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Josephine Butler Parks Center


2437 Fifteenth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20009
202-GO-2-PARK (202-462-7275)

Directions to the Parks Center


Frequently Asked Questions

Renovated Parks Center
  Park and Parks Center in 1932
Washington, DC (circa 1932)

Overlooking Meridian Hill Park, the Josephine Butler Parks Center is an 18,000 sq ft, 40-room Renaissance-revival style mansion. Washington Parks & People operates the Parks Center as a "greenhouse" for advancing Washington's parks and public spaces. The Center houses 12 community-based non-profit culture and service organizations--our Parks Center partners.

Scroll down to read below about the Parks Center's rich history, about our inspiration, Josephine Butler, and about just a few of the many miracle workers whose dedication and support have made the Josephine Butler Parks Center the dynamic community "greenhouse" it is today.


The Center has undergone a landmark restoration to its former glory of the 1927 Renaissance Revival design, with adaptations to serve a broad range of modern needs and environmental retrofitting. The Center includes a multi-purpose performance and special event faciility, art exhibition and gallery space, a visitor center, a media center, an after-school program, a neighborhood revitalization center, a job training and referral service, a teaching kitchen, and a non-profit incubator loft. The dramatic public areas/rooms of the building are available for your own private events. On-site event parking is also available for up to 40 cars. Check out our wedding photo gallery!

We want the Center to become a lasting state-of-the-art "greenhouse" for revitalizing and reconnecting diverse community green spaces across metropolitan Washington. Make this dream come true by supporting the Parks Center Capital Campaign. The Center has raised over half of its $3 million capital goal -- your help can put us over the top! Contribute or find out more information online.


Our Home: The Josephine Butler Parks Center

Parks & People has established the Josephine Butler Parks Center as a lasting, living tribute to its late co-chair, an activist who devoted her entire life to championing those who had been forgotten about, from the earthworm to the whole of Washington, DC. Located in the densest and most diverse community in DC, at the crossroads of Columbia Heights, Mount Pleasant, Reed Cooke/Adams Morgan, and Shaw, the Parks Center includes the following:

  • COMMUNITY PERFORMANCE & SPECIAL EVENT FACILITY -- Ballroom & Twin Galleries (5,000 square feet; seated dinner capacity of 200)
  • TRAINING SPACE for grassroots leaders restoring Washington's forgotten public spaces
  • Parks VISITOR CENTER, neighborhood technical assistance, and heritage archives
  • AFTER-SCHOOL ARTS & EDUCATIONAL CENTER tied into Meridian Hill/ Malcolm X Park
  • TUTORING PROGRAM for children in transitional housing
  • INCUBATOR LOFT for start-up community initiatives
  • HEADQUARTERS for a dozen diverse organizations working to advance innercity Washington


Formerly the Embassy of Hungary and Brazil, the 18,000-square foot, 40-room Renaissance Revival-style "Meridian Hill House" was designed by George Oakley Totten Jr., the noted architect who designed over a dozen major embassy buildings across the city, including all but one of the grand old mansions that today abut Meridian Hill/ Malcolm X Park. The developer of the property was Mary Foote Henderson, widow of the Missouri senator who introduced the 13th Amendment giving African Americans the right to vote. She lived in a Romanesque castle that she and Sen. Henderson constructed in 1888 at the foot of the Park at the corner of 16th and Florida (the Henderson castle's rampart walls are still standing). Mrs. Henderson led the drive to advance Meridian Hill as the cultural center of Washington, inspired by the City Beautiful movement at the turn of the century. She is best known as the person who successfully lobbied Congress to construct Meridian Hill Park as America's first national park for the performing arts.

The area around the Parks Center is steeped in history. Meridian Hill takes its name from Thomas Jefferson's plan to mark the Prime Meridian for the Earth from this hilltop. Over the years, the hilltop has been the site of a Native American spiritual ground, the birthplace of both George Washington University and an African American theological seminary, and a Civil War Union Army hospital. The hill was where Colonel Robert Gould Shaw camped before going to his death as commander of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the black brigade featured in the movie Glory. It has been home to Presidents from John Quincy Adams to John F. Kennedy, and to writers from Joaquin Miller, "poet of the Sierras," to Carlos Fuentes and Ethelbert Miller.

The Parks Center is named after the late community leader who led the drive to restore and complete Meridian Hill/ Malcolm X Park as what the Washington Post calls "the jewel of Washington's parks". Honored by the President of the United States as the nation's top parks/community partnership and "a shining example for the nation," Washington Parks & People now operates the Parks Center as a "greenhouse" for advancing Washington's parks and public spaces. The Center houses 12 community-based non-profit culture and service organizations, from the Washington Symphony Orchestra to the Young Playwrights Theater. It also serves as a grand meeting space for events of all kinds serving the metropolitan area, including concerts, dances, poetry readings, conferences, classes of all kinds, and wedding receptions.

The Center has completed an award-winning and dramatic exterior restoration to its former glory. Interior spaces have been adapted to serve a broad range of modern needs. The features of the improved Center will include a multi-purpose performance and special event facility, art exhibition and gallery space, a visitor center, a media center, an after-school program, a neighborhood park revitalization center, a job training and referral service, a teaching kitchen, and a non-profit incubator loft. Ongoing interior and exterior historic restoration initiatives include repair and polishing of ornamental plaster, terrazzo, marble, glazed terracotta, faux limestone, and oak parquet finishes; installation of new heating and cooling systems; lighting enhancements; and landscaping.

Miracle Workers: Center Funders and Lead Volunteers

We are deeply grateful for all the support we have received. We proudly acknowledge the major funders and volunteers who have helped us with the building's renewal as well as with our mission of reclaiming parks:

  • The Advisory Board Foundation
  • Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1-B
  • AmeriCorps/Youth Service America
  • American Red Cross
  • American University
  • Anonymous
  • ya Arax
  • Archbishop Carroll School
  • Asian Pacific Community Service
  • Tom Babbitt
  • Bancroft Elementary School
  • Bell Multicultural Senior High School
  • Burgundy Crescent
  • Canon USA
  • Cardozo Senior High School
  • Eric Colbert and Associates
  • Pamela Vaughn Cooke
  • Coolidge House Associates
  • Creative Carpentry Associates
  • Council of Latino Agencies
  • Larry Deahl
  • Dell Corporation
  • Lynn French
  • Development Corporation of Columbia Heights
  • DC City Council
  • DC Dep't of Housing and Community Development
  • DC Jewish Community Center/ Behrend Builders Shelter Repair Program
  • Dorchester House
  • Wally Etienne, AIA
  • Councilmember Jack Evans
  • Family & Friends of Josephine Butler
  • Fannie Mae Foundation
  • Arthur and Myrna Fawcett
  • Friends of Meridian Hill
  • Tatiana Simone Gau Foundation
  • Georgetown Day School
  • Georgetown University
  • George Washington University
  • Morris Gewirz Family (Memorial Gift)
  • Steven Gewirz
  • Councilmember Jim Graham, Ward One
  • Greater DC Cares
  • Susan Griffin
  • Howard University
  • Immaculate Conception School
  • Raul Jarquin
  • John O'Leary
  • Latin American Youth Center
  • Helen Sperry Lea Foundation
  • Linowes & Blocher
  • Leslie Louden
  • Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC)
  • Othello Mahone
  • Carlos Manjarrez
  • Eugene and Agnes Meyer Foundation
  • National Trust for Historic Preservation
  • Neighbors in Action
  • Oyster Elementary School
  • Dusty McClintick
  • Dwight McClintick Cascade Fund
  • Nick Pappas, Julien J. Studley, Inc
  • Malcolm and Pamela Peabody
  • Peabody & Theoharis
  • Wanda Pope
  • Potomac Investment Properties
  • Morton H. Press, Esq
  • Prince Charitable Trusts
  • Project North Star
  • Reed-Cooke Neighborhood Association
  • Rozanne Look, Esq.
  • Schoenbaum Foundation
  • Seed School
  • Single Volunteers of DC
  • So Others Might Eat
  • Sun Trust Bank
  • Earnestine Taylor
  • Washington Architectural Foundation
  • Washington Chapter, AIA
  • Washington House
  • Washington Parks & People Members
  • Matthew S. Watson, Esq.
  • Mayor Anthony Williams
  • Young Playwrights Theater
  • And THOUSANDS of volunteers!