This row house is notable for its significance as the headquarters of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) and as the DC residence of Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955), educator and civil rights leader. The row house transitioned from a single-family home for the upper-middle class in the late-nineteenth century to a boarding house and shop in the early twentieth century. The house was the headquarters of the NCNW from the 1940s to the 1960s. Comprised of fifteen rooms, one kitchen, and two bathrooms, the Council House served as the headquarters for NCNW, Mary McLeod Bethune’s residence until 1949, and guest accommodations for out-of-town visitors.
In January 1966, a fire damaged the Council House. While the building’s core remained intact, extensive water and smoke damage forced the NCNW to relocate. For nearly eleven years, the house lay dormant. It was not until 1975, when the Council House was listed in the DC Inventory of Historic Sites, that the NCNW successfully raised funds needed to renovate and restore both the main and carriage houses. In the fall of 1977, the Bethune Historical Development Project began, and in November 1979, the home reopened to the public as a museum and archives for the collection, preservation, and interpretation of Black women’s history.
Today, the headquarters still function as a museum and archive, administered by the National Park Service. Each transition exemplifies the shifting nature of the Logan Circle area. During the past century, this neighborhood changed from an affluent, nearly all-white community to an enclave of the Black elite, and finally, to a racially diverse district. Bethune’s association with the house made it a center of activity in the 1940s as a meeting place for the NCNW and prominent figures, including Eleanor Roosevelt and Mary Church Terrell.
This site is included on the Women's Suffrage in Washington DC for its connection to the National Council of Negro Women and their efforts to make voting more accessible to Black women.