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Celebrated hotelier James Wormley (1819-1884) and his son William owned 10 acres at least two country houses during the 1870s and 1880s on what was then called Peirce Mill Road near Fort Reno in upper Northwest Washington (northwest of the intersection of Reno Road and Van Ness Street, NW).

James Wormley was born free, the son of Lynch and Mary Wormley, both also free born. According to historian Judith Beck Helm, before the Civil War, James worked as a steward at a white men's club. He became an entrepreneur in the service trades and opened his own hotel, the Wormley Hotel, at the corner of 15th and H streets, NW, in 1871. The hotel catered primarily to wealthy and politically powerful white males in the city. It contained a bar, a barbershop, and an acclaimed dining room where Wormley served European-style dishes using fresh ingredients he grew on his nearby farm, probably at this location. Wormley, who had spent time in Europe honing his culinary skills, was a consummate entrepreneur, attending to minute details to ensure the pleasure of his guests. The hotel is also famous as the site of the Wormley Conference of 1877.

Wormley was instrumental in persuading Congress to pass legislation making sure the proper funds were available to support the first Washington, DC public schools for African Americans. Georgetown's Wormley School, built in 1885 at 3331 Prospect Street, NW, memorializes James Wormley.


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