Founding Church of Scientology, Washington, DC
This row house once housed L. Ron Hubbard's office and was instrumental in the early days of Scientology.
This row house at 1812 19th Street NW is one of three properties around the nation closely connected to L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology (the other two properties are in New Jersey and Arizona). Here, at this property within the Dupont Circle Historic District, Hubbard had his office from 1956 to 1961. While working here, Hubbard wrote many important administrative documents, and developed policies and procedures for the new church – which had just been established on July 4, 1955. These publications, lectures, and policies written and developed in Washington – and distributed by the Hubbard Communications Office, also on-site – helped guide the church to become a major religion known worldwide. At this row house, during these early years of the church, Hubbard officiated and performed Scientology’s first marriage ceremony. Importantly, as the landmark's name suggests, this building contained the Founding Church of Scientology and its offices, as well as the Scientology Academy.
During this time, Hubbard and the church were leasing the property – in addition to the row house next door (at 1810 19th Street). After 1961, the church’s headquarters moved to an estate in Sussex, England. Over the next four decades, the row house at 1812 19th Street continued to serve as office space for different companies and organizations. In 2003, the church’s Heritage Properties International purchased and restored the property to its late-1950s to early 1960s period of significance. Although the building is once again linked to Scientology, the Founding Church is now located at 1424 16th Street NW – within the Sixteenth Street Historic District.
Born in Tilden, Nebraska in 1911, Hubbard was always intellectually curious, and deeply interested in exploring the world. Early on, Hubbard enrolled in engineering at The George Washington University. During World War II, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, which took him to Australia. Simultaneously, Hubbard became a prolific writer, publishing a novel in 1937 and 140 short stories by 1940. He became known for his contributions to pulp fiction and the magazine Astounding Science Fiction. His breakout moment that would change history occurred in 1950. That year, his New York Times bestseller Dianetics was published. The book, which famously promoted “processing” / ”auditing,” quickly gained a following, and various groups were soon meeting around the country. Over the next five years, Dianetics transitioned into the Scientology religion. The landmark's nomination form notes: “While Dianetics was a means by which one could understand the mind, Scientology provided a knowledge of life and one’s existence as an eternal spiritual being.” Therefore, Hubbard is now considered a major historical figure in American religious movements.
Prior to this individual landmark designation, 1812 19th Street has long been recognized as a contributing property to the Dupont Circle Historic District. Designed by Waddy B. Wood’s firm of Wood, Donn & Deming, this Beaux Arts row house with a distinctive Flemish gable was completed in 1904. The building, which is clad in brick and limestone masonry, is one of six row houses designed by Wood, Donn & Deming along the west side of 19th Street, between S and T streets. Like many other properties in Washington, DC, this row house had a series of owners and residents – including a United States senator – before it was converted to office use.
DC Inventory: June 30, 2022
National Register: September 6, 2022
Within Dupont Circle Historic District