In an imposing brick building at 235 2nd Street, NE on Capitol Hill, time stands still. It is home to over 70 young people living, working, and learning in Washington. This is Thompson-Markward Hall, a boarding house that has been a home for young women in Washington since 1833. But its residents haven’t always been elite graduate students or ladder-climbing interns. Women’s work in Washington has changed dramatically since the 1800s, but Thompson-Markward Hall has remained a necessity.
Long before the invention of the airplane and a short time before trains were used for commercial transportation, congressmen traveling to Washington for extended periods faced a complicated issue: where would they live in the developing capital city while Congress was in session? Some wealthier members of Congress could purchase private residences or stay with a colleague, but this was not a realistic option for most. The most common solution by far, was to reside in one of the District’s many boardinghouses. Several former presidents, including Abraham Lincoln, found boardinghouses to be a phenomenally sufficient option during their congressional years— for a reasonable fee, a boardinghouse would provide you a room, quality meals, place to work, and lively conversation with fellow residents, many of whom were also politicians. Boardinghouses were scattered throughout the city, but the majority of them were located on Capitol Hill in the area where the Library of Congress stands today.