Arts Club of Washington, D.C. Collection, 1916-1990

Arts Club of Washington, D.C. Collection, 1916-1990

Finding Aid

Collection No. 12 (.25 linear ft.)
D.C. Community Archives


Most of the items in this collection were originally part of the Washingtoniana’s vertical files, a set of files maintained for ease of reference on various topics related to D.C. history and current events. The vertical files primarily contain clippings but also include other rare items such as signed letters, original programs, and reports. To ensure the physical preservation of rare documents in the vertical file, they were removed in 1999 to create this collection.


The Arts Club of Washington, D.C., was formed in May 1916 “to create a center for artists and art lovers.”  The original intent was to make a national rather than a local organization which would stimulate interest in and encourage art and which would avoid all politics.
The building at 2017 I St. NW, which was purchased for the headquarters of the Arts Club, was constructed about 1808. It was James Madison’s temporary home when the White House was burned in the War of 1812 and was also the residence of James Monroe when he was Secretary of State in the Madison administration.
By 1920 the organization had 771 members. Among the nearly 200 separate functions for that year, there were weekly dinners followed by addresses, music and lectures. There were dinner dances and art exhibits. The Club also held an annual costume ball, which involved skits, recitations and competitions for the most imaginatively dressed, as well as dancing.
By the early 1920s the Club was seriously considering moving to larger quarters, but they decided the advantages to preserving an important historic building overrode other considerations. Instead they built an annex in the mid-1920s and purchased the adjacent building in 1929, creating ample space for their many activities.

Scope and Content Note

Most of the documents are photocopies of clippings from the newspaper society pages from 1916 to the 1960s.  There are notices of exhibits, announcements of elections of officers and of programs.  Among the few original documents, there are two volumes of monthly calendars, 1929-1947; a selection of newsletters, “Artifacts,” 1952-1964; invitations and programs from the annual dance, “Bal Boheme”; several annual financial statements; and a copy of the Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws from 1950.  Of recent interest are training manuals for historic building research workshops conducted by the Club in the 1990s.  (Clippings from the 1980s and 1990s may be found in the vertical file under Societies & Clubs: Arts Club of Washington, D.C.) Original materials have been integrated with the clippings and are arranged chronologically. 

Box Inventory

Box 1

  • Clippings & Memorabilia
    • 1916-1929
    • 1930-1939
    • 1940-1959
  • Financial Statements                                   
    • 1955-1960
  • Clippings & Memorabilia                               
    • 1960-1969
  • “Artifacts” [ACW newsletter]  (1:2)             
    • 1952-1957
  • “Artifacts”  (2:2)                                            
    • 1958-1964
  • Arts Club of Washington “Calendars”         
    • 1929-1938                                                      
    • 1939-1947

Box 2

  • Workshop Manuals
    • On-The-Job Training in the Analysis of Historic Building Fabric, May-June 1990
    • Preparation of Archaeological assessments, June 25-26 1990        
    • Workshop on Historic Building research, June 27-28 1990
    • Final report/Program evaluation, 1990


DC Public Library, Special Collections
D.C. Community Archives
901 G St. NW, Room 307
Washington, D.C.  20001

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