The Washington Club
The Washington Club was founded in 1891 for “literary purposes, mutual improvement and the promotion of social intercourse.” The first president was Mrs. Elizabeth Blair Lee, wife of Admiral Samuel Phillips Lee, and daughter of Francis Preston Blair. Her family home, located across from the White House, presently serves as the guest house of the President of the United States.
Organized with an educational and social mission, The Washington Club was the first women’s organization to be incorporated in the District of Columbia. Men were accorded privileges at the Club in 1979. It continues to enrich its members through its wide diversity of programs, excellent dining and beautiful surroundings.
The library has been a noted feature of the Club since its inception. Consisting mainly of contributions from members, its contents have changed over the years to reflect the members’ interests. As the number of books have outgrown the library space – at one time numbering 5,961 books – donations have been made to hospitals, school libraries and the Library of Congress.
In addition to books, members’ gifts of furnishings and accessories also have been a long tradition. These gifts have helped to create the ambiance of a private home which distinguishes the Club and enhances the enjoyment of the members.
The Club began meeting at The Richmond, a hotel located at that time on the northeast corner of 17th and H Streets, NW. As the membership grew and its quarters at The Richmond were deemed crowded, the Club moved one block west on H Street to The Everett in 1893. As the Club outgrew that space as well, the first clubhouse, at 1710 Eye Street, was purchased in 1894.
In 1914 the Club purchased the former home of Vice President Charles Warren Fairbanks at 1701 K Street. This four-story building with twenty-three rooms had also served as the embassy for Imperial Russia.
The Club moved into its current clubhouse at 15 Dupont Circle in 1951. Known as the Patterson mansion, it was built in 1900-1902 by Chicago Tribune Editor and Mrs. Robert W. Patterson of Chicago. She was the daughter of Joseph Medill, owner of the Chicago Tribune and progenitor of the Medill/Patterson/McCormick newspaper dynasty. The Pattersons commissioned Stanford White of the New York firm of McKim, Mead and White as the architect. The clubhouse remains the only intact example of Stanford White’s work in Washington, DC.
In 1923, Mrs. Patterson deeded the mansion to her daughter, then the Countess Gizycki. The latter eventually took the name of Eleanor Medill Patterson and became the owner/editor of the Times-Herald newspaper until her death in 1948.
During the summer of 1927, when Eleanor "Cissy" Patterson was living in New York, she offered her home to President and Mrs. Calvin Coolidge as a temporary White House so that they would be comfortable while the White House underwent renovations. They accepted and in June of that year, Charles A. Lindbergh was the president’s guest in the house after his famous transatlantic flight.
Eleanor Patterson willed the building and its furnishings to the American National Red Cross. The Washington Club purchased the home from the Red Cross in 1951 and has conducted its activities there until today.
Recognitions which have been granted to the clubhouse include “District of Columbia Historic Site” (1964), “National Register of Historic Places” (1972), and the “1974 Massachusetts Avenue Historic District.”