Judging Buildings – The Volta Bureau

I wasn’t expecting to run into this wild building after rows and rows of traditional homes. The National Register of historic places says:

“The Volta Laboratory and Bureau building, a National Historic Landmark, was constructed in 1893 under the direction of Alexander Graham Bell to serve as a center of information for deaf and hard of hearing persons.

In 1879, Bell and his wife Mabel Hubbard, who had been deaf from early childhood, moved to Washington, DC The following year, the French government awarded Bell the Volta Prize of 50,000 francs for the invention of the telephone. Bell used the money to found Volta Associates, along with his cousin Chichester A. Bell and Sumner Tainter, whose laboratory was focused on the research of recording and transmitting sound. In 1887, the Volta Associates sold the record patents they had developed at the laboratory to the American Gramophone Company, and Bell took part of his share of the profits to found the Volta Bureau as an instrument “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge relating to the Deaf.” The Bureau, which was first housed at Bell’s father’s house at 1527 35th Street, worked in close cooperation with the American Association for the Promotion of the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf (known since 1956 as the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf), organized in 1890, of which Bell was elected President. The Volta Bureau officially merged with this Association in 1908. The work of the Bureau increased to such a volume that in 1893 Bell constructed this neoclassic yellow brick and sandstone building to specifically house the institution. Bell constructed the building across the street from his father’s house, the first headquarters of the Bureau.

The Volta Bureau is located at 1537 35th St., NW.”

Lots more info from Wikipedia as well.

Anyone ever get to see the inside?

A couple more shots after the jump.

3 Comment

  • I love the building, i’ve always wondered where Volta park’s name came from. It looks straight out of Egypt

  • As a member of the Association — anybody can join, you don’t even have to be deaf like I am — I’ve been inside a few times over the years. The Bureau is, above all, a small office building housing a working nonprofit organization. It is remarkable, though, that it’s the same organization the building was built for in 1893, and it isn’t surprising that after a century of steady use the interior was pretty much worn out and, about ten years ago, had to be completely replaced. Happily the new interior spaces, while definitely circa 2000, are IMO very respectful of, indeed harmonious with, the century-older bones and shell of the building.

  • OT, I know, but would be remiss if I did not make note of the name Sumner Tainter.

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