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Out-of-the-way museums offer hidden delights
Sprinkled around Washington's Dupont Circle neighborhood are some of the city's lesser-known museums.
They are not lesser museums, by any means. But it is difficult to stand out in the shadow of the Smithsonian.
So these institutions go about their daily business, relatively unnoticed by the packs of tourists that crowd the city's other museums.
The staffs of these collections are far from alone, however. Residents from the area learned long ago the joys of walking through the Dupont Circle neighborhood, meandering among the embassies, art galleries and private homes, to stop and visit these small gems.
The Dupont Kalorama Museum Consortium publishes a Museum Walk brochure to guide visitors. Here are highlights of some of the places you may see.
Take the Washington Metro to the Dupont Circle station and exit onto Q Street. We found it easiest to walk first to our farthest destination, eventually making our way back toward the Metro station.
Start at the Woodrow Wilson House (2340 S St. N.W.; 202-387- 4062). This home, where the two-term president retired, is the only presidential museum in Washington. Wilson lived in the four-story townhouse with his second wife, Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, and her brother, Randall Bolling, who was Wilson's secretary. (Wilson's first wife, Ellen, died at the beginning of his second term.)
The house where Wilson spent his final few years was a sanctuary for the man who had suffered through a rough second term that included taking the nation into World War I and subsequently trying unsuccessfully to organize a League of Nations. Wilson suffered a severe stroke while he was president. He spent his final months in the White House as a virtual recluse.
Docents at the Wilson House like to tell visitors that the home closely resembles its appearance when Wilson lived there in the early 1920s. The rooms are appointed with family heirlooms, photographs and lavish gifts of state.
Just a few doors down is the Textile Museum (2320 S St. N.W.; 202-667-0441). Venture into the cool quiet of this museum devoted to the intricacies of cloth. The collection of more than 16,000 pieces includes everything from daily garments to fabric woven for religious ceremonies. Emphasis is placed on items woven by women in cultures indigenous to Asia, Africa and the Near East. The museum's Learning Center offers hands-on explanations of materials and techniques. Among the current exhibitions is Gods and Empire: Huari Ceremonial Textiles (7th- and 8th-century Peru), which runs through Jan. 15. Rozome Masters of Japan, featuring the works of Japanese Rozome textile painters through the ages, opens Oct. 14. Rozome is a wax-resist textile dyeing technique unique to Japan.
Continue on to the National Museum of American Jewish Military History (1811 R St. N.W.; 202-265-6280). (Don't miss Washington's mini-version of the famed Spanish Steps, as you leave S Street. They're right down from the Chinese Embassy.) Chartered by Congress in 1958, the American Jewish military history museum highlights the heroism and sacrifices of Jewish members of the military. Museum President Jack Berman says the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America was begun in 1896 "to prove that Jews did fight for their country." The museum was developed under the auspices of the veterans group. The continuing exhibit Women in the Military: A Jewish Perspective profiles women who served in conflicts from the Civil War to the Gulf War. Berman says museum staff members are at work on an exhibit honoring 350 years of Jewish presence and military assistance in America.
Walk a short distance to the Phillips Collection (1600 21st St. N.W., 202-387-2151), known as America's first museum of modern art. Duncan Phillips opened his private collection to the public in 1921. Phillips had a well-developed eye, and many of the respected masters of the art world are represented here, including Picasso, Monet, Degas, Cezanne and Klee. Also included are works by Thomas Eakins, Georgia O'Keeffe and Jacob Lawrence. Guided tours are offered at 2 p.m. Saturdays. The museum is open until 8:30 p.m. Thursdays for special programs. Sean Scully: Wall of Light begins Oct. 22. This is the first U.S. exhibition of the American abstract artist's critically acclaimed series on light. It will close next year at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Just a short jaunt from the Phillips sits Anderson House, home of the Society of the Cincinnati. The society was founded in 1783 by officers who served in George Washington's Continental Army and Navy. A single descendant of each of the 14 founders carries on today. The 45-minute tour of this mansion highlights the society and member Larz Anderson III. Anderson was a career American diplomat who married Isabel Weld, daughter of shipping magnate William Fletcher Weld and the richest woman in America at the time. Their home is filled with their unique artwork and treasures. .
Getting there Take the Washington Metro's Red Line to the Dupont Circle station. Exit via Q Street exit. Or take Interstate 295 South to U.S. 50 West/New York Avenue Northeast toward Washington. Continue on U.S. 50 to a right on Florida Avenue. Turn left onto Q Street. Parking is limited.
More information Visit www.dkmuseums.com.