News & Politics

Check Out These Notable Retro Kitchens

DC has a bunch of cool preserved cooking spaces.

The Ebony test facility. Photograph of Ebony facility Courtesy of J. Paul Getty Trust and National Museum of African American History & Culture.

The National Museum of African American History & Culture recently announced that it has acquired the entire Ebony test kitchen, once a prominent feature of the magazine’s old office in Chicago. It’s not the only intriguing food room that has managed to avoid the scrap heap. Here’s a look at some of DC’s preserved kitchens.


“Ebony” Test Kitchen

With its vivid, marbled cabinets and Afrocentric decorations, the 1970s-era prep space was an eye-­catching part of Johnson Publishing’s headquarters and where Ebony food editor Freda DeKnight tested recipes for her popular “A Date with a Dish” column. When the building was converted into housing, the kitchen was rescued by volunteers from a group called Landmarks Illinois. It will live on at the NMAAHC, which plans to preserve it and eventually put it on display.


Julia Child’s Kitchen

Julia Child’s kitchen. Photograph by Hugh Talman.

When the revered TV chef moved out of her Massachusetts home in 2001, she donated the space where she’d cooked coq au vin and lobster soufflé to the Smithsonian, which painstakingly disassembled and moved the cabinets, appliances, cookbooks, tables, and utensils to the National Museum of American History.


Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens

Hillwood Estate. Photograph by Brian Searby.

The Forest Hills mansion once owned by Marjorie Merriweather Post is home to a lovingly maintained old-school kitchen. The celebrated hostess employed a large staff to put on her parties, and now that the house is a museum, the un-updated kitchen remains a striking example of midcentury-modern design. It features a 55-cup coffee percolator, timers built into cabinets, and a dumbwaiter for bringing porcelain and glass up from the basement.


Frederick Douglass National Historic Site

The Anacostia house where Douglass spent the last years of his life is a National Historic Site, and much of its interior was restored by the federal government. Douglass’s kitchen, left intact since his death, had an indoor coal stove at a time when most homes had outdoor kitchens. That original cast-iron appliance still occupies a corner of the kitchen, along with a collection of Douglass’s cooking implements. The restoration is so detailed that it includes copies of grocery lists he and his family made.

This article appears in the August 2023 issue of Washingtonian.

Ike Allen
Assistant Editor