May 22, 2013 Washington, D.C. —
American Express today announced a $1 million grant to the White House Historical Association to preserve the historic spaces of Washington, D.C.’s Decatur House and fund educational programming. The majority of the funds will go towards the Slave Quarters structure at Decatur House, one of the few remaining examples of a slave quarters in an urban setting. The history of domestic service at Decatur House and the use of the workspaces in the Slave Quarters are integral in the rich cultural and social history of the property.
The grant will allow the White House Historical Association to conduct further research to understand and promote Decatur House’s historical significance as well as support children’s educational programs to be conducted at the David M. Rubenstein National Center for White House History at Decatur House, a National Trust for Historic Preservation site.
First Lady Michelle Obama attended today’s event to show her ongoing support for the use of historic buildings, like Decatur House, as educational facilities for future generations to understand our nation’s history.
During the event, Mrs. Obama said that, “You all aren’t just teaching our young people about history, you’re inspiring them to believe that they can make history as well. And that’s really what history is for — it’s for the next generation, it’s for us to continue to learn and grow.”
Following her remarks, Mrs. Obama was joined by American Express Chairman and CEO Kenneth I. Chenault, and Chairman of the White House Historic Association Frederick J. Ryan, Jr. for a tour of Decatur House and spoke with 6th grade students who were participating in an immersive educational program.
“Historic buildings, like Decatur House, help to preserve our nation’s history,” said Kenneth I. Chenault, chairman and chief executive officer of American Express. “We are very proud to join Mrs. Obama, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the White House Historical Association to ensure that it will help to educate, inspire and serve future generations.”
With a long history of philanthropy, American Express is deeply committed to historic preservation, providing more than $50 million in grants to preserve historic places globally. Fifteen million dollars has gone to historic places throughout the United States as part of American Express’ Partners in Preservation program with the National Trust for Historic Preservation that invites members of the local community to help guide where grant dollars from American Express should go. On May 13, American Express and the National Trust announced $1 million in grants to historic places in the Washington, D.C. area through Partners in Preservation.
“Our goal for this National Historic Landmark site is to repurpose Decatur House from a traditional house museum to an historic setting for active learning and discovery. This grant from American Express will enable us to continue research into the physical and social past of Decatur House and its nearly 200 years of shared history with the White House,” said White House Historical Association Chairman Frederick J. Ryan, Jr.
Built in 1818, Decatur House was the first private residence in the White House neighborhood. Initially owned by Commodore Stephen Decatur, Jr., and his wife Susan, the house then went on to be occupied by private individuals as well as a variety of political figures, including secretaries of state, members of Congress, foreign and American dignitaries and a vice president. Finally, in 1956, after being the home of the Beale family for 84 years, Decatur House was bequeathed to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which saved it from being demolished to make way for new government office buildings. In 2010, as part of a co-stewardship agreement with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the White House Historical Association established the David M. Rubenstein National Center for White House History at Decatur House. The first of its kind, the Center houses historical documentation, supports research efforts and provides education programs related to the study and history of the White House.