Thursday, May 15, 2014

DC Gems: Clara Barton House

DC is full of free hidden gems and after living here for five years we are still trying to see it all. We recently took time to visit one of my favorite places in the DC Metro Area, Glen Echo Park. When we drove up I stopped the car at the back of the parking lot and got out in front of the National Historic Site of Clara Barton's House.

We had visited Glen Echo Park numerous times, but had never visited this historic site that sat as a neighbor to Glen Echo. I will do a write-up on Glen Echo at some point, but today is being dedicated to a women who truly holds an amazing role in history, and whose house is currently the only memorial to her work.

So who is Clara Barton? In broad strokes here is my quick go at Clara Barton the founder of the American Red Cross. She was a teacher, an advocate, a pain in the butt to politicians, and a problem solver. She began her work in education. She actually created one of the first state-wide public education system in New Jersey, because she saw a need for all students to have access to education.

She moved down to Washington, DC and when the civil war broke out began collecting things for the soldiers from her hometown in Massachusetts. She saw a need and tried to fill the need by writing home to family and friends asking them to donate blankets, jackets, and shoes. This began to grow and all of a sudden Barton had an apartment full of goods to bring to men on the front lines.

After the war she took a short "vacation," to Geneva, Switzerland. She was sent to Geneva by her doctor to relax, but ended up being introduced to the Red Cross and volunteering with them during her stay. She returned to the US and began to set-up the American Red Cross. She partnered with a local doctor and she found funders to support her endeavor.
Barton's office on the first floor
I am skipping over a lot of the details here, but you get the gist...

Clara Barton's Bedroom and Sitting Room
Barton set-up shop in downtown DC. Around the same time that the Red Cross was taking off, Glen Echo Park was also being built. Glen Echo was situated roughly 12 miles outside of downtown DC, and was built as a sanatarium, or a weekend resort for DC families. They were going to build a trolly to take people to and from the city.

The owners of the park decided to offer Clara a piece of land for development. Clara took this opportunity to expand the Red Cross, and had them develop the property into a warehouse style building.

When the house was completed Clara moved out their for a short-time, but then realized that since the trolly had not yet been completed, she lacked access to the necessities of her job, telephone and the postal service.

Once the trolly was completed, she moved back out to Glen Echo and operated the American Red Cross out of this house for the next 12 years of her life. During those 12 years they stored everything they needed to react at a moments notice to emergencies.

All the walls were lined with cabinets filled with medical supplies, home goods, extra blankets, emergency cash, and everything you could possibly need in an emergency. She had developed a well oiled machine that could act at a moments notice. She took the 3rd floor for herself, but housed volunteers on the second floor. In a matter of minutes, they all could be out the door and on their next mission to help a community in need.

Center of the home, walls lined with cabinets

Storage Room: Extra furniture to help furnish homes after a fire
Just based of these quick facts, she was a true logistics genius and I certainly wouldn't want to be on this women's bad side. She accomplished a lot at a time when women were not seen as capable of accomplishing great things or being strong leaders, yet she pushed beyond the boundaries society placed on her and achieved a legacy of greatness.

She was eventually pushed out of the American Red Cross in 1904 and still that didn't stop her from bettering the world we all live in today. She went on to create the National First Aid Society, yeah that organization that created the first aid kits that many of us have stored at our houses or perhaps in our cars, was started by Clara.

One more amazing person in the world that left their lasting mark on many peoples lives.

1 comment:

  1. looking forward to going there on my next trip to DC.