Settled on the edge of the Mt. Vernon neighborhood, a self-described historic hotel projects into DC an image of its near-past. Intricate eaves of the Morrison-Clark Inn lock together under an Asian-inspired, red tiled roof. Its dark, grand woodwork and bold colors lend a masculine touch, but its history and leadership were commanded by prominent women in the early 1900s. The Morrison-Clark Inn was once the separate-but-attached Morrison and Clark houses, belonging to Daniel L. Morrison and Reuben B. Clark (government supplier of flour and feed during the civil war, and real estate investor, respectively). They became neighbors, their Italiante style homes built alongside one another in 1864. In 1917 a Chinese Chippendale Porch on the Morrison house and a similarly styled archway (pictured) covering the Clark residence were added by its owner at that time. Currently standing beside the re-titled Morrison-Clark hotel, the Clark archway now stands hollowed amid an assortment construction materials. But hold fast your girdle strings, here’s where women come into its history.
A few years after its Asian-style renovations in 1923, the Morrison house was purchased by the Women’s Army and Navy League (later acquiring the Clark house as well) to provide cheap, comfortable lodgings for men (and yes, eventually women) of the armed forces while they stayed in the District. The initial purchase occurred in large part because of funds from Jesse Metcalf, a Senator’s wife. Renamed the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Club, the place was traditionally lead by First Ladies like Grace Coolidge, Jackie Kennedy and Mamie Eisenhower. They personally held “silver tea” fundraisers, concerts and “rummage sales” to keep up the operating costs. Prominent women other than FLs were involved in its 57 year history too– General Douglas MacArthur’s sister-in-law, Mary MacArthur, served Sunday coffee there for 41 years.