Historic Structures

Ralph J. Bunche House, Washington DC

Date added: October 28, 2010 Categories: House

The house was built for Dr. and Mrs. Bunche while he was on the political science faculty of Howard University. Born in 1904, Dr. Bunche came to Howard in 1928. In 1944 he joined the State Department, thus beginning a distinguished governmental career that was capped by his selection as the 1949 Nobel Peace Prize recipient and his appointment in 1950 as an undersecretary of the United Nations.

Dr. Bunche was the chief assistant to Gunnar Myrdal, the Swedish sociologist, whose American Dilemma is a classic study of the Afro-American. Myrdal was often a guest in the house.

The house is 28' wide (not including the side entrance porch) by 42'-6" deep.

located on a narrow and deep, sloping lot, the house has a two-story street facade. The basement is above ground on the rear, making the house three stories in appearance.

The front facade has an irregular window arrangement. On the ground floor are three windows that are grouped together by a projected row of surrounding bricks laid in soldier-style; two windows on the second floor are individually similarly treated. On the first floor there is also a large round window. Brick walls, flush with the front facade, extend out on both sides, thereby creating more of a sense of horizontality to the otherwise basically square front portion of the house. Both walls have a stylized gate and are topped with a ledge of bricks that continue the sill of the first floor group of windows.

The west side, or entrance side, of the house is distinguished by a grouping of five windows with a surrounding band of projected bricks. A single flat roofed porch marks the principal entrance. Steps lead down from beside the entrance porch to a ground floor flag stone terrace on the west side of the house

Inside, the basement is divided into a recreation room, about 13' by 30', with corner fireplace, and a laundry/furnace room. There is also a lavatory.

On the first floor, to the left of the entrance hall, is the L-shaped living room, approximately 13'-9" by 23'-9", and dining room, approximately 10'-6" by 12'-11". A study, 12'-11" by 13'-3", opens off the living room.

On the front of the house is a maid's room, bathroom, and kitchen. A breakfast room is between the kitchen and the dining room.

On the north side of the second floor is a large master bedroom (that opens onto the sundeck) and dressing room. Two bedrooms are on the front of the house. A bathroom can be reached from either the master bedroom or the hallway.