Built in the 1820s, this large Federal style complex would become Lydia English’s Female Seminary, a school for “fashionable” women. In 1861, during the Civil War, it would be commandeered and converted into a hospital, and shortly thereafter, in 1870, would be one of the earliest examples of a property being converted into apartments. Located in the Georgetown Historic District, the long-standing historical influence of Lydia English’s Female Seminary and Seminary Hospital is still seen today.
Occupied as Lydia English’s Female Seminary, beginning in 1826, the school would host, rumourably, around 1,800 students. Those in attendance at Lydia English’s Female Seminary would learn subjects deemed appropriate for young women of a “fashionable” manner. Therefore, the school mainly catered to daughters of wealthy and politically-connected figures, such as Martha Johnson Patterson, the daughter of President Andrew Johnson (1865-1869). Other presidents would also visit the school for spring-time festivals and celebrations, such as Martin Van Buren (1837-1841) and James Buchanan (1857-1861). The school would become known for its prominent and important visitors, much less the successful women who completed their schooling or worked there.
Emma Willard (1787-1870), who taught at the seminary from 1830 to 1835, would later found the Troy Female Seminary in Troy, New York, which would revolutionize the way that young women were taught in finishing school. Instead of learning subjects related to proper manners and the qualities of being a good wife, young women were able to attend schools that, for the first time in American history, were equal to that of a young man’s college education, with coursework in geography, arithmetic and other subjects.
Nonetheless, the history of Lydia English’s Female Seminary focused on the men who visited the site. The historic marker states: “Long a Georgetown landmark, this building was occupied from 1826 by Miss Lydia English’s Georgetown Female Seminary, whose patrons and frequent visitors included…,” followed by a list of men and “other notables” of the era.
The Civil War would shift the role that this building played in history, as it would be commandeered by the Union army and converted into Seminary Hospital at the first Battle of Bull Run in 1861. Used as an army general hospital, there are other key figures that walked its halls, such as the famous author and poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892), who is said to have volunteered here for some time, as well as Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, the only woman to ever receive the Medal of Honor for her service during the Civil War. Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888), author of Little Women, is rumored to have also volunteered at the hospital.
Shortly after the war, in 1870, the building would be one of the first instances of a property being converted into apartments. In 2024, following a major renovation, 1305-15 30th Street NW will become luxury condominiums, as the “Colonial Apartments” or “The Colonial.”
DC Inventory: November 8, 1964 (Joint Committee of Landmarks)
Within the Georgetown Historic District