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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Logan Circle in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

If These Mansions Could Talk

A Fitting Tribute

 

—Logan Circle Heritage Trail —

 
If These Mansions Could Talk Marker image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, July 13, 2013
1. If These Mansions Could Talk Marker
Inscription. Over the years most of Logan Circle's Mansions experienced numerous uses and have returned to private occupancy. For example 15 Logan Circle was completed in 1877 for Lt. Cmdr. Seth Ledyard Phelps, a Civil War Veteran appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant to the Board of Commissioners (the body that governed DC from 1874 until 1967). In 1891 the Kingdom of Korea (Joseon Dynasty) purchased number 15 for its first embassy in the United States. Just before Imperial Japan annexed Korea in 1910, the Japanese government forcibly took possession of the house and sold it. Eventually the mansion house a World War II-era recreation center for African Americans and then offices for locals 639 and 730 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters before returning to a series of private owners. The Korean government repurchased the house in 2012, marking the 130th anniversary of U.S. Korea diplomatic relations. Phelps also built the adjoining 1502 3th Street, briefly the clubhouse of African American journalists, then a rooming house of ill repute known as the Raleigh, and, since the 1990s, condominium apartments.

A house that has always been a family residence is number 14. The only Beaux-Arts-inspired house on the circle was built in 1903 for Woodward and Lothrop merchandise manager Josephine Noruse. She sold number 14 to Thomas
If These Mansions Could Talk Marker image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, July 13, 2013
2. If These Mansions Could Talk Marker
Caesar Smith M.D., in 1930. Smith, a Howard Medical School graduate, moved his wife and five daughters there and treated patients in a clinic he opened in his English basement. At a time when most hospitals excluded African Americans and the poor often lacked health care, Dr. Smith spent many Sundays and evenings visiting patients around the city and with its alley communities. He invested in real estate, purchasing property for each daughter. The second eldest, Therrell, used hers to open a ballet school, and was still teaching dance in 2013, at the age of 95.
 
Erected 2013 by Cultural Heritage DC. (Marker Number 7.)
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Washington DC, Logan Circle Heritage Trail marker series.
 
Location. 38° 54.616′ N, 77° 1.761′ W. Marker is in Logan Circle, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of 13th Street and Logan Circle, on the left when traveling south on 13th Street. Click for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1505 13th St NW‎ Washington, DC 20005, Washington DC 20005, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Logan Circle Just Ahead (within shouting distance of this marker); Charles M. “Sweet Daddy” Grace Residence
Seth Ledyard Phelps image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, July 13, 2013
3. Seth Ledyard Phelps
Portrait of Lt. Cmdr. Seth Ledyard Phelps, first owner of 15 Logan Circle, NW, by Carl Becker.
Close-up of photo on marker
Library of Congress
(within shouting distance of this marker); Major General John A. Logan (within shouting distance of this marker); Pratt House (within shouting distance of this marker); Belford V. Lawson and Marjorie M. Lawson Residence (within shouting distance of this marker); John Logan Memorial (within shouting distance of this marker); Logan Circle (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); A Neighborhood Reborn (about 300 feet away but has been reported missing). Click for a list of all markers in Logan Circle.
 
Also see . . .
1. Korea set to reclaim former Logan Circle embassy. In The Loop by Al Kamen, Washington Post, 09/18/2012. (Submitted on July 16, 2013, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland.) 

2. At 95, Therrell Smith has an enduring passion and love for dance. by Petula Dvorak,Washington Post, November 22, 2012. (Submitted on July 16, 2013, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland.) 
 
Additional keywords. Korea
 
Categories. African AmericansGovernmentWar, US Civil
 
Inside 15 Logan Circle, 1903 image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, July 13, 2013
4. Inside 15 Logan Circle, 1903
Close-up of photo on marker
King Gojong image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, July 13, 2013
5. King Gojong
King Gojong acquired 15 Logan Circle in 1889. In 1897, he declared Korea an empire and himself Emperor, ending Korea's tributary relationship to China. He abdicated to his son in 1907. In 1910 Korea was annexed to the expanding Japanese Empire and the legation on Logan Circle belonged to Japan.
Close-up of a display at 15 Logan Circle
The Korean Legation image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, July 13, 2013
6. The Korean Legation
Close-up of postcard on display at 15 Logan Circle

History of the Building

King Gojong of Joseon Dynasty purchased this building (15 Logan Circle) from Mr. Sevellon A. Brown (Seth L. Phelps' son-in-law) for $25,000 in 1891. (Mr. Phelps was veteran of the Civil War, a diplomat and a politician).

20 years later in 1910 Japan annexed Korea by force, robbing this building from King Gojong for only $5. However, Korea recovered her sovereignty when Japan surrendered to the US at the end of World War II in 1945. Since then, the Korean government and Korean-Americans in the US strived to regain ownership of this building as a symbol of 19th century Korean diplomacy.It was only last spring that we succeeded in buying the building back. We are now working on a plan to make the best use of this building. When the plan is carried out in the near future, this building will be reborn as a Korea-US friendship museum. The museum shall show visitors how the friendship between Korea and the US was born and developed over the years. -- Text from a display inside 15 Logan Circle
Ambassador Ahn Ho-young of the Republic of Korea image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, July 13, 2013
7. Ambassador Ahn Ho-young of the Republic of Korea
speaking at the dedication of the Logan Circle Heritage Trail on July 13, 2013.
Dr. T. C. Smith image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, July 13, 2013
8. Dr. T. C. Smith
Dr. Thomas Caesar Smith, whose name still appeared over the front door of 14 Logan Circle in 2012.
Close-up of photo on marker
Collection of Therrell Smith
Birdie C. Smith image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, July 13, 2013
9. Birdie C. Smith
wife of Dr. Thomas C. Smith
Close-up of photo on marker
Collection of Therrell Smith
Wedding Party image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, July 13, 2013
10. Wedding Party
The wedding party of Therrell Smith and Wylie Daniel in the dining room of 14 Logan Circle, 1940.
Close-up of photo on marker
Collection of Therrell Smith
{Ms. Smith says it's really the reception room not the dining room.}
Therrell Smith image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, July 13, 2013
11. Therrell Smith
Therrell Smith surrounded by students at her Bunker Hill Rd., NE, dance studio, the successor to her first school at 49 Rhode Island Ave.
Close-up of photo on marker
Scurlock Studio, National Museum of American History
Therrell Smith image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, July 13, 2013
12. Therrell Smith
at the dedication of the "If These Mansions Could Talk" marker
Therell Smith image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, July 13, 2013
13. Therell Smith
The 95-year-old ballet teacher has lived at 14 Logan Circle for over 80 years.
14 Logan Avenue image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, July 13, 2013
14. 14 Logan Avenue
The only Beaux-Arts inspired building on Logan Circle
Dr. T. C. Smith image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, July 13, 2013
15. Dr. T. C. Smith
Sign over the Door at 14 Logan Circle
English Basement image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, July 13, 2013
16. English Basement
used as an office by Dr. Thomas Smith at 14 Logan Circle
Map -- You Are Here image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, July 13, 2013
17. Map -- You Are Here
Close-up of map on marker
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. This page has been viewed 808 times since then and 87 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17. submitted on , by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on January 28, 2017.
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