Obscure Museums in Dupont Circle


Dupont Circle is not just about embassies, and Washington, D.C. is not just about the Smithsonians.

This weekend, I hosted a friend who asked to see more “uncommon” sights. We visited two places I had never heard of before, probably because they did not begin with the word “Smithsonian”. After all, DC really is more than just those buildings on the National Mall. In fact, a number of organizations and historical societies have set up tributes that memorialize a variety of issues and time-period events.

The Laogai Museum at 20th & S Street NW has been in the Dupont area for only a year, but offers a sober education on labor camps in China. “Laogai” means “reform through labor”. The museum has only been open for a year, but hosts a monthly educational film and lecture series on-site. The museum style is bold, modern and engaging; it includes video interviews from prisoners. Self-guided tours, free.

The Christian Heurich House Museum (aka “The Brewmaster’s Castle“) on New Hampshire Avenue offers patrons a peek inside the home straight from the Gilded Age. The builder and original owner was Christian Heurich, a German American who ran a successful brewery in the DC area at the turn of the century. His house was the first fireproof home in DC, and is noted for being the most-intact late Victorian home (it’s even listed on the National Register of Historic Places). The interior is bold, dark and dramatic. And, being a brewer, Mr. Heurich enjoyed his own pub of sorts in the basement where he and his friends played cards. Scheduled tours Tuesday through Saturday. Suggested $5 donation.

Other lesser-known, oddball, obscure, niche museums:

In Dupont:

In the DC – MD – VA area:

  • Seawall-Belmont House and Museum
  • National Building Museum: I visited this in 2009 to see an exhibit on church building photography, and wrote about it on Digital Disciple
  • President Lincoln & Soldiers’ Home National Monument
  • Old Stone House: The oldest house in the District of Columbia
  • National Museum of Women in the Arts
  • National Museum of Health and Medicine: One of DC’s oldest museums, which has now relocated to Silver Spring, MD
  • And this one, thankfully, shut down in 1998.
Have you been to any other little-known museums in DC? Let me know in the comments.
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About Meg Biallas

Thoughts From A DC Intern Turned DCist. A twenty-something goes beyond traditional tourism to achieve Washingtonian authenticity.
This entry was posted in For Tourists, neighborhood and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Obscure Museums in Dupont Circle

  1. Melissa says:

    Actually, the National Museum of Health and Medicine is now located in Silver Spring, MD. The Museum, which is free to the public, reopened in its new location last month. The new address is 2500 Linden Lane, Silver Spring, MD 20910. For more information, call 301-319-3300.

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  2. Meg Biallas says:

    Melissa: Thanks for the clarification. I’ve not actually been to the National Museum of Health and Medicine, but I’m glad to know it’s just a metro ride from Washington, D.C. I’ll update my post to reflect this.

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  3. I remember when the Laogai Museum was at the corner of 12th and M St. NW in my Logan Circle neighborhood. I never knew what it was about. I will have to visit it over the weekend.

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