SE Quadrant, Capitol Hill, Architecturally Significant, Civil War Era, Female, Hosts of Literary Salons, Journalists, Translators, Also of Interest

Madeleine Vinton Dahlgren
(July 13, 1825 -May 28, 1889)

Commandant's Headquarters, Navy Yard neighborhood, DC.

Born in Ohio, Dahlgren was educated in Philadelphia, and at the Convent of the Visitation in Georgetown, while her father Samuel Finley Vinton was in Congress. In 1865, she married Admiral John Dahlgren, the famous Civil War officer and inventor of the Dahlgren gun. This was her second marriage; an earlier husband died, and she had two children from that first union and three from her second.

A fairly prolific novelist, Dahlgren published numerous books including, South Sea Sketches (1881), South Mountain Magic (1882), and her best known work, A Washington Winter (1883),a caricature of Washington society. She also translated works from French, Spanish, and Italian into English by such authors as Charles Forbes Rene de Tryon, Juan Donoso Cortes, and Charles Adolphe de Pineton, Marquis of Chambrun. Her prose works include the anti-suffrage Thoughts on Female Suffrage, and in Vindication of Woman's True Rights (1871), Memoir of John A. Dahlgren (1882), and Etiquette of Social Life in Washington (1873, which went into 5 editions). Dahlgren also published journalism under the pseudonyms “Corrine” and “Cornelia,” and edited her husband’s memoirs.

Dahlgren founded the Washington Literary Society in 1873, and for the first six years, meetings were held in her home in Thomas Circle (now razed). She lived in the Navy Yard from 1869 to 1870 in the Navy Commandant's House, also known as The Tingey House.

Architect: Lovering and Dyer. Year: 1804.

Built on the highest point of land at the Navy Yard, this Georgian-style house once had several outbuildings, including an ice house and stables, now razed. Numerous renovations have been made, including the addition of porches and a large porte-cochere, lengthening of windows, and installation of modern water closets, as well as the addition of a two-story service wing. One of the earliest buildings constructed at the Navy Yard, the house is notable as one of the few public buildings not seriously damaged in the British invasion during the War of 1812. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.


Historic house photo courtesy of Smithsonian Institution.