1928, the tea house was known as the Iron Gate Inn, with a stylistic version of the elegant wrought iron carriageway gates as its logo. Over the years, the managers and menus of the Iron Gate Inn have changed, but a striking feature of the outdoor patio has remained. A gigantic vine purple wisteria vine, planted by Mrs. William Radford during her familyís residence (ca. 1875-1880), still shades garden visitors at 1734 N Street. Although damaged by Washingtonís blizzard of 2010, GFWC has taken important steps to preserve this botanical treasure for future generations of visitors.


2 1/4 Cups Milk
2 Yeast Cakes
1/4 Cup Sugar (heavy)
1/2 Cup Butter or Crisco
2 Eggs
About 7 Cups Flour
2 1/2 Teaspoons Salt

Scald milk and melt shortening in it as it cools. Mix sugar and yeast until it liquefies. When milk is lukewarm add to yeast and sugar. Add beaten eggs and beat in flour and salt until you have a soft dough. Sprinkle with flour and pat into a ball in the mixing bowl. Cover and set bowl in the ice box until 3 hours before needed.

Generously grease your muffin tins with Crisco or other vegetable shortening. Be sure that you grease them heavily. For every dozen rolls mix 1 cup light brown sugar with 1/4 cup butter and put a spoonful in bottom of each section of muffin tin.

Now roll the dough into an oblong shape about 1/4 inch thick. Spread with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon. Roll into a long roll and cut into pieces about 1 inch thick. Place in muffin tin and let rise in a warm room 2 to 3 hours or until double in bulk. Bake in 400į oven about 25 minutes. Be careful that the sugar does not burn. Before removing them from the oven, have a large flat pan ready and turn the tin over immediately onto this. Lift and let sugar run onto the rolls. Don't burn your fingers!

This recipe makes between 3 and 4 dozen and can be kept in refrigerator several days and made into rolls as desired.

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