Elliott Coues House

From 1887 to 1899, this house was the residence of the prominent ornithologist Elliott Coues, whose studies greatly expanded the knowledge of North American bird life.

Although this semi-detached row house, likely built in the 1880s, is of no architectural significance itself, it achieved landmark status for its association with Dr. Elliott Coues. Born in New Hampshire in 1842, Coues moved to DC with his family in 1853, and he remained in the city to attend Columbian College (now George Washington University) for his undergraduate education and subsequently for medical school.

Having enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1862, Coues was appointed to a post as an assistant surgeon at Fort Whipple in Arizona soon after graduating from medical school. After the end of the Civil War, Coues remained in the Army, where he continued to serve until his retirement in 1881. Until his death in 1899, Coues worked in a variety of capacities, lecturing on anatomy at Columbian College in addition to pursuing his passions for studying spirituality and Old West history.

However, Coues’ most important lifelong passion was his interest in birds. Throughout his time in the Army, Coues continuously studied birds and published many books on the birds he encountered. Works such as his 1872 Key to North American Birds attained wide readerships and have been credited with helping to popularize ornithology across the country. Coues remained very involved in ornithological circles throughout his life, helping to found the American Ornithologists’ Union (now the American Ornithological Society) in 1883, later serving as its president, and editing the Union’s scientific journal, The Auk.

As one of the preeminent encyclopedists of North American birds, Coues has been honored with several ornithological distinctions. The state bird of Arizona, where Coues worked and studied birds for over a decade, is a subspecies of the cactus wren named couesi in Coues' honor. Additionally, Coues became the first to document the bird now known as Grace's warbler in the Rocky Mountains in 1864; it is named for Coues' sister, Grace, per his request.

The Elliott Coues House is designated as a National Historic Landmark in recognition of Coues’ contributions to science. 

DC Inventory: March 3, 1979
National Register: May 15, 1975
National Historic Landmark: May 15, 1975
Within Dupont Circle Historic District



1726 N Street, NW