The Clara Barton House in Glen Echo MD is the perfect place for a short history lesson since it is just outside Washington, DC, near several good restaurants, and right next to the C&O Canal for a pleasant hike aftrwards.

The Clara Barton House is a Local Landmark in Glen Echo

The Clara Barton National Historic Site, which includes the Clara Barton House, was established in 1974 to interpret the life of  Clara Barton (1821–1912), an American pioneer  teacher and nurse who founded the American Red Cross.  Her final residence (1897-1912) is located 2 miles (3.2 km) northwest of washington DC in Glen Echo, MD and is open for visitors on Friday through Sunday.  The property includes 9 acres of land and the 38-room former house. The site is managed by the National Park Service and is the first national historic site dedicated to the accomplishments of a woman.  It preserves not only the last home of Clara Barton but also the early history of the American Red Cross.  The property is unfurnished at present and the upper two levels are closed to visitors due to structural concerns.

History of the Clara Barton House

The large frame house was partially constructed from lumber salvaged from emergency buildings built by the Red Cross at Johnstown, PA  following the 1889 flood. The lumber of the dismantled buildings was brought to Washington via the C&O Canal to avoid flooding the local market in Johnstown. The lumber was stored on a lot owned by Barton in Washington D.C. until early in 1891 when construction began on land donated by Edwin and Edward Baltzley, who were developing aChautauqua  assembly at Glen Echo.

The original structure included a massive stone front in a style in keeping with the rest of the Chautauqua buildings. In 1897, when Barton moved into the house permanently, the central part of the stone facade was dismantled, creating flanking stone towers. 

In spite of its massive size, the house is sparely detailed and furnished for utility. The interior is designed as if it were a Mississippi River steamboat. The house contains 36 rooms and 38 closets, with three tiers of rooms facing a central gallery lighted by windows of colored glass. Following Barton’s death, alterations were made to the interior, creating eight apartments. The Friends of Clara Barton purchased the house in 1963.  The National Park Service acquired the house and grounds in 1975.

Why Visit the Clara Barton House?

A visit to the Clara Barton House makes a great short history lesson for your family.  Children can learn a little about the history and mission of the American Red Cross and be inspired by the courage and leadership of Clara Barton.  The tour is only 35-45 minutes long and since the building is unfurnished, you don’t have to worry about your children knocking into anything.  You can combine a trip to the Clara Barton House with a walk on the C&O Canal or a trip to Glen Echo, including the puppet theater and historic carousel there.  Lunch is easy!  There is a lovely but kid-friendly restaurant nearly next door – the Irish Inn at Glen Echo with outdoor seating in the warm weather.  You can also pick up sandwiches or pizza at the small shopping center across the street if you want to do a picnic on the grounds of the Glen Echo Park or somewhere along the Canal.

If you want to know about other hidden gems, landmarks and lore in the DC area, just stay tuned or follow me.  There will be more posts coming.  If you want to know what is for sale in Glen Echo (if anything is on the market right now,) just click here.

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