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Seth Ledyard Phelps - Historical Marker

b.13 JAN 1824 — d.24 JUN 1885


Logan Circle - Seth Phelps

Logan Circle - Seth Phelps

Over the years most of Logan Circle's Mansions experienced numerous uses and have returned to private occupancy. For example 15 Logan Circle was completed in 1877 for Lt. Cmdr. Seth Ledyard Phelps, a Civil War Veteran appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant to the Board of Commissioners (the body that governed DC from 1874 until 1967). In 1891 the Kingdom of Korea (Joseon Dynasty) purchased number 15 for its first embassy in the United States. Just before Imperial Japan annexed Korea in 1910, the Japanese government forcibly took possession of the house and sold it. Eventually the mansion house a World War II-era recreation center for African Americans and then offices for locals 639 and 730 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters before returning to a series of private owners. The Korean government repurchased the house in 2012, marking the 130th anniversary of U.S. Korea diplomatic relations. Phelps also built the adjoining 1502 3th Street, briefly the clubhouse of African American journalists, then a rooming house of ill repute known as the Raleigh, and, since the 1990s, condominium apartments.

A house that has always been a family residence is number 14. The only Beaux-Arts-inspired house on the circle was built in 1903 for Woodward and Lothrop merchandise manager Josephine Nourse. She sold number 14 to Thomas Caesar Smith M.D., in 1930. Smith, a Howard Medical School graduate, moved his wife and five daughters there and treated patients in a clinic he opened in his English basement. At a time when most hospitals excluded African Americans and the poor often lacked health care, Dr. Smith spent many Sundays and evenings visiting patients around the city and with its alley communities. He invested in real estate, purchasing property for each daughter. The second eldest, Therrell, used hers to open a ballet school, and was still teaching dance in 2013, at the age of 95.

Related albums • See other albums

Heritage Trails Historical Markers

Related county

DC, Washington

Related people

Josephine Loper Collins
Seth Ledyard Phelps

Posted By: Ray Gurganus

  1. Email: Ray Gurganus, personal photograph;

Updated: 8-3-2020
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