All Souls Neighborhood #3: Meridian Mansions, aka The Envoy, enduring on 16th Street

Want to learn more about the history of the All Souls neighborhood? Check out this new series on the Young Souls Blog that features historic information about the surrounding area.

Meridian Mansions, aka The Envoy, enduring on 16th Street

By John DeFerrari
Early photo of the Meridian Mansions, Library of Congress.


“The quietly elegant Envoy, originally opened in 1918 as Meridian Mansions, rises opposite Meridian Hill Park at 2400 16th Street, NW. James Goode tells us that the building was once “one of the truly great apartment houses in the nation’s capital.” Its survival and adaptation say much about the changes that have occurred in the city over its lifetime. They also highlight the unique role that great buildings like this can serve to bridge the gap between past and present tastes and needs.

The sprawling apartment complex was the brainchild of prolific developer Edgar S. Kennedy (1864-1953), a successful real estate mogul during the boom days of the early 1900s. Born in Virginia during the Civil War, Kennedy came to Washington as a young man and got involved in the building trade. He built blocks of rowhouses in several suburban communities that used to be part of Washington County, including Park View and Mount Pleasant. By the 1910s his brother William joined him, and the two set their sights on bigger projects; the first large apartment building they constructed was the Argyle, completed in 1913 at the corner of Park Road and Mount Pleasant Street NW and designed by Alexander H. Sonnemann (1872-1956), a Maryland-born architect who had been Edgar Kennedy’s long-time collaborator. In 1915, two years after finishing the Argyle, the Kennedy brothers arranged a deal with Dr. Zachariah T. Sowers, a prominent local physician, to acquire the undeveloped land he owned at 16th Street and Crescent Place NW in exchange for the Argyle. The Kennedys put Sonnemann immediately to work laying out floor plans for a large new luxury apartment building on the site.

At the time it was designed, the seven-story Meridian Mansions building was massively out of scale on Meridian Hill, an exclusive neighborhood of grand residences and embassies that had been carefully curated by powerful socialite Mary Foote Henderson (see our previous profile of her). Henderson’s “castle” loomed over the block just to the south of the Meridian Mansions site. According to architectural historian Kim Williams, Henderson was generally opposed to the construction of large apartment buildings on Meridian Hill because of their scale, and it seems likely she would have disapproved of the Kennedy project. In 1922, columnist Mayme Ober Peak interviewed Mary Henderson and asked her about Meridian Mansions. Mrs. Henderson told her that when she found she couldn’t prevent the building’s construction, she tried to get it to conform to her vision for Meridian Hill:

The corporation which built it was certainly very decent…. I was delighted at the opportunity of helping design an apartment house that could spread out instead of up, with ample facilities for sunlight and air. There wasn’t an apartment in Washington where an outdoor woman could live happily. I worked with Major [George Oakley] Totten in designing the suites in ells, each with the sunroom opening on a loggia. There is also a water garden on the roof. Ten senators live there now, and their personal interest and influence are worth a good deal to us up here [on Meridian Hill]...”


Continue reading the post on the Streets of Washington blog.


Streets of Washington, John DeFerrari, January 2017.

Young Souls May Events!

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Young Souls May 2017 Events

Keep track of all events on the Young Souls Google Calendar.

Would you like to organize a Young Souls event? Send your idea to the Young Souls Board at


Thursday (Tomorrow!) April 27th, 7pm – Young Souls Bucket Drum Rehearsal – Climate March

We will be building bucket drums from 7-7:45pm, learning basic beats from 7:45-8:15pm, and workshopping new chants specific to the Climate March from 8:15-9:15pm. Location: 7 Drum City (1506 N Capitol St. NW). RSVP on Facebook here. Please order parts for your bucket drum building here. Questions? Contact YS Social Chair Alice.


Friday, April 28th – Monday May 1st – 2017-2018 Young Souls Board Elections

Be on the lookout for a link to vote for any “contested” positions for the 2017-2018 Young Souls Board that will be sent over the listserv. Young Souls who are members of All Souls Church, Unitarian are eligible to vote. For more information, please contact 2016-2017 YS Board President, Ben Whelan-Morin.


Saturday April 29th, 9:45am – Young Souls Climate March Meet Up

We will meet close to the march location about in advance so that we have time to review our chants/beats. The exact location is in flux currently, so be flexible! If you are unable to make it to the rehearsal and feel confident you can pick up the beats, BYOB (bring your own bucket – how to build a bucket) and join the bucket-drummers! Also, we’d love to have you come regardless of your bucket-drumming status – the more the merrier! The location will change throughout the day so join the whatsapp group chat here. RSVP on Facebook here. Questions? Contact YS Social Chair Alice.


Friday, May 5th, 7pm – Young Souls May Potluck

Join us for our monthly Young Souls potluck! Potlucks are held at a home of one of our members and is a great event for newcomers. Please bring a dish or drink to share with everyone. RSVP on Facebook here. Location: 1348 Parkwood Pl. NW, Washington, DC 20010. Visit the Young Souls Blog to see photos of previous potlucks. Please contact Alice with any questions!


Wednesday, May 10th, 5:30pm – Young Souls Happy Hour

Join us for our monthly happy hour! This is an excellent event for newcomers to attend and meet other Young Souls. Local 16 donates 10% of our checks back to All Souls. Location: Local 16 (1602 U St. NW). RSVP on Facebook here. For those interested, we’ll walk over to Vespers after the happy hour. Questions? Contact YS Social Chair Alice.


Wednesday, May 17th, 6pm  – Young Souls Social Justice Task Force Meeting

Come join for a discussion of upcoming events and plug the events that you are working on. We usually have somewhere between 4-10 people at each meeting, with a mix of both new Young Souls and longtime Young Souls members. Come educate us on what you are working on and where you could use the most help and let new people know how they can get involved. Location: All Souls, Room TBD. RSVP on Facebook here. Questions? Contact Annie.


Friday, May 19th – Sun., May 21st – Jubilee People of Color Collaboration and Anti-Racism Training

This Jubilee Anti-Racism Training is a space for diverse communities of color to facilitate conversation and build unity. Discuss unique perspectives, similar experiences with racism, and work to break down barriers. Cost is $150. Enrollment is limited to 40 participants, so register today!


Friday, May 19th – Sun., May 21st – Jubilee Refresher and Enhancer Training for White Allies

Building on the success of the Jubilee Anti-Racism Training, All Souls is hosting an advanced, action-focused session for white people who have previously attended a Jubilee training. This training will be done in partnership with a Jubilee for People of Color held the same weekend. Cost is $150. Enrollment is limited to 40 participants, so register today!


Sunday, May 21st, 1pm – Young Souls May Brunch

Join us on Sunday May 21st at 1pm for our monthly Young Souls brunch! We’ll meet in Pierce Hall after the service and walk over as a group to brunch. Location: Lou’s City Bar (1400 Irving St NW). RSVP on Facebook here. Questions? Contact the YS Social Chair, Alice Goldberg.


Classic Movie Mondays

Watch a critically acclaimed film. Popcorn and a movie inspired cocktail will be served. Showtime is at 7:30pm. Co-hosted with Souls in the Center. Contact Reeve for more information. Want to learn more about Classic Movie Mondays? Check out this blog post!


Thursdays – Young Souls Book Club

We’re switching it up this month. We’ll partake in a dramatic reading of Hamlet during the first half of May and then read John Lewis’s graphic novel, March (Books 1-3), during the second half. The YS book club meets every Thursday at 7:30pm. For more information, contact Reeve.


Young Souls May Circle Suppers – Sign up!

Circle Suppers are back! This month we have 11 wonderful Young Souls opening up their homes or going to a restaurant for a Young Souls Circle Supper. These are great events for newcomers to meet other Young Souls in smaller settings. Sign up here to attend a Young Souls Circle Supper! Take a look at photos from previous Circle Suppers on the Young Souls Blog and Facebook. Questions? Contact YS Communications Chair, Justine Rothbart.


Date TBD – Young Souls Ideation Discussion on Safe Spaces

Is Young Souls upholding its commitment to be a safe space? Does our safe spaces statement adequately reflect the needs of our populations and ensure that we are alway an inclusive and welcoming space? Join us to share your thoughts and also to hear from Jessica Raven, Executive Director of the DC Collective Action for Safe Spaces to help us improve our ability to provide a safe space for all. This is your in-person opportunity to provide to provide feedback and help revise our official Young Souls Safe and Transformative Space Statement and our Listserv Use Guideline. These statements will be available online for review and comment from folks unable to attend the in-person meeting. As usual, the first half will focus on the theme, and we will open up the second half for any other ideas to be put on the table. The time and date are TBD – so keep an eye out for more information. For more information, you can email Ben Whelan-Morin, YS Board President.


June 2nd – 4th – Weekend on the Bay 2017

Join the All Souls congregation for a weekend getaway at Camp Tockwogh (about two hours from DC on the Eastern Shore). There will be activities for infants through Silver Souls: campfires, workshops, vespers, a talent show, water sports, archery, hiking, gaga ball, and plenty of time to relax and enjoy the beautiful setting. This will be a great way for Young Souls to spend time with people of all ages from the All Souls community. Online registration for Weekend on the Bay is open at


Friday, June 9th, 7pm – Young Souls end-of-year party – Mark your calendars!

Mark your calendars for the Young Souls end-of-year party! Join us on Friday, June 9th, at 7pm at 4322 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20011, as we celebrate the end of the year and welcome the new Young Souls board members. RSVP on Facebook here. For more information, contact YS Board President, Ben Whelan-Morin.


Interested in joining Souls in the Center?

Souls in the Center is a fellowship of members and friends of All Souls from ages thirty to fifty-something who look to celebrate and strengthen the beloved community with activities of all types. Click here to join the listserv. Click here to join the Facebook group. Click here to add the Google Calendar. Questions? Contact Souls in the Center Leadership at


All Souls Social Justice Ministries

Interested in getting more involved in social justice ministries at All Souls? Learn more about All Souls’ current ministry programs, including the Reeb Voting Rights project, All Souls’ Housing Ministry, Green Souls, All Souls’ ESL program, Haitian NGO Empowerment Collation, All Souls’ Refugee Support Initiative, and others.


Volunteer for a role at All Souls

Click here to see a list of current needs at All Souls: volunteer needs include ESL teachers, Worship Associates, ESL tutors, Caring Souls (make and deliver food, provide transportation, and provide other assistance to congregants – especially older congregants), and others.

Sign Up for Young Souls May Circle Suppers!

Young Souls May Circle Suppers – Sign up here! 

Circle Suppers are back! In May we have 11 wonderful Young Souls opening up their homes or going to a restaurant for a Young Souls Circle Supper. These are great events for newcomers to meet other Young Souls in smaller settings.

Sign up here to attend a Young Souls Circle Supper! Take a look at photos from previous Circle Suppers on the Young Souls Blog and Facebook. If you have any questions, contact YS Communications Chair, Justine Rothbart.  Have a great time : )

Young Souls May Circle Suppers – Looking for Hosts!

Hi Young Souls,

Are you interested in hosting a Circle Supper in May? It’s a great way to share dinner in a smaller setting with friends in the Young Souls community. Last month we had over 50 Young Souls attend 10 different Circle Suppers! Take a look at the March Circle Supper photos on the Young Souls Blog and Facebook.

If you’re interested in hosting a Young Souls Circle Supper in May, please let us know by April 20th.


All Souls Neighborhood #2: The Meridian Hill Hotel for Women

Want to learn more about the history of the All Souls neighborhood? Check out this new series on the Young Souls Blog that features historic information about the surrounding area.

The Meridian Hill Hotel For Women, luxury living for Government Girls

By John DeFerrari
Postcard photo of The Meridian Hill Hotel in the 1950s.


“The Meridian Hill Hotel for Women, completed in 1942, seems at first glance to be a rather ordinary building. Located at 2601 16th Street NW, the hotel has served for the last 47 years as a Howard University dormitory, but before that it had a starring role as the first building constructed by the federal government during World War II to provide housing for female wartime workers, known as Government Girls.

With able-bodied men in short supply, federal agencies turned to women to perform the countless clerical tasks that were needed to support the herculean war effort. According to Cindy Gueli, whose fascinating new book, Lipstick Brigade: The Untold True Story of Washington’s World War II Government Girls, chronicles the many trials and travails of these valiant workers, nearly 200,000 came to Washington during World War II. Most were eager to leave behind the wearying straits of the Great Depression and join the excitement in the Nation’s Capital as it consumed itself in the war effort. As Gueli says, some were naïve, idealistic, and carefree; others were hard-working and ambitious. Nearly all had at least one thing in common: they faced a daunting challenge in finding a place to stay in a city that had been overcrowded even before the war began. At the war’s height, nearly 1,000 newcomers arrived every day. Where would they all live?

During World War I, the government had been slow to build dormitories for workers. One of the largest projects was not finished until 1919, long after the war was over. Because a much faster response was needed, the Defense Homes Corporation (DHC) was chartered in 1940 to build war-related housing wherever the open market could not provide it. In September 1941, three months before Pearl Harbor, the DHC purchased the large undeveloped lot located at 16th and Euclid Streets NW, (just across from Meridian Hill Park) from the French government, which had intended in the 1930s to build a new embassy there but had moved to Kalorama Heights instead. The DHC quickly drew up plans to build a $1.5 million dormitory on the site that it said would house 600 female government workers. Officials promised the hotel would charge rent at “rates within the reach of Government workers.”
Built by the New York firm of John W. Harris Associates, the eight-story building was designed by prominent Washington architect Louis Justement (1891-1968). Though of Belgian descent and born in New York City, Justement went to school in Washington (George Washington University) and became an ardent supporter of the city, contributing to hundreds of projects in the D.C. area. A Modernist with a bent for sweeping urban renewal, Justement would later collaborate with fellow architect Chloethiel Woodard Smith on an early plan for the radical redevelopment of Southwest in the 1950s and 60s. By the 1940s he had already completed successful public housing projects in Silver Spring (the Falkland Apartments) and Anacostia (Fort Dupont Houses) and had developed a reputation as an expert on large-scale residential projects…” Continue reading this article on the Streets of Washington website.

Streets of Washington, John DeFerrari, March 2016.



The address for tomorrow’s Young Souls potluck has changed! It will take place tomorrow, Friday April 7th at 7pm. Check the listserv for the new potluck address! Contact Alice if you have any questions. See you tomorrow!

March Circle Suppers

March Circle Suppers were a success! We had over 50 Young Souls attend 10 different Circle Suppers. The dinners were hosted in several neighborhoods, from Foggy Bottom to Capitol Hill. Ten Young Souls opened their homes to share a dinner with new and old friends. Some groups were as small as three and as large as twelve. It was a great way to spend time with fellow Young Souls in a smaller setting. Since this was so much fun, we’ll be having Young Souls Circle Suppers again every other month. The next month is May! Interested in hosting a Circle Supper in May? Contact YS Communications Chair, Justine Rothbart (contact information in monthly email). Once we have a list of hosts, keep an eye out on the listserv for more information about how to sign up to attend. Take a look at more Circle Supper photos on Facebook!

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