When I filled in the address of the American Red Cross National Headquarters to my Fulbright application, I had no clue that there would be a beautiful historical landmark waiting for me at 430 17th Street NW, Washington 20006. This I found out only on my first day when I saw my new fancy surroundings.
While waiting for my boss in the main lobby, a lady came to ask me if I was there for a guided tour. I told her that my “tour” will be a year-long, but I got curious. I learnt the American Red Cross offers free guided tours at the soon hundred-year-old headquarters. On Friday I had a chance to join one of those tours, and I loved it. In addition to showing us around in the main building, the guide shared exciting and entertaining anecdotes about the history of the American Red Cross.
The headquarters houses an impressive art and artifact collection. The member recruitment posters from different decades were my favorites, and of course the incredible Tiffany windows in the Board of Governors Hall. These three-paneled stained glass windows from 1923 are reputed to be the largest suite of Tiffany windows created for a secular environment and have remained in place where they can be appreciated in the environment for which they were created.
Another highlight of the tour were two fundraising quilts that are on display in the lobby. The quilts were received from a school in southern California, one in the early 1900s, and the other a few years ago. The parents of the school kids seemed to have excelled in networking. In addition to numerous presidents of the United States, for example Charlie Chaplin and Thomas Edison were among the donors.
To see this all and much more, I can highly recommend joining a tour at the headquarters if you have a chance. The guided tours are free and open to the public, but reservations are required. Tours are offered Wednesdays and Fridays 10 AM and 2 PM, so as a bonus we can have lunch together before or after the tour.
PS. There is one more element that makes the office days feel somewhat surreal: our famous neighbors. Being located right next to the White House has some practical implications to everyday life. You never know which streets and parks the police has decided to close off for safety reasons. Hence, to make it in time to the morning meetings, one has to buffer some time for walking around at least a few extra blocks. Luckily, I bought an awesome bike for commuting today, so these detours just became much faster.