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Meridian Place Image

History of Meridian Place

The Washington row house occupied by the American Association of Geographers (AAG) was built in 1885. The AAG has owned the building since 1969, when it purchased the property from the Military Chaplains Association of the United States, which had occupied the structure from 1952 onward. Prior to 1952, one Cecilia Hill and her descendants owned the building; she acquired the property in 1914.

Although built as a single family residence, the building has been used for other purposes at least since World War II. When built, the house was lit with gas lights, and evidently lacked indoor sanitary facilities. The piping for the gas lights was removed during the 1992-1993 renovation, and the bathrooms all appeared to be retrofit when the floors and walls were opened during reconstruction.

In the late 1980s, the AAG faced difficult decisions regarding the building's future and the Association's location. Deferred maintenance had accumulated, and the neighborhood's future was uncertain. Ultimately, the AAG Council voted in 1991 to renovate the structure. Reconstruction began in December 1992 and was completed in May, 1993 at a cost of $435,000. Meridian Place was thoroughly rehabilitated, and its nineteenth-century charm has been enhanced by restoration of previously painted woodwork in the main entrance area and by reconverting the original parlor from office space to a handsome conference room.

The designation of the AAG Office as Meridian Place was based on its location on Sixteenth Street. The centerline of Sixteenth Street was the prime meridian for measuring and mapping longitude in the United States until the 1884 international convention that designated the longitude of Greenwich, England as the prime meridian.