African-American Civil War Museum has a new home in DC

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For years, the African American Civil War Memorial Museum has welcomed visitors to the Old Grimke School gymnasium on U Street. But the historic building has just undergone a multi-million dollar renovation and the museum is moving to 15,000 square feet of space in a state-of-the-art building.

Students of the African American Civil War Memorial Museum.

Photo courtesy of Frank Smith

Students of the African American Civil War Memorial Museum.

Photo courtesy of Frank Smith

Students of the African American Civil War Memorial Museum.

Photo courtesy of Frank Smith

For years, the African American Civil War Memorial Museum has welcomed visitors to the Old Grimke School gymnasium on U Street in northwestern DC. But the historic building has just undergone a multi-million dollar renovation, and the museum is moving to 15,000 square feet of space in a state-of-the-art building.

“It’s been a long journey for us,” said Frank Smith, founding director of the museum. “But, the city never lost interest in it.”

The district, which owns the building, began renovations to the building in 2019. But much of the construction has been delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The renovations are part of a revitalization effort to attract more jobs and homeowners to the U Street neighborhood.

The museum has a rent of $ 1 per year on a 99-year lease, ensuring it stays in the neighborhood for years to come.

“A lot of people didn’t know there were African Americans who fought in the Civil War,” Smith said. “People should know that because that’s how we get inspired, going to museums.”

The historic Grimke School was one of the country’s first schools for blacks after the Civil War. The school was originally called the Phelps School and renamed after prosecutor and civil rights activist Archibald Grimke in the 1930s.

Smith said the new space will come full circle in the history of veterans, students and the community.

The museum will remain open by appointment over the next few months as it moves into the new space, he said.

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