Clara Barton Cache Leads to Award for History Guru, Museum Deal

GSA Carpenter Discovers Clues That Lead to Historic Site

Video Length: 2 minutes

GSA's discovery and preservation of the Clara Barton boarding house in Washington has reached two milestones: one for the employee who discovered it and another for the project itself.

During its 2010 National Awards and Recognition Dinner, the American Red Cross presented GSA National Capitol Region’s Richard Lyons, a 29-year employee, with a special award for his work to preserve the apartment, office, and belongings of the Red Cross founder in a downtown Washington, D.C., boarding house.

Lyons discovered a cache of Civil War-era documents and artifacts belonging to Barton and colleague Edward Shaw while securing a run-down site for sale and anticipated demolition for redevelopment. The site is in the heart of the Chinatown-Arena district of Washington.

Since then Lyons has been relentless in his drive to preserve Clara Barton’s legacy. Barton, significant figure in American history, tended to wounded soldiers during the Civil War, worked to locate Union soldiers missing in action, and was the founder and first president of the American Red Cross.

In 2001, GSA handled the sale of the building, at 437 Seventh St. NW, for the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corp., which included an easement for the preservation of the spaces associated with Barton. Under the easement terms, JPI, the purchaser, completed an $8 million facade restoration and interior rehabilitation to make the easement area accessible and code-compliant.

GSA has completed a Historic Structure Report and will assume responsibility for interior conservation, estimated at $1.5 million, using Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corp. funds set aside from the sale.

In October, GSA signed a letter of intent summarizing how the agency and the National Museum of Civil War Medicine will proceed toward a management agreement for the interpretation of and public access to the preservation easement spaces at the building. Under this agreement, the museum will assume responsibility for exhibit development, museum build-out, educational programs, marketing, and ongoing operation. The letter of intent will enable the museum to begin fundraising and take advantage of Civil War sesquicentennial marketing opportunities while the agreement moves forward.

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