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:
- Woodrow Wilson House
- The O Street Mansion: “Like walking into an ‘I Spy’ book“
- National Museum of American Jewish Military History
- 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.