Mapping DC Historic Houses (Digital Project Proposal)

Washington, DC is a city built in and around history. As the city has grown and modernized, pockets of history still remain tucked away, often found in its parks or buildings. One category of historical sites that offers a window into the past of the city is historic houses, building’s that have been preserved through time either because of the people who lived in them, the events that took place in them, or through the efforts of local historical societies. Washington, DC is filled with historic homes from those of well-known Presidents and politicians to the lesser known homes of members of DC’s society. These homes are varied in their topics, time periods, and functions in the city.

            For this Digital Project, I propose creating a site that pins the locations of these historic homes on Google Maps, similar to a site such as PhilaPlace or perhaps using HistoryPin to compile the locations. Similar to PhilaPlace, each pin would have a short summary of the house’s history, including when it was built and who it was built for originally. One would also be able to open up a larger page that would contain a more in-depth history of the home, including when it transitioned from being a functional home to its current purpose. The pins would also provide information about the homes’ current functions, such as whether it operates as a museum or houses a historical society, is it accessible to the public, etc. The pins would also provide information about who currently owns and maintains the house and what their objectives with the building are. The intent would also be to allow users to filter based on time period or what topics of history the original inhabitants may have been involved in. For example, one could filter the map to show the homes of politicians from the 1700s and easily find the well-known Mt. Vernon, while another user could filter the map to show the houses of someone involved in business in the 1800s and find the less known Heurich House Museum.

            The primary audience for such a site would be those in the general public with an interest in history, particularly unique perspectives of history. Again these houses could have been home to a President or just another family whose names don’t often break into the history textbooks. Finding these less talked about historic sites can be of a very real interest to many to broaden their understanding about life in this city throughout its history. This resource could be useful to researchers though who may be looking for specific information perhaps about an individual who lived in one of these homes or about a time period that may be well covered in that house’s collections. Providing the information of the organizations maintaining the house would also provide researchers with further understanding of the operations and collections of the house, the time period it may reflect, and the preservation efforts that have gone into it.

2 Replies to “Mapping DC Historic Houses (Digital Project Proposal)”

  1. Great post, Connor! Have you thought about the potential for these to help with walking tours of the city as well? Many homes are featured on downloadable tours, but I know at my house museum many guests have complained about the lack of logic behind the routes. Something like this would seem like a great resource for tourists, maybe if it could be linked to some of those sites.

  2. This is a fun project that I personally would be super interested in. You HAVE to include Anna Julia Cooper in this! She lived in DC and used her house as a school for African Americans who otherwise would not have gotten an education. Its now lived in, but there is a plaque dedicated to her and the work she did at the house on T street.

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