In the years following the Civil War, Washington DC’s population was expanding rapidly but there was relatively slow progress in the delivery of basic services and few governmental provisions for social welfare. Federal assistance for the impoverished was practically non-existent. It was at this time, in 1871, that Father Jacob Ambrose Walter, the fourth pastor of St. Patrick's Church, the oldest Roman Catholic parish in Washington City, welcomed seven Little Sisters of the Poor from France to care for the aged poor in a building he provided them at 924 G Street, NW.
The Little Sisters soon attracted considerable attention and political support in late-nineteenth century Washington. This political support aided their efforts, and soon after their arrival the Sisters were granted unprecedented permission to beg for donations in the buildings of the federal government. This permission continued all the way up to September 11, 2001 when access to federal buildings became more restricted. Such favor among Washington’s Catholics and non-Catholics alike was immensely helpful when we outgrew our first home at St. Patrick’s after only two years.
In 1872, Fr. Walters, who was then preparing his own campaign to build the present St. Patrick’s Church, helped us find property at 220 H Street, NE, located quite near Union Station. By the 1970's, however, construction of the six-lane H Street Bridge brought the roadway within 10-feet of the front of the home. A serious fire on the bridge, followed by a car accident that caused a vehicle to jump the safety rail and crash into the property, forced St. Joseph’s Home to relocate.
In March 1977, we moved from H Street and briefly left the District of Columbia before re-opening the Jeanne Jugan Residence in its present location on Harewood Road in 1982. St. Joseph Villa, consisting of 24 apartments for independent seniors, was constructed in 1999.
The Jeanne Jugan Residence has had a front row seat to many important national events over the past 170 years. Our Home has welcomed quite a few notable visitors including Eleanor Roosevelt and President and Mrs. George W. Bush. We were also blessed to provide a home to James Cardinal Hickey in his final years.
“Love God very much, so that you can look after the aged well, for it is Jesus whom you care for in them.”
–Saint Jeanne Jugan