The Mansion on O Street is a strange, unique, and fascinating place to visit. To begin with, it’s not really a mansion, but rather 4 row houses joined together by a labyrinthine network of hallways, rooms, and secret doors. The secret doors are a big part of the experience, in fact: there are over 70 of them that you are encouraged to look for, leading to over 100 rooms. Some are pretty simple to find – a wall length mirror, for example, can be pulled away to reveal a passageway into another section of the building – but it’s easy to get overconfident and realize at the end of your visit that you’ve only found 20 or so and many, many more remain.
What else is the mansion? It’s an event space and private club, for one, so you could rent it out for a wedding, concert, or holiday party where your guests wander around searching for secret passages. It’s also a museum and art space, and a hotel that you can rent rooms in. Each of the many rooms is full with books and curios, most of which are based on loose themes – a room full of baseball paraphernalia, for example, or one with antique pinball machines, or a bunch of guitars signed by notable musicians. There’s quite a bit of music history squirreled away throughout the mansion, including a trove of John Lennon and Beatles-themed treasures. Most of the objects in the mansion are also for sale, so you could rightfully say this is an enormous second-hand shop that you could rent a room in or hold a Bar Mitzvah at, all while looking for secret passages. Perhaps now you have an idea why “eclectic” and “odd” are two words that quickly come to mind when describing this place.
It’s also quite charming. When my wife Olivia and I visited, it was full of Christmas decorations, and one gets the sense that the display is constantly changing. Founded in 1980 by H. H. Leonards Spiro, who is (among many other things) a writer, musician, and activist, the Mansion on O Street is one of my favorite kinds of places: one that reflects an unusual vision by someone who has dedicated a significant part of their life to creating a one-of-a-kind experience and sharing it with others.
The Mansion on O Street is open from 11 AM to 5 PM daily, with the last tour beginning at 3 PM. Visitors are encouraged to make online reservations before coming through their website at www.omansion.com/
Matthew Christopher DC Washington Jun 15, 2021 Off The Path