Soldiers’ Home Library, Washington, DC

Soldiers’ Home Library

The Soldiers’ Home (now the Armed Forces Retirement Home) was built in 1851 using an endowment provided by U.S. General Winfield Scott. After his victory in the Mexican-American War, General Scott used proceeds gained through assessments on occupied Mexican towns and the sale of captured tobacco to build a home for retired and disabled American veterans. The Soldiers’ Home was built on a 500-acre tract of farm land know as Riggs Farm owned by George W. Riggs, founder of Riggs Bank in Washington, D.C.

In March 1877, an additional building meant to be used as a clubhouse, which was to house a bowling alley and billiards room, was added to the Soldiers’ Home campus. However, as construction began it was decided that the building was too elaborate to serve its original purpose and was, instead, opened as a library and reading room containing over 2,400 volumes. As the majority of the veterans living at the home were illiterate, a designated “reader” with a “good, clear voice” would read aloud the daily news, and other books and magazines. This earned the “reader” $7 a month, in addition to the monthly $7 pension he already earned.

The American Stick style building was razed in 1910.

Soldier’s Home Library, Washington, DC, Pre-1923 Postcard (front) (public domain)
Soldier’s Home Library, Washington, DC, Pre-1923 Postcard (back) (public domain)
From a 1903 Corps of Army Engineers map of the Soldiers’ Home, Washington, DC

One thought on “Soldiers’ Home Library, Washington, DC

  1. Marvelous! Currently researching a Henry Smith (1813 – 1889). His obituary states, ” …Henry Smith, for eleven years Librarian of the National Soldiers’ Home at Washington, and the oldest soldier in the United States Army, died yesterday…”

    Liked by 1 person

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