The Peabody Room is a special collection of Georgetown neighborhood history. 

It is part of the People’s Archive at the DC Public Library. The collection includes artifacts, engravings, paintings, neighborhood microfilmed newspapers, and photographs. There is a house history file, covering a lot of the homes in Georgetown. This is located at the Georgetown Library on R Street.

A bit of background about the Georgetown Library

The Georgetown Neighborhood Library is part of the DC Public Library System. This local branch dates back to 1875, when the first library in Georgetown was funded by George Peabody. The library opened opposite St John’s Church on O Street in 1875. The four-story building was constructed in the style of Georgian Revival back in 1935. Since then, the library has been remodeled on two occasions; once in 1976 and then again in 2007. 

 

George Peabody

George Peabody was an American philanthropist and financier. He is considered by many to be the father of modern philanthropy.

George was born into a poor family in Massachusetts, he went into the dry goods business, followed by banking. In 1837, he decided to make the move to London, which was considered the world’s finance capital at the time., He became known as the most noted banker from America, and he helped in establishing international credit for the young country. 

Jenius Spencer Morgan became his business partner in 1854 and together they went on to create what is now known as J.P. Morgan & Co. 

During his later years, Peabody won acclaim worldwide for his philanthropy. In Britain, he founded the Peabody trust. In Baltimore, he founded the George Peabody Library and the Peabody Institute. He was also responsible for a number of different charity initiatives. 

For his generosity, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and made a Freeman of the City of London, among many other honors

When speaking about the Georgetown library, George Peabody spoke about his wish to give the residents of Georgetown a gift when making his declaration to the selected Board of Trusts. He said the following:

 “Gentlemen: As most of you are aware, I am, and have been for some time, desirous of making some gift which would be productive of some benefit to the Citizens of Georgetown, in the District of Columbia, where I commenced business for myself in my early youth. I am persuaded that I can not better do so than by endeavoring to assist them in their own endeavors to cultivate healthful, moral, and intellectual progress; and therefore give, gentlemen, the sum of fifteen thousand dollars to be, by you and your successors, held in trust as a fund for a public library, to be established in the city of Georgetown.”

Despite this, the library was not established until after his death. The Peabody Library Association Board of Trustees, which was headed by W.W. Corcoran, invested the funds that Peabody donated. This continued accumulating until 1872 when the D.C. Public School board of trustees offered a room in the new Curtis School on O Street. 

 

The Incredible Peabody Room

The Peabody Room holds a special collection of Georgetown neighborhood history, offering plenty of information about the social history, genealogy, past residents, businesses, and homes of the community. 

A fire in 2007 heavily damaged the Georgetown Neighborhood Library, which destroyed approximately 10 percent of the collections in the Peabody Room. A number of collections were water-damaged, with the artworks being impacted the most seriously. 

In 2020, the library reopened, boasting a newly constructed third floor, where the new Peabody Room is housed. 

Some of the highlights include servant memoranda and family papers. There are also photographs of a local boy school, manuscripts of slave contracts, community activist files, and a rare African-American 19th business ledger. 

Visiting The Peabody Room

Although the Peabody Room is part of the Georgetown Library, it does not share the same hours. If you would like to visit the Peabody Room, contact the library via email (peoples.archive@dc.gov) or phone 202-727-0233. 

The Peabody Room is typically open on the first and third Saturday of every month from 10 am to 6 pm in the evening. It is also open on Tuesdays from 10 am until 6 pm, as well as being open on Thursdays from midday until 7 pm. Appointments are best are to ensure access. For additional information look to The Peabody Facebook page and newsletter 

Peabody Room
Georgetown Library
3260 R St. NW
Washington, DC 20007
202-727-0233
peoples.archive@dc.gov