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The original owner of the Morrison house at 1015 L Street when it was built in 1864 was David Morrison, a developer who made his fortune selling flour and feed to the US government during the Civil War. When Mr. Morrison died in 1887 he willed the house and furnishings to Marie E. Byington, described as an “attentive, considerate and faithful friend”.
The original owner of the Clark house at 1013 L Street when it was built in 1864, was Ruben B. Clark. Mr. Clark became wealthy through land investments, owning a grocery store, Director of the Anacostia and Potomac River Railroad, and serving as Washington, DC’s Jail Commissioner. He gave the house to his daughter Ida in 1880 who owned it for the next 50 years.
Both townhomes were nearly identical looking until 1876 when the Morrison house was extended to 11th Street gaining a new grand façade and west facing entrance. The new entrance built during this time would later be used as the main entrance to the Morrison Clark Inn for nearly 30 years.
For the following decade a variety of people occupied the houses. Two Congressmen, Mason Summer Peters and William Craig Cooper, were residents. Peters, a Kansan, lived at 1013 L Street in 1898. Cooper, an Ohio representative, lived at 1015 L Street in 1891.
1917 – The Morrison house was owned by a prominent hardware store and real estate firm owner, Frank Rupert, who added the two story porch with its Chinese inspired mansard roof.
1923 – The Morrison house had four owners before its sale to The Women’s Army and Navy League who converted it into an inexpensive place for America’s enlisted men to stay while visiting Washington, DC. First ladies traditionally presided over the military club, hosting teas and fundraisers to maintain its operations. Grace Coolidge headed the receiving line when the facility opened in 1923; Mamie Eisenhower and Jacqueline Kennedy were also active in the organization.
1930 – The Women’s Army and Navy League purchased the Clark house and the two buildings were combined. Purchase of the home was made possible by funds donated by Mrs. Jesse H. Metcalf, wife of the Rhode Island Senator. During the renovation, a staircase original to the Clark house was moved to the Morrison house, where it is still located and in use today.
1923-1987 – The Morrison and Clark houses, now known as the “Soldiers’, Sailors’, Marines’ and Airmens’ Club”, became not only the headquarters of that service organization of “dowagers with clout, but also a hostel for military men.” The Club became a gathering point for first ladies and other women of social-register caliber. While the rank and file shot pool or slapped ping-pong balls, ladies the likes of Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt, Mrs. Admiral Dewey, and Mrs. Calvin Coolidge, hosted silver teas for such guests as Lady Mountbatten, General John J. “Blackjack” Pershing, and others. Mary McCalla McArthur, sister in law of General Douglas McArthur, served Sunday coffee at the Club for forty-one years. The Club’s rummage sales, horse shows, and benefit concerts often drew the attendance of presidents and made headlines in the society pages. During its peak year of 1943, it provided nearly 46,000 lodgings and 85,000 meals. Over its 57 year history with the Women’s Army and Navy League, the Club grew to include airmen and in 1972 expanded its mission to serve female members of the armed forces.
1987 – A restoration and conversion of the former Club into what became the Morrison Clark Inn was started and included an addition the north side of the Morrison house that wrapped around the rear of the site thus creating a courtyard behind the Clark house. The five story and 20,000 square foot building with 42 rooms replaced the much altered 19th century stable and the Club’s utilitarian post World War I additions. William Adair, who also supervised renovations of the White House, oversaw the Inn’s restoration, preserving the historic exterior and many of the interior details of the building, including four pier mirrors and Italian Carrera marble fireplaces.
The Chinese Community Church and Parsonage
1901 – Henry Orth built the townhouse at 1007 L Street. Architect Speiden & Spedien designed the house and it was built by Geo Hough for approximately $20,000. It was made of brick with a concrete foundation and a tin roof.
The Chinese Community Church, the first and only Chinese Church in Washington, DC, was established in 1935 at Mount Vernon Place. In 1939 they purchased and moved the headquarters to the townhouse at 1007 L Street formerly owned by Mr. Henry Orth.
Over the next 18 years the Church remained in the 1007 L Street townhouse, later to be referred to as the Parsonage. The Church grew during this time and was able to raise funds of $89,000 and also took a loan of $75,000 in order to build a new, much larger and more traditional Church next door at 1011 L Street.
1957 – The new Church, with the elaborate facade that is now iconic to L Street, was completed and open for services. The Chinese Community Church now occupied both 1007 and 1011 L Street where it remained as a staple within the neighborhood for the next 57 years.
2013 – Construction began that expanded the Morrison Clark Inn to double its previous size. A new six story, 43,000 square foot addition with 57 new guest rooms rises above the former Chinese Community Church and Parsonage. The sculpted façade of the Church was retained and serves as the hotel’s new main entrance, leading to a two story Lobby, the new location of the Front Desk reception, and a large Lobby Bar. The brick exterior of the Parsonage was also maintained and folded into the fabric of the hotel complex, with a sitting room off of the main lobby that provides a quiet retreat for guests with intimate seating around the restored fireplace and exposed brick walls. The northern portion of the new wing marries up with the previous 1987 addition to the hotel, while it respectfully steps over the oldest structure on the campus, the two story Carriage House. The Carriage House’s existing painted brick facade was maintained after undergoing a restoration, with its interior converted into a single two level guestroom suite. Combining the newest structure with the existing Inn, the complete hotel now has a total of 114 guestrooms.