Contributor: Meghan Marino (Dulles Studio Concierge)
There’s something immeasurably intriguing about weirdness.
I’m not talking about the type of weird you thought your younger sibling was when you were growing up, or the type of weird the taste of cilantro has (to me, at least). I’m talking about the type of weird that makes you look twice at something, or second guess it, or immediately run home to your computer to Google it for more information.
In one word, that’s what the O St. Museum in Washington, DC, is – weird. But, it’s weird in the best possible way. With more than 100 rooms arranged in an intricate labyrinth spanning five adjacent row homes, the O St. Museum is a veritable fun house filled to the brim with paintings, sculptures, music memorabilia, manuscripts, and an endless array of unique knickknacks. Walking into the O St. Museum is like stepping into a live version of an “I Spy” book.
The rooms inside are all of varying architectural, artistic, and design periods, from the Victorian Age to the Art Deco/Avant Garde. And they all have a theme, like the Beatles room with a “Yellow Submarine” slot machine and an outline of John Lennon’s face projected onto the bathroom floor. There’s also a log-cabin-themed room reminiscent of a ski lodge and an underground wine cellar with a large dining area for events or private parties.
A mysterious element to the museum includes a number of secret rooms hidden behind concealed secret doors – 32 to be exact. Like the ones seen below, none are marked and all lead to a different room, level, or entirely new building in this maze of a museum. The group I was with was only able to find about five of the 32, and we’re still wondering where they’re all hiding.
As if going through a maze of themed rooms through secret doors isn’t enough, every nook and cranny, every corner, and every wall in this museum is home to yet another art piece or oddity, and you definitely leave feeling like you’ve missed half of what this place has to offer. As it is, however, you don’t have to leave empty-handed. With everything for sale, right down to a 3”x5” Mickey Mouse frame, if you see it and like it – you can buy it.
Another fun element, especially for music lovers, is all of the signed guitars, photos, records, and memorabilia peppered throughout the museum. Most are signed to “H,” the founder of the museum H. H. Leonards. In 1980, Leonards purchased the O St. Mansion, which was originally designed by Alan C. Clark, architect for the U.S. Capitol.
In the mansion, Clark incorporated left over tiles and wood from the Capitol and many remain in place today only adding to its current lore.
The only way to really know what the O St. Museum is all about is to make a trip there yourself. I’m still talking about my experience there and have already planned a future trip to participate in a docent-led tour. Maybe a tour guide can help to explain some of the extraordinary things I saw during my last visit, but I’m pretty sure I’ll never take in all of the O St. Museum’s wonderful weirdness.