President Wilson and his second wife, Edith Bolling Wilson, retired in 1921 to this Georgian Revival house designed by Washington architect Waddy B. Wood. (Wood also designed the Department of the Interior and the National Museum of Women in the Arts.) It was on this quiet street that Wilson lived out the last few years of his life.
Toward the end of his second term, President Wilson suffered a stroke. Edith made sure he was comfortable in their home; she had a bed constructed that had the same dimensions as the large Lincoln bed Wilson had slept in while in the White House. She also had the house's trunk lift (a sort of dumbwaiter for luggage) converted to an Otis elevator so the partially paralyzed president could move from floor to floor. When the streetcars stopped running in 1962, the elevator stopped working; it had received its electricity directly from the streetcar line. It has since been restored and is available for visitors with accessibility needs; call ahead
to coordinate details.
Wilson died in 1924—Edith survived him by 37 years—and bequeathed the house and its contents to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Tours of the home provide a wonderful glimpse into the lives of this couple and the dignitaries who visited them here. You'll be able to view such items as Wilson's clothing, his collection of canes, a Gobelins wall-size tapestry that was a gift from the people of France, a mosaic from Pope Benedict XV, a baseball signed by King George V, the pen used by Wilson to sign the declaration of war that launched the U.S. into World War I, and the shell casing from the first shot fired by U.S. forces in the war. The house also contains memorabilia related to the history of the short-lived but influential League of Nations, including the colorful flag Wilson hoped would be adopted by that organization.