The center at Decatur House is a joint project of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which owns the three-story, red-brick house, and the White House Historical Association, which will operate the history center.
Decatur House, which borders Lafayette Square across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, was built in 1818 as the first private residence in the White House neighborhood. Since then, it has been a home to diplomats, secretaries of state and a vice president. Its former slave quarters are the only surviving evidence that humans were held in bondage within sight of the White House.
In 1956, it was bequeathed to the National Trust, which established a museum, gift shop and event space available for rent.
The new history center at Decatur House will support research related to White House history, store historical documents, offer expanded educational programs for children, and host lectures and other programs that explore the history of the White House and the surrounding area.
Neil Horstman, president of the White House Historical Association, said the history center hopes to pull together research materials about the White House that are scattered among more than 100 public and private presidential sites around the country, making them more accessible to scholars and the public. He pointed to a recent association effort to digitize thousands of historic White House photos as an example of the type of effort the center would undertake.
The center also plans extensive research on the slave dwellings at Decatur House.