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The century-old Historical Society of Washington isn’t in very good shape. Its financial woes came to light last fall, along with Councilmember Marion Barry’s rumored romantic relationship with the Society’s director, Sandy Bellamy. In June, the Post reported that the largely volunteer-based organization would be relegated to a few rooms in the old Carnegie Library when the Washington Convention and Sports Authority turned the rest into a visitors center.
Now, the Society and its library is shut down for the summer—-and will stand conspicuously on the sidelines today as a partnership is announced between George Washington University’s new museum of D.C. history and the Textile Museum.
In the mean time, the Society has some debts to sort out: Three lawsuits are currently pending in Superior Court for unpaid bills. The first, filed by City Sightseeing Washington D.C.in March, is over the Society’s refusal to pay a $7,500 fee for including the Carnegie Building on their tour maps, and failure to provide an all-you-can-eat pizza and salad buffet to the tour company’s customers when they came by the building. The second, filed by Essential Media Partners in early July, is over $12,223.15 worth of unpaid invoices for the Historical Society’s advertising.
The Washington Convention and Sports Authority has agreed to take care of the third lawsuit, which is over utility bills. The other two, emails Society trustee Russ Dawson, will be paid as funds become available. “The Historical Society is close to an agreement with WCAS that will provide it with a substantial long-term revenue stream that will enable it to promptly pay its debts and move forward with a strategic business plan,” he writes.
Bellamy, reached at home, said that she left the Historical Society when salaries stopped being paid, but declined to say when that happened, and had no comment on the lawsuits.
I’m expecting to hear from the WCSA—-ahem, Events DC—later today.
UPDATE, 3:30 p.m. – A lease agreement is still being finalized, but Events DC president Greg O’Dell says that his organization won’t be assuming any of the Historical Society’s debts, including the utility bills. As Dawson said above, they’ll be paid for with the payments for taking over the majority of the Carnegie Building for a visitor’s center.