Hillcrest/National Presbyterian Church reflects the merging of two early 20th century Washington institutions into the current historic properties of The Washington City Orphan Asylum (Hillcrest Children’s Center) and the National Presbyterian Church.
The first resident of the space, Washington City Orphan Asylum (referred to as Hillcrest Children’s Village following a 1920s construction project), was one of the oldest charitable institutions in the nation’s capital. Founded in 1815, the institution sought to provide proper care for the city’s expanding orphan population – in contrast to the government’s solution of sending children into poorhouses and workhouses. After a series of moves to meet the increasing demand for additional residential space, a large donation in 1920 resulted in the acquisition of 13.1 acres of property along Nebraska Avenue NW.
Appleton P. Clark Jr., a master architect well-known for his design of orphanages and children’s homes, designed remarkable Tudor Style cottages that evoked a home-like feel in lieu of a sanitized, institutional quality traditionally assigned to children’s homes. Clark was assisted by landscape architect Rose Greely and architect Horace Peaslee, who specialized in landscape design. Only part of Clark’s proposed Hillcrest Children’s Village was constructed, but a few of the cottages survive and remain remarkable examples of Tudor Revival architecture.
In the 1960s, the property was sold to the National Presbyterian Church (NPC) and Hillcrest transitioned its services to a facility at 1325 W Street NW. The NPC’s history can be traced to the late 18th century; as early as 1794 and 1795, a group of Scottish stone masons gathered to hold Presbyterians services on land that the White House currently occupies. Originally known as the Covenant-First Presbyterian Church, desire for a national space of worship resulted in a 1971 name change. In 1963, after acquiring the Nebraska Avenue property, the NPC asked architect Harold E. Wagoner to draw up plans for the new national church. His Modern Gothic design echoed the church’s desire for a stately, dignified, and impressive national space. Wagoner’s incorporation of the four Clark-designed cottages into the church campus contributes to the architectural and historic significance. Today, the church remains an active, national space of worship in Northwest Washington.
DC Inventory: September 26, 2019
National Register: January 12, 2022