Girl Scout Little Houses

To understand the Girl Scout Little House it's good to know a bit of the history leading up to  the opening in 1924. In the early 1920's a National Council of Better Homes in America, an advisory group with (future US President) Calvin Coolidge and (future US President and then-current US Secretary of Commerce) Herbert Hoover on the board. The current US President Warren G Harding and several state governors supported the council.

The goal was to create a general improvement in the quality of homes across America and for more Americans to become homeowners. 

One of their ideas was to create "demonstration homes" in many communities to show average Americans what the newest features in building, safety and care of a home were available and to encourage builders and communities to improve the standards of home building.

Thus, the General Federation of Women's Clubs in Washington DC had such a house built, believe it or not, in time for the Shriner's Convention. The architect was Donn Barber and  was inspired by the boyhood home of John Howard Payne, who wrote the 1823 opera that included  the song "Home Sweet Home." Payne was from Easthampton, Long Island (NY).

A great fuss was made over such things as which books would be displayed on the bookshelves, and - in another believe it or not moment - using chloroformed rose bushes, gassed to make the roses think they've wintered over and therefore bloom during the Shriner's Convention. Apparently President & First Lady Harding were impressed with their visit on opening day, June 4, 1923. 

After the Shriner's Convention the demonstration home was closed except for special tours.

The house, though well designed and built, was always just temporarily located  on government property south of the US Treasury Building. In fact, by December 1923 there were grumblings in DC to get it moved before it was demolished. The General Federation of Women's Clubs of Washington D.C. had to act.

So, that is how the first Girl Scout Little House came to be.

As First Lady Mrs Coolidge "laid the cornerstone" for the foundation to the house that would later be moved to that location, she tucked in a Girl Scout handbook, several Girl Scout related papers and a newspaper.

After this ceremony, all the adult Girl Scouts left to have lunch and a meeting at the Girl Scout Tea House on Haines Point, D.C.

March 25, 1924

The Girl Scout Little House of Washington D.C. slowly being moved down the street to its new location on New York Street, after the General Federation of Women's Clubs transferred ownership to the Girl Scouts. The move was paid for by the Girl Scouts.

So, once the house was moved to it's new location at 1750 New York Ave. NW in Washington D.C. it quickly became a focal point for Girl Scouting. Training classes were being offered as early as 1925. Many people came to visit the Little House and have their photos taken with perfectly uniformed Girl Scouts. Famous people sent in gifts - such as plants and trees - to be planted onsite. Someone was hired on to "live" in the home - sort of a den mother - to make sure every looked just so. One room was set aside for sewing - for Girl Scouts to sew while in uniform while dignitaries wandered through. The kitchen was photographed for the newspapers several times, most famously with Eleanor Roosevelt watching perfectly uniformed Girl Scouts cooking. Library of Congress photographs show that there was a fully functioning cafeteria in the basement. Outside there was a Rock & Memory Garden planted, where such things as a foundation stone from Mary Todd Lincoln's childhood home was set.

The 3,153 square foot house was considered to be a "modest-sized" home for the Washington set. The "Better Homes in America Week" continued to use the Little House yearly to promote the Better Homes program. Also, the Washington D.C. Girl Scout headquarters was in the Little House for sometime.

If the Depression-era 24 cent lunch (left) didn't suit you, there was a cafeteria in the basement.

Another VIP poses with perfectly uniformed Girl Scouts

Famous people were always "dropping in" on perfectly uniformed Girl Scouts. Here the Crown Princess of Norway visited in 1939.

Girl Scout Leader magazine

This Little House dollhouse was gifted to the Girl Scouts from Mrs. Hoover at the 1930 Girl Scout Convention in Indianapolis. This image came from the Hoover website, but is no longer available.

The Girl Scout Little House was not single place, but a movement across America. Starting in Washington DC, the very first Little House was a model for hundreds of Little Houses in every Girl Scout town and city that could manage one.

The Washington DC Little House was a focal point for Girl Scouting and many publicity photos were taken there. A pamphlet published by the Girl Scouts, likely in the 1930's summed up the purpose of the Little House this way; 

"the Little Girl Scout House is the half-way step between the playhouse of children and the home that every mother wants to be sure that her daughter can make for herself."

Domesticity and housekeeping skills were promoted in the beginning. Later, Little Houses became simple meeting places and a "face" for Girl Scouting in the community. Gradually, Little Houses fell out of favor and for some Girl Scouts Councils are only a vague memory.

The Little House of Washington D.C. literally disappeared from the newspapers after 1938, but one photo was found in the Girl Scout Leader magazine of the Crown Princess of Norway visiting in 1939 (see above).

 

However, some councils have continued the tradition of Little Houses...

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Kansas Historical Society Photo

Of course I'm interested!

448 W. 6th Ave. in Ashland in Clark County, Kansas

1973

My understanding is that this plaque is now in custody of the Girl Scouts of Nation's Capital Historical Department.

Dailyitem.com

344 Third St, Northumberland, PA

Recently renovated

Photo from online Dailyitem.com - local news source

The "Old Girl Scout House" located in Massa Harbinson Park, New Kensignton, PA. Apparently it can be rented out.

 

The Girl Scout trefoil is on the fireplace mantle.

Google Site images

 

119 N McGee St., Borger, TX

Google Street View

hmdb.org

Girl Scout Community House, City Park, Fairbury, Nebraska

Site originally launched November 18, 2000

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