The other Belmont house…

In Historic Houses on June 6, 2011 at 11:40 am

As you know, I’m workingat the Perry Belmont House in DC at the moment (updates to follow, by the way), but there exists another, not entirely unrelated Belmont House down on Capitol Hill: the Sewall Belmont House.

Sewall-Belmont is a museum that commemorates the struggle for women’s suffrage in America and, shocker, it does acknowledge  similar battles around the world, but mainly just the UK (or rather Emmeline Pankhurst’s visits to America). No mention of countries that still do not allow women to vote, which seems like a rather large ommission considering that it is right next to the US Senate Office buildings, not more than 4 blocks from the Capitol. Seems like this building stands where it stands to make a difference, but hasn’t done so for a while…

But, aside from the issue of women’s suffrage around the world, you get quite a good view of how it happened in the US. And it’s a handsome historic house as well. It doesn’t really tell you much about the house itself, mind – I know that the Belmont bit refers to Alva Vanderbilt-Belmont, wife of August Belmont Jnr and suffragist, but not everyone who walks through the door is writing a HABS report on Alva’s brother-in-law. There would have been no way of knowing what I was getting into if I hadn’t had previous knowledge of the house, and if I had walked past and thought “Oooooh, a historic house!” I would have been sorely disappointed, bceause as you can see:

This is not a museum that’s particularly into keeping the character of the house. It had all the promise of a historic house but all the finesse of a crappy council museum. I have to be honest, I didn’t take in any information, because there was just way too much info around. Writing on every square inch of wall with some random artefacts, and the space upstairs is completely empty. That’s something I’ve found in a lot of DC museums, actually – a vast space or two is always left, seemingly as an events space, but why would you leave it open to the public when it looks so awful?

Disappointing historic house museum in a prime location, I’m afraid – I’d just save yourself a trip and go to visit the Perry Belmont house twice.


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