Preservation Magazine, Spring 2024

The Woodrow Wilson House's Gift of Gold and Velvet

In July 1919, a small diplomatic delegation from Ethiopia visited the United States, traveling to Washington, D.C.; Chicago; and New York. In Washington the group met with President Woodrow Wilson and First Lady Edith Wilson at the White House and presented them with several gifts, including a purple velvet headdress decorated with gold filigree, beading, and a large central tassel. Crushed green velvet lines the roughly 7-inch-tall piece, which is part of the permanent collection at the President Woodrow Wilson House, a National Trust Historic Site in Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood.

The site typically displays the headdress, along with other gifts the Wilsons received from leaders around the world, in the Georgian Revival house’s drawing room. But the piece is currently showcased in the first-floor gallery as part of the new exhibition Moving Toward Transparency: Woodrow Wilson’s Legacy at 100. The show aims to present both the positive and negative aspects of Wilson’s complicated presidency and their impact on the world we live in today. It opened in February and will run at least through the end of the year.

Woodrow Wilson House Headdress

photo by: Scott Suchman

Headshot Meghan Drueding

Meghan Drueding is the executive editor of Preservation magazine. She has a weakness for Midcentury Modernism, walkable cities, and coffee-table books about architecture and design.

Announcing the 2024 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

See the List