Undecided about your summer vacation destination? Want to get out-of-town and see someplace new? Like tossing in a bit-o-history during summer vacay? Love the American Red Cross? Desire to know more about Clara Barton? If you’ve answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then we’ve got a summer destination idea for you: see the Clara Barton National Historic Site in Glen Echo, Maryland.
A couple of us had the pleasure of visiting the site earlier this spring while taking part in Red Cross training. The National Park Service Rangers were informed, kind and patient while answering dozens of questions about the house, its history and items on display. Here are some samples:
Q: Was that Clara Barton’s cat in the painting?
A: Yes. His name was Tommy. Clara liked cats a lot.
Q: What’s holding up the lamp?
A: Bandages. Not the original bandages, of course, but new ones showing the utilitarian approach to life here.
Q: Did Clara really sleep in that bed?
A: Yes, that was Clara Barton’s bed. Its the same bed where she died on April 12, 1912.
Q: Did Clara live here alone?
A: No, there were guests and others, including Dr. Julian Hubbell, who was the first American Red Cross field agent and also the primary designer of the warehouse.
Q: Were Miss Barton and Dr. Hubbell, um, you know, sweethearts?
A: Not as far as we know. Dr. Hubbell was for a time engaged to marry. His fiance was not fond of Clara Barton, who kept Dr. Hubbell busy with Red Cross work.
Q: Can we sample the canned pickles?
A: We’re unable to share them with you. They’re on display to show how disaster relief supplies were once stored here.
Q: Did Clara really write with those pens?
A: One-third of the items on display are actual historical items that, like the bed, Clara Barton used. The others, like the pens, are antique period pieces demonstrating what Clara’s life was at that time.
Q: Can we sit in the attic chair next to stained-glass window and pretend that we’re thinking great thoughts about how we can help people?
A: You’re welcome to look, not touch or sit, and think great thoughts.
So many more questions. So little time. If you’re unable to visit, then consider taking the online interactive tour of the building or testing your knowledge about Clara Barton and earn a Junior Ranger Badge. There’s no age limit for the badges. And as we say in Minnesota: that’s nice.
Photos and article by the often too curious like a cat Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross