Our nation’s capital is so full of history and elegance that even buildings far lesser known than the usual tourist landmarks have their own fascinating histories. So it proved when I walked by the Pen-Arts Building in the Dupont Circle neighborhood on a vacation in Washington two years ago this November.
I didn’t go inside, but I was so struck by its entrance that I took this photo. The building serves as the headquarters for the National League of American Pen Women (NLAPW), an organization of professional women artists, composers, and writers, founded in 1897.
The organization wasn’t always based here. In fact, the building was designed in 1887 by William M. Poindexter as a 20- room mansion for its first owner, Sarah Adams Whittemore, an opera singer and descendant of President John Adams. That wasn’t the site’s only association with a Presidential descendant: Robert Todd Lincoln, son of Abraham, also was an occupant for awhile.
As a former librarian, I was also gladdened to find out that the building contains a one-room library with works by and about NLAPW members from throughout the organization’s history.