Howard University Leads Restoration of Historic LeDroit Park Home

By: Howard University

WASHINGTON – Howard University is restoring the home of civil rights activist, education trailblazer, and suffragist Mary Church Terrell with the support of an African American Civil Rights (AACR) grant from the Historic Preservation Fund administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior. Renovations are currently under way with plans for completion later this year. 

“It is an incredible honor to be at the center of such an historic and meaningful real estate transformation,” said Derrek Niec-Williams, executive director of campus planning, architecture and development in Howard University’s Office of Real Estate Development and Capital Asset Management. “As an anchor in DC’s African American community and site of one of the nation’s leading preservers of African American history, Howard University is well positioned to spearhead the process of preserving Mary Church Terrell’s legacy and the broader legacy of the vibrant African American community that is central to LeDroit Park’s history. We are immensely grateful to the National Park Service, Department of the Interior for providing the resources to make this transformation possible.” 

In March 2018, Howard University secured grant funding through the AACR from the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service, a significant step in the restoration of the Terrell house.  

The AACR Grant Program, initiated in 2016 with appropriations from Congress through the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF), was designed to bolster preservation initiatives and activities tied to the 20th-century African American Civil Rights Movement. Established in 1977 and authorized at $150 million per year through 2023, the HPF has provided more than $2 billion in historic preservation grants to states, tribes, local governments, and nonprofit organizations.  

Situated within the LeDroit Park Historic District, the asymmetrical house at 326 T Street NW was built in 1894. Initially conceived as half of a duplex, its counterpart—an identical dwelling on the western side—was demolished following a fire in the early 1960s. Terrell (1863-1954) and her husband Robert Heberton Terrell (1857-1925), an educator and law professor at Howard University and the first African American judge to serve on the DC Municipal Court, occupied the home between 1899 and 1913. 

Throughout her life, Terrell was deeply committed to fighting against racial discrimination and promoting social justice. A longtime educator and a member of the Washington, DC school board, Terrell was a resource to Howard University students and the LeDroit Park community. Terrell was a member of the Washington, DC school board, making her the first African American woman to serve on a school board in the United States.  

Terrell was also a founding member and the first president of the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) in 1896 and she helped form the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. She was also a member of several suffrage groups, including the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Terrell also became an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. 

In 1975, the Terrell home was designated as a National Historic Landmark and listed in the National Register of Historic Places, recognizing Terrell’s contributions to civil rights, voting rights, educational, and humanitarian contributions that altered the sociopolitical landscape of the nation’s capital and the country. In accordance with Terrell’s wishes, the home was bestowed to Howard University in 1987. Following years of vacancy, the home was added to the DC Preservation League’s Most Endangered Places list in 1999. The home was removed from the list in 2023 amid the ongoing efforts to rehabilitate the historic landmark. 

Furthered by the unwavering commitment of the Mary Church Terrell House Board, and with the support of the LeDroit Park Civic Association, Howard University’s historic restoration of this civil rights activist’s home benefitted greatly from the support of the neighboring Coury family, who graciously provided the University and its contractors crucial access to the home via their adjacent property.  

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