Unitarians and Universalists of Washington, DC: A Photo History

“Unitarians held meetings in Washington, DC as early as 1815, with the first Unitarian church established in the city in 1821. The first known Universalist sermon was presented at city hall in 1827. From these beginnings Unitarians and Universalists established a presence in the nation’s capital that has had significant influence at key moments in the history both of the city of Washington and the country as a whole.
This presentation covers the sweep of UU history in Washington from the beginnings to current times. It tells this story through photographs and images of documents drawn from the archives of area congregations, including All Souls Church and the Universalist National Memorial Church as well as those from the collections of the UUA and the Andover-Harvard Theological School Library.
Photographs include images of the three churches constructed by Unitarians in the city, including the Charles Bulfinch-designed First Unitarian Church, dedicated in 1822 and located within blocks of the new United States capitol. Also featured are photographs of the two churches built by Universalists: First Universalist Church (1883) and the Universalist National Memorial Church. In addition are photographs and/or images of Washington Unitarians and Universalists, including John Quincy Adams, John C. Calhoun, Edward Everett, William Henry Channing, Edward Everett Hale, William Howard Taft, A. Powell Davies, Muriel Davies, Seth Brooks, and David Eaton.
Stories told will include that of the Revere Bell at All Souls, forged by Joseph Revere in 1822, which was partially paid for by President James Monroe and guaranteed to last for one year (it’s still up there). There was the fervently abolitionist ministry of Moncure Conway, called by First Unitarian in 1854. After one particularly strong anti-slavery sermon, Conway reported that, “the choir did not sing,” and he was dismissed by the church. There were the anti-segregation efforts of A. Powell Davies that played a key role in integrating Washington, DC while also influencing the creation of laws that dismantled legal segregation throughout the nation. And the story of the Hiroshima drawings, sent to All Souls by children who survived the atomic bomb.
Washington Unitarian Universalists have a remarkable history to draw upon. My hope is to share it in a form that is informative, accessible, and enjoyable.”