Thursday, September 18, 2014

2014 Kalorama House and Embassy Tour

             Last Sunday, those interested in everything from architecture to foreign cultures and everything in between had the opportunity to attend the annual Kalorama House and Embassy Tour, organized by The President Woodrow Wilson House. Visitors had the option to tour six different embassies and a private residence on S Street. They enjoyed refreshments, a jazz ensemble, and an open-house atmosphere at the President Woodrow Wilson House, which is also located on S Street.

Crystal Chandelier, a jazz ensemble, provided live music at the President Woodrow Wilson House on Sunday.

            The Kalorama neighborhood of Washington D.C. was named by Joel Barlow, a poet who moved into the area in 1808. Kalorama” is Greek for “a beautiful view.” Since the early nineteenth century Kalorama neighborhood was a largely undeveloped, suburban area overlooking downtown D.C., Barlow thought that the name suited the area quite well.[1]
            President Wilson and his wife, Mrs. Edith Wilson, moved into the neighborhood in 1921 after leaving the White House, making the Wilsons the first and only presidential couple to make Washington their permanent residence after leaving office. Their home on S Street, now The President Woodrow Wilson House, was a stately four story mansion that was grand enough to receive guests, but still quiet enough President Wilson could rest, recuperate (he had suffered from a stroke during his second term) and enjoy a peaceful retirement. Waddy Woods built the Wilson house in the Georgian Revival style, one several popular styles of architecture in the neighborhood. Kalorama is also home to examples of Beaux Arts, Mediterranean, and other interesting and beautiful architectural styles.[2] 

Guests had the opportunity to enjoy refreshments and music in the back garden at the President Woodrow Wilson House.

            The area continued to develop and urbanize throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as the streetcar and other transportation systems transformed D.C. into the modern city that it is today. However, it was not until the Great Depression hit the United States 1929 that the beautiful embassies and ambassadorial residences that visitors had the chance to tour last Sunday began to show up in Kalorama. After the stock market crash, many of the area’s wealthier families and homeowners hit hard times and were forced to sell their homes. In many cases, those home were bought by the U.S. government, who transformed the buildings into foreign embassies.[3]

Among the stops on the tour was the Cultural Center at the Korean Embassy. Visitors were able to see beautiful art, try Korean food, wear traditional Korean clothing, and learn about Korean culture.

            The 2014 Kalorama House and Embassy Tour allowed visitors a special chance to explore parts of this beautiful and historic neighborhood that are not generally open to the public. However, the area is always a wonderful place to take a quiet walk and admire the houses and imposing architecture of the modern embassies. Of course, while you are in the area, be sure to visit The President Woodrow Wilson House on S Street!

-Sophia Vayansky

[1]Shilpi Paul, “Kalorama: A Posh View From Embassy Row,” D.C. Urban Turf.
[2]The President Woodrow Wilson House, “Wilson House,”
Shilpi Paul, “Kalorama: A Posh View From Embassy Row,” D.C. Urban Turf
[3] Shilpi Paul, “Kalorama: A Posh View From Embassy Row,” D.C. Urban Turf.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Reflections on September's Vintage Game Night

Guests playing a round of croquet in the garden.
Photo Courtesy of Diane Barber.
Last Wednesday, The President Woodrow Wilson House invited guests to experience what life was like in the Wilson-era. Visitors to September’s Vintage Game Night were able to sample food, music, and games from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Additionally, many guests were visiting the Wilson House for the first time and, as a result, were excited to get a glimpse into the private life of the 28th President of the United States. Museum staff was on hand to inform guests about notable objects in the library, drawing room, solarium, and dining room. Similarly, guests were able to explore the terrace and two-tier garden, which are not included on the general tour.  One of the most exciting aspects of the event was the wide variety of early 20th century games that guests were able to choose from. Many people were surprised to learn that several of the games that were popular in Woodrow Wilson’s lifetime are still played today, such as Mahjong. In fact, Mrs. Wilson owned a number of Mahjong sets and often entertained friends with the game. The Wilson House still has her Mahjong set, along with other games, in its collection. 
Mrs. Wilson's Mahjong set in WWH's collection.
Photo Courtesy of WWH. 
Mahjong was first played in the United States over 90 years ago but it remains a popular game today. Mahjong is a four player gambling game that was first played in China in the late 1800s. It is unclear how the game was created because there are many conflicting theories about its origin. One such theory suggests that Confucius created the game, while others contend that the game simply evolved from other similar tile games. Regardless of its origin, Mahjong quickly spread across China and many subsequent variations were made to the game rules. In the early 1920s, Mahjong was discovered by the “West” and quickly gained popularity in North America and Europe. Despite its ancient origins, Mahjong remains a popular game today and many of the Vintage Game Night guests enjoyed learning how to play. While there are many variations on the traditional Mahjong rules, Vintage Game Night guests who had never played before were introduced to the most basic version. If a guest was an experienced Mahjong player, they were encouraged to share their knowledge of the game with others and play a harder version. Mahjong uses 144 tiles with five different suits (bamboo, wind, dragon, circle, character).  The object of the game is to form a Mahjong, which consists of four sets of three and one pair. A set of three can be a “chow,” a run of three tiles, or a “pung,” a set of three identical tiles.
Vintage Game Night guests truly enjoyed their step back in time. Their night in the Wilson-era was filled with fun and excitement! Please join us for our next Vintage Game Night on October 1st from 5:30 to 8pm. In addition to Mahjong, guests can choose from a wide variety of vintage card, lawn, and board games. Tickets are currently available for purchase here. They are selling quickly, so get yours before they’re gone! We hope to see you in October!
Guests playing games in the Drawing Room.
Photo Courtesy of Diane Barber.

-Madison Keller, Fall 2013 Intern

 “Mah-Jong – History and Useful Information,” The Online Guide to Traditional Games, accessed September 4th, 2014,

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The President Woodrow Wilson House Goes to the Library of Congress

         Last week the staff of the President Woodrow Wilson House had the pleasure of going to the Library of Congress for a special tour focusing on Wilson related objects. The highly knowledgeable staff at the library was kind enough to show us materials from the sound recordings, prints and photographs, and manuscript collections, as well as letting us see the Wilson reading room where much of Wilson’s personal library is displayed. Among the highlights of the exhibitions were: a certificate from the city of Rome giving Wilson honorary Roman citizenship, Wilson’s handwritten draft of the armistice announcement, and Wilson’s personal library.
Woodrow Wilson's Certificate of Roman Citizenship
Photo: John Pucher
The city of Rome presented Wilson with the certificate of citizenship in January 1919 when he visited the city and was allowed to declare, “Civis Romanus sum” (I am a citizen of Rome).[1] The certificate has three main sections: an image at the top of the document, a central area of text, and a signature section with a smaller image at the bottom. The upper illustration shows a winged feminine figure (probably the Roman goddess Victoria) standing in front of eagles and a group of fasces (bundles of wooden rods with an axe blade), both symbols of the Roman Empire. The text, which is interspersed with golden representations of the pine trees surrounding Rome, translates to: “The Commune of Rome, / From the Capitoline Hill, / Sacred Citadel for the City and / For the Right of the People / Proclaims / Woodrow Wilson / President of the United States of America / a Roman Citizen / equal to the ancient and great men that long ago founded, in their wisdom the indestructible foundations of the liberty and civilization of the world.”[2] In the lower section are the signatures of various members of the city government and another image, this one depicting the Roman goddess Bellona (goddess of war) holding a statue of Victoria, goddess of victory. This certificate was one of the many tokens of appreciation that Wilson received while he was in Europe.
Wilson's Handwritten Armistice Message
Photo: John Pucher
Wilson’s short, visibly edited armistice announcement displays a snapshot of Wilson’s thoughts on the end of the war and what America’s role in the world should be at this critical juncture. The armistice went into effect on November 11th, 1918 following the collapse of the German government and the retreat of the German army. The message reads, “My fellow Countrymen, The armistice / was signed this morning. Everything / for which America fought has been / accomplished. It will now be / our fortunate duty to assist by / example by sober friendly counsel and by / material aid in the establishment / of democracy throughout / the world. / Woodrow Wilson”[3] Written on a small piece of White House stationary this item presents Wilson’s desire for an idealistic peace along the lines of his Fourteen Points. Sadly, the Treaty of Versailles, which formally ended the war, strayed significantly from these ideas.
The Wilson reading room in the Library of Congress displays some of Wilson’s personal library which was donated by Edith Wilson in 1946. Numbering over seven thousand titles the collection demonstrates Wilson’s well-read, academic nature, as well as the large variety in his tastes and interests. Topics range from politics, to history, to literature, to golf. Unfortunately, not all of his library can be displayed and the reading room is closed to the general public. Nevertheless, the reading room gives great insight what works influenced Wilson’s thought and personality.
Books in the Woodrow Wilson Reading Room
Photo: John Pucher
The staff of the President Woodrow Wilson House had a great time at the Library of Congress and intend to return in the not so distant future. Further, we want to extend our thanks to the numerous people at the Library of Congress who took time to show us their Wilson collections.

-Winston Randolph

[1] Wilson, Edith My Memoir page 216
[2] Translator: Landon Hobbs
[3] Woodrow Wilson, Armistice Announcement

Monday, June 23, 2014

House Description: The Woodrow Wilson House

President Wilson's House in Washington, D.C.
(Photo Credit: The Woodrow Wilson House)
Upon strolling by Woodrow Wilson’s lovely historic home on S street in Washington, DC, one might admire the unique Georgian Revival style architecture of the house. Designed by architect Waddy Butler Wood in 1915, the house was constructed during a peak time for Colonial Revival buildings in the United States.

There are many exterior features that identify Woodrow Wilson’s home as a Georgian Revival. The three story house has a very symmetrical fa├žade, with balanced windows and a center door. The structure of the home is built of brick (Flemish bond) and masonry.

The marble steps lead up to arched paneled entry doors which open to reveal the glass paned front door. The door is accentuated with double pilasters on each side, separated by symmetrical sidelights and a circular decorative motif.

The front entrance to Wilson's House.
(Photo Credit: The Library of Congress)
Supported by two, one-story Roman Tuscan pillars is an entablature[1] with a balustrade[2]. This structure forms the entry porch, which is very elegant and fitting for the home.

On the first floor, there are four 6/6 double hung sash windows. Looking closely, above each window there is a flat lintel[3] created by positioning the bricks in a unique pattern.

Between the first and second floor is a double belt course, a classic feature of the Georgian style.

Three classic Palladian windows offer elegance and light to the second floor of the home. The mullions[4] of the Palladian windows are characterized by Roman Ionic pilasters. Above each Palladian window is an arch with fluting, a very distinguishable characteristic to the Woodrow Wilson House.

On the third floor, there are six 6/6 double hung sash windows. These top windows also have flat lintels designed with brick. Between the first and second, third and fourth, and fifth and sixth window of the third floor there is an elliptical decorative motif.

The home has a low pitched, hipped roof which appears almost flat. There are three off center internal chimneys. A slight overhang of the roof is characterized with dentils[5].

The Woodrow Wilson House is very historic in its style. It is also very unique as well. President Wilson and Edith certainly loved their home and made sure to preserve and maintain the classic look of its design.

President Wilson's House in 1920.
(Photo Credit: The Library of Congress)
- Rebecca McGovern

[1] Entablature: a horizontal, continuous lintel on a classical building supported by columns or a wall, comprising the architrave, frieze, and cornice.
[2] Balustrade: a railing supported by balusters, especially an ornamental parapet on a balcony, bridge, or terrace.
[3] Lintel: a horizontal support of timber, stone, concrete, or steel across the top of a door or window.
[4] Mullion: a vertical bar between the panes of glass in a window.
[5] Dentil: small, rectangular blocks resembling teeth and used as a decoration under the soffit of a cornice.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Spotlight on our Collections: Statue of Italy Triumphant

Statue of Italy Triumphant
President Woodrow Wilson House collection
Photo: Winston Randolph
Outside the drawing room on the second floor of the President Woodrow Wilson House stands a statue given by the people of Milan to President Wilson in gratitude of Wilson’s role in World War One. The statue, made from a melted down Austrian artillery piece, depicts a feminine figure, representing either Italia Turrita (an allegory figure of Italy) or the goddess Victory. In one hand she holds a sword while in the other she carries a dead and defeated two headed eagle, the symbol of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The sculpture stands as a poignant symbol of Italy’s triumph over its longtime rival in World War One.
            Italy’s role in World War One is often less recognized than the roles of France or the British Empire. Prior to the war Italy had been allied to the Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary but remained neutral when hostilities broke out in 1914. In 1915 Italy joined the war on the side of the Allies, fighting Austria-Hungary until the November 1918 peace. The war in Italy did not approach the scale or the cost of the war on other fronts; nevertheless, Italy played a significant role in the Paris Peace Conference.
Wilson in Rome
President Woodrow Wilson House
            President Woodrow and First Lady Edith Wilson received this sculpture in Milan on January 5th. In Italy, Wilson became the first sitting U.S. President to meet with the Pope (Benedict XV). Wilson also used the trip to promote his peace plan, asserting to the Italian parliament that the peacemakers must “organize the friendship of the world, to see to it that all the moral forces that make for right and justice are united and given a vital organization… [to be] substituted for the balance of power.”[1] Similar to other places in Europe, large crowds came out to meet Wilson throughout Italy believing him the deliverer of a new European peace.
1919 while they traveled through Europe before attending the peace conference. Many significant events occurred on Wilson’s trip to Italy.
Crowd to see Wilson in Rome
President Woodrow Wilson House Collection
In later years in her home on S Street, Edith Wilson made sure to cover the tip of the statue’s sword with a tennis ball whenever the grandchildren came to visit. Today the statue ushers guests into the formal drawing room of the Wilson House which holds many other state gifts the Wilsons received on their trip to Europe. These gifts, including others received by Wilson in Italy, showcase Wilson’s role as an international diplomat and highlight the scope of his travels before the Paris Peace Conference.

-Winston Randolph

[1]John Milton Cooper, Woodrow Wilson: A Biography page 465