Historic Dumbarton House and the American Red Cross share a unique history of partnership. Dumbarton House became a Red Cross facility during World War II supporting the relief efforts of the Red Cross’s D.C. Chapter from 1942 until 1945. Since 1928, Dumbarton House had been the headquarters for The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America (NSCDA), an organization that to this day actively promotes our national heritage through historic preservation, patriotic service and educational programs. The NSCDA had also opened its headquarters as a historic house museum in 1932, but with the outbreak of World War II the NSCDA recognized the opportunities to support local efforts.
Thus, Dumbarton House ceased operating as a museum in 1942, so that it could be transformed into a facility for the Red Cross with the house’s first floor and basement used by volunteers who assisted American soldiers and citizens affected by the war overseas. Collections were removed, the basement was converted into a break room, and the floors were covered with a protective linoleum cover. Two rooms in Dumbarton House were used to hold classes for nutrition, first aid, and nurses’ aid training.
This exhibition commemorates the 70th Anniversary of this little-known partnership. Objects relating to the time the Red Cross occupied Dumbarton House are featured in the exhibition, including historic photographs, a Red Cross uniform, and documents explaining the Red Cross’s work at Dumbarton House.