Josephine Butler Parks Center
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. As a Nonprofit Center for Shared Space, Parks & People provides about 10-12 community-based non-profit culture and service organizations office space and an array of other benefits on the basis of partnership and an alignment of mission.
Once the home of the Hungarian Embassy to the United States, the Josephine Butler Parks Center has been transformed into an Embassy of the Earth, with a global mission that radiates out from our home here in Washington, DC. As home to a growing coalition of partner organizations, the Parks Center is a beacon of green urban revitalization and cooperation.
Current Parks Center partners include:
- City Kids Wilderness Project
- Gala Hispanic Theatre
- Burt Corona Leadership Institute/Custom Education Partners
- Meridian Hill Pictures
- Multicultural Community Services
- One Common Unity
- Sign of Jonah
- Washington Concert Opera
- Young Playwright’s Theater
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 facility provides the opportunity to host performances and special events of all kinds (both indoors and out) as well as the program activities of Parks & People and its many non-profit partners resident in the building. The Center also provides art exhibition and gallery space, a visitor center and a non-profit incubator loft, demonstration site for green catering, and training and employment center for our Green Corps graduates. Limited on-site event parking is also available for use and rental.
Ready to plan your wedding, event, or celebration? Parks & People members can book the Parks Center!
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 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.
Book the Parks Center
The Josephine Butler Parks Center is an ideal location for weddings, receptions, and a variety of other celebrations. We love to host special events for members of Washington Parks & People (Not a member? Join today!). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to book the Parks Center today.