Former Forrest Hall

Historical black and white image of Forrest Hall in Georgetown, Washington, DC.
Historical image of Forrest Hall in Georgetown, Washington, DC.

Library of Congress


Reference address: 1258 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007
Walking directions: From the Christ Episcopal Church, walk back towards the intersection of 31st St NW and N St NW. Turn right onto N St NW and begin walking towards Wisconsin Ave. You'll see a gray building towards the left on Wisconsin Ave. It is currently the department store, the GAP. This is the former Forrest Hall.

This building was once known as Forrest Hall. Here Georgetown as a community chose sides in the ensuing war. On January 2, 1861, William Tenny, an ardent Unionist, stood at a town council meeting and stated:

"Everyone should consider the alarming state of the Union. South Carolina has seceded. Mississippi, Alabama and Florida are sitting in convention and will emulate her. Every city, town and hamlet ought to speak out, even Washington City. Treason is no longer a snake in the grass, but stalks abroad like a famished wolf, hungry for prey. Let ever man speak out."

Although some southerners wanted to wait and see what developed, Tenny fired up the crowd. A meeting to determine Georgetown's allegiance was set for January 21.

That night a large crowd gathered in the hall. A band played patriotic songs and a rifle team lined the front of the stage as a minister prayed for guidance. Those invited to speak declined to do so. Many attempts were made to get men to come forward for the vote, eventually five men responded to the pleas. All were reluctant to say he was a member of Lincoln's party. They claimed to be " One Whig, one Tory, one Independent, one Democrat, and one Anti-Democrat"

The five men met in a side room returned a short time later with Georgetown's decision to stay in the Union. A hushed silence filled Forrest Hall while their statement was read: "Resolved: By the citizens of Georgetown in town meeting assembled that we can never admit of any state to secede from the Union, and that the word secession is entrap the unwary who might shrink from rebellion and revolution."

Forrest Hall remained an active player in war related activities. Soldiers as well as the Provost Marshall and his assistants lived here. Prisoners and deserters were processed here. At war's end the building's owner was compensated ten cents to the dollar for all the damage the troops had done.

Last updated: January 5, 2024

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