In the shadow of the Hart Senate Office Building and across from the U.S. Supreme Court sits a distinguished brick mansion that has been at the center of American political life for more than 200 years. Known as the Sewall-Belmont House, this National Historic Landmark was one of the first buildings in the nation's capital and is the oldest house outside of Georgetown.
Constructed in 1799 by the Sewall Family of Maryland, the Sewall-Belmont House was the home of U.S. Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin from 1801 to 1813. In August 1814, when British troops invaded Washington, this was the only residence in the city to offer armed resistance. In retaliation, the British army set the house on fire. The mansion was repaired after the war and became the residence of a series of notable senators and Washington officials. In the early 20th century, the Sewall-Belmont House became the headquarters of the historic National Woman's Party, founded by suffragist Alice Paul in 1913.
By 1999, the house had fallen into severe disrepair. That year, a $500,000 Save America's Treasures matching grant was awarded to restore the exterior of the house. Marty Langelan, National Women's Party president from 1999 to 2005, says this Save America's Treasures grant was the difference between saving or selling the building. "If we were to sell it, it would have been demolished," she says.
An additional $5 million in private contributions was leveraged over the next five years to complete the massive interior restoration. Save America's Treasures raised over $225,000 in private contributions for the project and selected it as one of 24 sites featured in the major media partnership with HGTV and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, "Restore America." The site received a $75,000 grant for its participation.
Today, the Sewall-Belmont House is one of the premier women's history sites in the nation. It is the only major suffrage site that remains intact, and displays an unparalleled collection of original furnishings, documents, photographs, art, and artifacts. The house operates as a non-profit museum offering the public tours, films, and exhibits honoring women's long struggle for suffrage and equal rights.