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Preserving the Historic Beauty of Capitol Hill

One of the largest and oldest civic organizations in our neighborhood is the Capitol Hill Restoration Society (CHRS). It has close to a thousand members. Founded in 1955, it aims to protect the neighborhood’s historic architectural and residential character. Thanks to its effort, Capitol Hill was recognized as a historic district in 1976, a designation provided through the US Department of the Interior under the auspices of the National Park Service. The designation protects more than 8,000 historic buildings, some of which might have been destroyed or significantly altered without the designation.

The CHRS annually holds its popular House and Garden Tour each Mother’s Day. This is also a primary opportunity to volunteer as a house tour docent or to help sell tickets for the tour. Other community events at which CHRS participates include the Fourth of July parade and the Barracks Row Festival.

Additional opportunities to volunteer include speaking at CHRS Preservation Cafes and membership meetings, writing for its newsletter, working on its website, or helping out with the Dick Wolf Lecture. Dick Wolf was a tireless advocate for historic preservation and neighborhood development on the Hill. The third annual Dick Wolf Lecture will be held on March 24 at the Hill Center. Those interested in serving the community can also apply for membership on the CHRS board.

Elisabeth Nelson is president of CHRS. She joined the society more than a decade ago, after observing an illegal sign on her block sporting an offensive anti-gay message. “The neighbors couldn’t find anyone in the District government willing to enforce the law and remove the eyesore,” she explained. “The Society stepped in, applied the needed nudge, and the sign was taken down.” That got her interested in the CHRS. “I’ve volunteered in several different ways, as webmaster, organizing the Preservation Cafes, managing docents for the Mothers’ Day House and Garden Tour. I love the Hill to bits and it gives me great satisfaction to protect it and preserve it for future generations to enjoy. And it’s a ton of fun to get to work with such lively and committed people.”

Michelle Pilliod Carroll, another volunteer, explained that she “wants to be an active participant in an organization that believes so strongly in preserving the integrity of our great neighborhood.” She volunteers each year for various events including the annual house tour, selling advertising and tickets, as well as overseeing the tea/refreshment break. “I have served as tour chair in the past, using my professional experience as the owner/operator of a meeting-planning company,” she said. “Helping to put together events such as the House Expo, the CHRS birthday party, various receptions, and the Dick Wolf Memorial has been a great joy and pleasure.”

If you would like to get involved or to donate, visit http://chrs.org/ and contact one of the officers. To remain in the loop about what’s happening, especially in terms of neighborhood development, don’t forget check out the Society’s newsletter, published 10 times per year.


Quentin Wodon is president of the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill, which meets every second and fourth Tuesday of the month at 7:30 a.m. at the Dubliner on F Street. To contact Quentin, or to learn more about the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill Pro Bono Initiative, please send him an email through the Contact Me page of his blog at www.rotarianeconomist.com.

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