What’s cooking, Girl Scouts? The latest exhibit at the Nation’s Capital main office answers that question.
The easy way to create the exhibit would be to pull all relevant items from our collection. But I like to have some organization and a common theme running throughout. I decided to use this passage from the 1926 handbook:
The Girl Scout who has earned the Cooking Badge may be a great help at home if she has learned to work quickly and neatly and may get much amusement both at home and on camping parties. If the first trial of a process is not a success, the Scout should have patience to try again and again until her result is satisfactory. If she has learned to prepare a few simple dishes well she should have courage to try unfamiliar recipes which are found in any good cook book. If she is to be ready to take responsibility when it is necessary, she should be able to plan the meals in such a way that nothing is wasted and that the family is satisfied and well-nourished.
When working in the kitchen, the Scout should wear a clean, washable dress, or a washable apron which covers her dress. She should be sure that her hair is tidy, and she should remember to wash her hands before beginning work. She should try to use as few dishes as possible and not to spill or spatter. She should remember that her cooking is not finished until she has cleaned up after herself, has washed and put away the dishes, washed the dish towels and left the kitchen in order.
I divided up the quote into chunks of one or two sentences, then illustrated with pictures taken from old handbooks and vintage postcards.
Then we added a few more instructions from various handbooks and photos.
We used this opportunity to mention the Little House, a model home in Washington, DC, from 1924 to 1945, and the two tea houses once operated by the local Girl Scouts.
Finally, we included requirements for several vintage cooking badges and captions on recipe cards.
These only show the bottom half of the exhibit. To see it in person, visit the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital office, 4301 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington DC.
Before Girl Scout cookie sales began nation-wide, local Girl Scouts raised money by selling waffles.
The Girl Scouts of Washington DC eagerly joined the tea room fad that swept the United States in the 1920s. The girls operated not one, but two popular eateries in the nation’s capital.
Willow Point/Hains Point
In 1919 the Girl Scouts of the District of Columbia were allowed to open a “tea and refreshment” stand in East Potomac Park. A paved road, known as the “Speedway,” circled the perimeter of Hains Point, making the park a popular spot for leisurely summer drives. The Willow Point tea house began in an old street car under a large willow tree, with tables on the lawn. Many Washingtonians enjoyed the cool breeze from the waterfront while sipping a glass of cold ginger ale.
The original Willow Point tea house. (Library of Congress photo)
The Willow Point tea house was a such huge success that in 1922 the Office of Public Buildings and Public Grounds asked Congress for permission to build a larger shelter complete with a “comfort station.” The request was approved, and in September 1924 the Girl Scouts moved into their new facility, known as the Hains Point Tea House. The classical white pavilion housed a restaurant, snack bar, and restrooms.
Postcard of the Hains Point Tea House.
The Willow Point Tea House was ideally located on the Hains Point speedway. A golf course was behind the building. (Library of Congress photo)
President and Mrs. Warren G. Harding and, later, President and Mrs. Calvin Coolidge were regular customers at the Willow Point tea house. President Harding (1921-23) was quite the waffle aficionado, and he usually ordered the breakfast dish at every opportunity. With his endorsement, the Girl Scouts became famous for their tea house waffles. (Although they served them with butter and syrup, not the president’s preferred topping: chipped beef gravy. Ewwwwww)
In fact, as the White House Waffle Maker, Florence Harding’s waffle recipe was widely published in 1920. It featured many ingredients that had been rationed during World War I and was part of a national campaign of “Back to Normalcy.”
Florence Harding’s Waffle Recipe
2 tbls. sugar.
2 tbls. butter.
1 teaspoon salt.
1 pt. milk.
Flour to make thin batter. (I used about 2 cups flour)
2 large teaspoons baking powder
Separate the eggs
Beat yolks and add sugar and salt
Melt butter then add milk and flour and stir to combine.
Beat egg whites until stiff (but not dry) peaks form
Stir one spoonful of whites into the mixture to lighten and then fold remainder of egg whites and baking powder
Bake in a hot waffle iron.
(Atlanta Woman’s Club Cookbook, 1921)
Congress restructured park management in 1925, and took over the tea house on January 1, 1926. The Parks Service operated the restaurant until 1962, when it became a visitor’s center, and it was later used as office space. The building suffered from frequent flooding and was razed in 1987.
The tea house was swallowed by flooding in 1985. The “Awakening” statue is visible at the bottom of the photo (Library of Congress).
The second Girl Scout tea house proved more enduring, and the proprietors knew exactly what menu item to feature:
On November 16, 1921, the Girl Scouts of Washington DC opened a tea house at Peirce Mill in Rock Creek Park.
DC Commissioner Evalena Gleaves Cohen, May Flather, First Lady Grace Coolidge, and Mrs. W. Bowyer Pain visit the Peirce Mill Tea House, March 25, 1925 (Knox History, GSCNC Archives).
The mill had housed a restaurant before, but the Girl Scouts redecorated it with pale yellow walls, blue tables and chairs, yellow curtains trimmed with blue fringe, and yellow and blue candles on each table. Menu favorites included coffee, muffins with marmalade, waffles with maple syrup, and gingerbread. Though not a financial success, the Council used Peirce Mill for meetings and training sessions for years to come.
Teen Troop 2890 visited Peirce Mill in October 2013.
Peirce Mill still stands (2401 Tilden St. NW) and even without a restaurant, it remains a popular stop for hikers, bicyclers, and my own Girl Scout troop. It is about a mile from the Nation’s Capital headquarters at 4301 Connecticut Ave. NW.
Girl Scout Cookie Waffles
For a “traditional” Girl Scout breakfast, try making waffles with Girl Scout cookies!
(Girl Scout Council of Chicago and Northwest Indiana)
And for those amazing Samoa waffles in the first photo, visit the Domestic Fits blogto get the recipe.
I have the greatest troop of Senior and Ambassador Girl Scouts.
They are unfailingly kind, generous, smart, funny, and always willing to be guinea pigs in whatever crazy scheme I come up with.
Over the years we’ve rung in the New Year with movie marathons at our local camp, gone to DC Roller Girls matches, walked the length of the National Mall on the hottest day of the year, debated proper attire for vampires, and collected nearly 200 bras for victims of domestic violence. They have gamely tried out possible activities for my patch programs about princesses, Barbies, and the Hunger Games.
Since I became chair of the Nation’s Capital Archives and History Committee in 2012, they have become Girl Scout historians, too. They have visited local sites with Girl Scout history ties, such as Peirce Mill and Rockwood Manor. They spent one meeting arranging a suitcase full of old teen uniforms in chronological order and critiquing the style and fabric. Last year, over winter break, a group dismantled, relocated, and reassembled the Committee’s storage area when the council headquarters received new carpet.
Yesterday, I took a carload of girls to the warehouse in Northeast Washington, DC, where the majority of our collection is housed. Our two storage units are packed to the brim, so I limited the trip to four girls. Would you believe I had a waiting list? Let’s review: I had teenage girls on winter break clamoring to go to a warehouse. A warehouse!
I didn’t know we had old GS bathing suits!
We spent about two hours at the warehouse, carrying out several missions. I had old Leader magazines to return and needed to borrow some Rockwood materials for research. We also had a request requiring some old camp uniforms and a roundup hat, so we located those and talked about what roundups were.
Everyone loves old hats!
Our main goal was to locate items for an upcoming display about cookie patches and prizes over the years. The girls are working on the old Museum Discovery Interest Project, and the display will satisfy some of those requirements. But there’s more to the cookie display project than just earning a badge.
The Museum Discovery Interest Project
Next year Nation’s Capital will open a dedicated history program center at a former field office in Frederick, Maryland. I am beyond excited by the prospect of permanent displays and being able to better share our collection with our members and the community.
We’re still working out what types of programs will be offered in Frederick, but I hope there will be a mix of “for girls” and “by girls” on the menu. I visited the First Headquarters in Savannah last summer and was so impressed that teens from the Historic Georgia Council work at the museum and lead most of the programs. I would love to implement a similar model for Nation’s Capital, perhaps even creating a History Program Aide specialty.
Working with my own troop has confirmed that, with proper instruction, girls can handle artifacts appropriately and responsibly. I try to reinforce with my girls that there is a huge, wonderful world of Girl Scouting out there beyond our troop. They enjoy seeing how they fit into our timeline, discovering what has changed and what has stayed the same.
Above all, they prove that Girl Scouts want to learn more about Girl Scout history. I can’t wait to give them and other troops that opportunity.
A few weeks ago my teen troop visited the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital main office, where they learned about career opportunities for professional Girl Scouts, discussed how exhibits are curated, and discovered some of the treasures held in our archives. Then they went south on Connecticut Avenue, made a left onto Tilden Street NW, and visited Peirce Mill in Rock Creek Park. Barely a mile from the Council office is a delightful retreat that is a perfect place to relax after a rough week of exams. It is also an important landmark in the history of Girl Scouts in Washington, DC.
Rock Creek runs behind the mill along a popular jogging and biking trail.
On November 16, 1921, the Girl Scouts of Washington DC opened a tea house in the old stone mill. Grace Coolidge, wife of Vice President Calvin Coolidge, was on hand for the ribbon cutting. Peirce Mill operated as a grain mill from the 1820s until 1897, when the main shaft broke. Park administrators permitted the first tea house on the site in 1905, and several different ladies operated the concession before it was offered to the Girl Scouts rent free in 1921. The main floor was used as a tea room, while the cook lived on the second floor.
Peirce Mill, circa 1940s.
I am yet to find any photos of the inside of the tea house, but the May 1922 issue of American Girl described the charming decor:
The interior of the Mill has been entirely done over, with the walls a colonial yellow and the tables and chairs painted a dull blue. Trim little curtains of yellow edged with blue fringe, and yellow and blue candles on the tables give a cozy effect to the big room. … Coffee chocolate, toasted muffins and marmalade, hot waffles and maple syrup are among the delicacies which are serviced at the Tea House.
Newspaper accounts especially praised the tea house for its “Harding waffles.” Apparently presidential “waffling” has not always been a cause for criticism!
The tea house patio was located on this side of the mill.
The interior is small and dark, but comfortably cool even in a Washington August.
Unfortunately, the Peirce Mill tea house was not as successful as the one operated at Haines Point, but the council continued to use the building for leaders’ meetings and training sessions for many years.