Clara Barton National Historic Site
5801, Oxford Road, Glen Echo, Montgomery County
The basic elements of the Clara Barton House were originally moved to the site from Johnstown, Pennsylvania. On May 31, 1889 a flood in Johnstown prompted the construction of the Locust Street Red Cross Hotel, a building prefabricated in the Midwest for rapid construction at Johnstown. After its use as a temporary homeless shelter for flood victims, the building was disassembled and shipped to Glen Echo. The frame house is 3 stories in height, and nine bays wide, including two Mansard-roofed stone towers on either end. A 20th century porch with Tuscan columns and a projecting center bay spans the first floor, and is topped by a balustrade. The center bay of the second floor is filled with a double window, and the third story above consists of a large gable, three bays wide, with a central door with triangular transom opening onto a small balcony. In the gable above this door is a diamond-shaped louvered vent. Quarter circles of frame flank the second floor gable. On the interior of the building as originally built, a 16-foot-wide hall 3 stories high and lighted by clerestory windows provided a common and dining space. The flanking 2-story portions were also 16 feet wide and were divided by board and batten partitions into family bedrooms opening to the central hall on the first floor and to continuous balconies on the second floor. When the house was reconstructed and adapted to serve as the national headquarters of the American Red Cross in 1897, the stone facade which darkened the interior was removed except for its ends which became the corner towers with the addition of metal-roofed turrets. A parlor was created to the left of the entrance vestibule, a railed lightwell toward the rear of the central hall, was added, as well as a 3-room office suite across the rear of the first floor. Entered through a pair of doors with stained glass Red Cross panels, this suite included a dining room and 2 offices. A large number of closets were needed for storage of relief supplies, stationery, and publications. Interior wall and ceiling finishes are primarily light stained wood, plaster, tacked muslin, or wallpaper canvas painted in some rooms and papered in others. Some of the bedroom closet doors are striped ticking over wood frames. Except for the towers the exterior is wood clapboard with standing seam metal roofs. Original floors are softwood wide boards.
The Clara Barton National Historic Site is significant as the home of Clara Barton from 1897 to 1912, with special emphasis on the years 1897-1904 when it was also executive headquarters of the American Red Cross. Miss Barton's personal direction of its 1897 remodeling made the house uniquely hers in design as well as occupancy. Its architectural significance is best defined by photographic and written documents of the period and by the survival, sometimes concealed by later finishes, of much of the environment described by the documents. Areas such as the basement and the front apartment on the second floor are minimally described by documents and have undergone irreversible modification since Miss Barton's death in 1912. They are or will be adaptively used for those modern support functions required to administer and maintain the house as a museum. Similarly, first and second floor rooms on the long sides of the house and opening of the lightwell will continue in non-historic uses with minimal architectural change; the documentary record of these spaces is too meager to support accurate restoration.