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The Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office Museum

Mills + Schnoering Architects

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U.S. General Services Administration

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FROM THE ARCHITECTS ( July 28, 2015):

The Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office Museum, celebrated its official dedication today with a ceremony at the site.  The new museum, located at 437 7th Street NW in Washington, D.C., is where Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, lived during and immediately after the Civil War. Barton also used this property to store the supplies she received for her work on the battlefield, and later as an office to handle correspondence concerning missing soldiers between 1865 and 1868. The museum opened to the public last May.

Coinciding with the sesquicentennial of the end of the Civil War – and 103 years after Barton’s death – the event was sponsored by the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, which operates the new museum, with keynote remarks by noted journalist, author, news analyst, and political commentator Cokie Roberts. 

In attendance were key representatives from The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), which retains a preservation easement on the museum spaces; building owner Douglas Development, which funds ongoing maintenance and repair of the exterior, building systems, and utilities; The National Park Service (NPS); the National Museum of Civil War Medicine; the American Red Cross; construction contractor OLBN; and Mills + Schnoering Architects (M+Sa), the architecture firm that oversaw the conservation and restoration of Barton’s original rooms, transforming them into a public museum.

“By conserving the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office and creating a museum to tell the story,” stated Beth L. Savage, Federal Preservation Officer for the GSA, “we celebrate how one American woman’s vision made such a significant difference to so many lives.  Barton’s tireless efforts to successfully locate more than 22,000 missing soldiers during and after the Civil War are a testament to her character and an inspiration for all Americans.” 

Architecture and preservation specialists conserve, restore Clara Barton’s historic office

GSA originally retained M+Sa to perform stabilization and conservation services at the site in 2003. In multiple phases since then, the firm created a historically accurate, period atmosphere for the museum based on analysis of building fabric, surviving materials, and original historical elements within the space, altered very little since the 1860s.

“Our firm has worked on numerous historic landmarks throughout the country, at various scales from the Pearl S. Buck House to the Statue of Liberty,” said Michael J. Mills, FAIA, partner at M+Sa. “Creating a historically accurate atmosphere for the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office Museum was challenging and delightful work.  It’s gratifying for us to assist the GSA in its stewardship of this special part of American history.”

M+Sa provided full architectural services including an interior historic structure report; recommendations for appropriate conservation treatments; a pre-treatment report; construction oversight; and construction documents for the conservation work. The firm also designed the museum infrastructure including a museum quality climate control system, while conserving historical aspects of the original rooms.

Artifacts related to Barton’s activities – which were discovered in the attic of the building in 1997 – included untouched letters, some furniture, a tent window, original wallpaper fragments, and numerous socks, which required appropriate conservation treatments.
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