WASHINGTON (AP) — When World War I began in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed U.S. neutrality. Then in 1917, he sent U.S. troops to Europe. After the war, he worked to create a lasting peace, and in 1919, he won the Nobel Peace Prize.
This summer marks 100 years since the start of World War I, and those with an interest in America's role in the Great War and its aftermath can learn more about Wilson's life and legacy on a guided tour of the President Woodrow Wilson House in Washington, where he lived after leaving office.
In his postwar efforts, Wilson championed principles like self-determination and independence, and he was the leading founder of the League of Nations, forerunner to the United Nations. "The main thing we want people to understand is that Wilson imagined the world at peace, and he proposed a plan for achieving that vision," said Stephanie Daugherty, associate manager and curator at the President Woodrow Wilson House.
The house on S Street just north of Dupont Circle is a unique destination in its own right as the home of the only president who retired in Washington after leaving office.
Wilson and his wife Edith bought the brick Georgian Revival house with arched windows and a columned entrance in 1920 as his second term ended. Wilson was partially paralyzed by a stroke in 1919, and though not in a wheelchair, he had trouble walking, so an elevator was installed for him. He died in 1924, but his widow lived in the home until her death in 1961. The house has been restored with furnishings and memorabilia dating to the era when Wilson lived there.
Artifacts on display include an artillery shell casing from the first shots fired by U.S. troops on European soil. The commanders sent it to Wilson as a "fitting souvenir," and he kept it on his mantle "as a reminder of his obligation to those troops" to work for peace, Daugherty said.
Also on exhibit is a pen with a feminine, mother-of-pearl design that Wilson used to sign the declaration of war. He didn't have a pen handy when asked to sign the order, so he borrowed it from his wife.