During the Civil War, Clara Barton’s rooms in a mid-nineteenth century boarding house in Washington, DC served as the base of operations for her battlefield relief work, which would later lead to the founding of the American Red Cross. After the war, between 1866 and 1868, she operated a “Missing Soldiers Office” in the same rooms. In the late 1990s, artifacts related to her activities were discovered in the attic of the building. While the façade of the building had undergone modern repair and replacement, the third floor of the building, where Clara Barton’s office and residence were located, had not been altered since the 1890s.
Mills + Schnoering Architects completed the stabilization and restoration of the Clara Barton Apartment after a 10-year presence there as conservator, historic preservation consultant, architect, and architectural historian for the site. Historic research was complemented by a program of thorough physical investigation and culminated in an Historic Structure Report and Conservation Assessment. Appropriate conservation treatments were identified, as were locations for careful integration of the mechanical, electrical, fire protection, and lighting systems required to preserve the building and its important collection. Work included digital reproduction of nine Civil War-period wallpapers from fragments and in-situ pieces. The design team also prepared computer-generated renderings and animation of the apartment as it looked during Clara Barton’s occupancy to assist in finding an appropriate museum partner. The Clara Barton Museum is now open to the public as a branch of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.