Glen Echo, Maryland, and Fairfax, Virginia
Resting on a slight knoll in a quiet, shaded yard above the Potomac River Valley, a large, pale yellow, warehouse-like building stands as a memorial to the complicated personality and persistent character of Clara Barton, a pioneer in women's history. She first distinguished herself as the organizer of a public school in Bordentown, New Jersey. She then became the first among her female counterparts to be appointed to a Federal civil service job as a clerk in the Patent Office in Washington, DC. During the Civil War, she organized medical and nutritional units to relieve battlefield suffering and after the war, she directed a missing persons' bureau to reunite families with veterans. Her crowning achievements, though, were the organization and direction of the American Red Cross, most of which took place at Clara Barton National Historic Site (NHS) in Glen Echo, Maryland, just outside Washington, DC.
Built in 1891, Clara Barton NHS was initially used as a storehouse for American Red Cross supplies. It was remodeled in 1897 to serve also as the headquarters of the American Red Cross and the home of its founder, Clara Barton. She lived here until her death in 1912, at the age of 90. Rising three stories high, its 30 rooms soon became crammed with thousands of items stockpiled to help victims of war and natural disasters, box upon box of official Red Cross papers, and Barton's personal belongings. Few homes in America tell more about their owners than the Clara Barton House.
This house was built for Clara Barton by Edward and Edwin Baltzley as part of their Glen Echo development. The offer of land and a building presented Barton with an opportunity to plan a building to meet the needs of her organization. The design closely followed a hotel building built by the American Red Cross following
the 1889 flood in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Established as a unit of the National Park Service in 1975, the Clara Barton NHS was the first National Historic Site dedicated to the accomplishments of a woman. The National Park Service restored 11 rooms, including the Red Cross offices, parlors and Barton's bedroom, allowing insight into how Clara Barton lived and died surrounded by all that went into her work with the American Red Cross.
Close by, in Fairfax Station, just outside Washington, DC, is another testament to Clara Barton's life, work, and dedication. St. Mary's Church is a simple one-story white frame building in the early Gothic Revival tradition built to serve the needs of the Irish immigrants settling in the area. It was the first Roman Catholic Church built in Fairfax County and has been in continuous use as a church since. Not long after the construction of the church, the Civil War erupted and much activity was centered around northern Virginia. After the Second Battle of Bull Run, wounded were brought here by train to be treated and evacuated to Alexandria and Washington, DC. In response, Clara Barton made this church her headquarters for treatment of the wounded in August 1862. She nursed the wounded for three sleepless days and nights as violent rains fell and doctors operated in the only dry place available--the church. Barton remained there until the last wounded man left. There is a plaque on the grounds erected by the American National Red Cross with this dedication to her efforts: "CLARA H. BARTON--Founder of the American Red Cross--Here at Fairfax Station in early Sept. 1862, after the Second Battle of Manassas and the action near Chantilly, Clara Barton ministered to the suffering. By her humane and tireless efforts this angel of the battlefield helped move over 8,000 wounded soldiers to safety."