Preservation Magazine, Fall 2017

Honoring a Visionary at the Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site

The historian, scholar, and writer Carter G. Woodson created Negro History Week, the precursor to Black History Month, from his rowhouse in Washington, D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood in 1926. Now, the National Park Service (NPS) has completed the first of three phases for the building’s rehabilitation.

Until his death in 1950, Woodson welcomed students and others interested in researching African-American narratives through the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, which operated out of his house until 1971. After the 1980s, the house sat vacant, before the NPS purchased it in 2005 with the goal of turning it into a museum.

Before plans could move forward, though, the house needed help. Water damage from the leaking roof led to mold, spalling masonry, and failing plaster. Structural concerns, identified in a 2008 report by architecture firm Beyer Blinder Belle, included open mortar joints, sagging floors, rotted floor joists, and a bulging load-bearing wall.

Working with Beyer Blinder Belle, construction firm Perini Management Services rebuilt the house’s foundation, reinforced the facade with rods inserted behind the bricks, and replaced the roof. The historic cornice, staircases, floors, fireplaces, windows, brickwork, and woodwork were all restored. Remaining phases will include rehabbing the adjoining rowhouses and installing exhibits on Woodson and the building’s history.

Vince Vaise, chief of visitor services with the Park Service’s Eastern Division, notes that starting in the fall of 2017, tours will be given of the site on Thursdays and Saturdays. “Historically, the Woodson home functioned as an archive, a community center, and a headquarters,” he explains. “It was a very vibrant place. We want to keep that vibrancy.”
The Carter G. Woodson House looks brand new. Credit: Morgan Howarth

photo by: Morgan Howarth

The Woodson Home is open to the public for tours on Thursdays and Saturdays.

Meghan White is a historic preservationist and an editorial assistant for Preservation magazine. She has a penchant for historic stables, absorbing stories of the past, and one day rehabilitating a Charleston single house.

mwhite@savingplaces.org

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