March 18, 2015

Howard promises to renovate the Terrell House

Mary Church Terrell HouseAfter years of neglect, Howard University has agreed to finish renovations of the Mary Church Terrell House (326 T Street NW).

Mary Church Terrell was a civil rights leader who lived from 1863 to 1954 and spent the last decades of her life in LeDroit Park.  She was instrumental in lawsuit, D.C. vs. J. R. Thompson Co., Inc., that that led the U.S. Supreme Court to desegregate all restaurants in D.C. in 1953.

Mary Church Terrell and her husband Robert Terrell, D.C.’s first black judge, willed the house to their daughter and, upon her death, to Howard University, which took control of the house in 1998.

The university had long planned to renovate the house and turn into a museum focused on the Terrells and the history of the neighborhood. Those plans never came to fruition.

However, in a Feb. 26 meeting between community leaders, including me, and Howard University President Wayne Frederick, the president assured us that restoration work will start on the house within six months.

We have not seen the exact plans of the physical restoration the university will complete, but Dr. Frederick wants to revisit the concept of housing a museum as he perceives a lack of support for that specific use.

The president is well aware of the vast community support toward the house’s physical restoration. The LeDroit Park Civic Association voted in January to send a letter to the university’s leadership expressing disappointment at the state of the Mary Church Terrell House and the Walter Washington House (408-410 T Street NW), both of which are Howard properties in different state of disrepair.

Categories: Development Projects, Historic Preservation, History, Howard University
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