The O Museum in Washington DC is full to the brim with quirky memorabilia and art. It also has more than 70 secret doors within the 100+ rooms.
The O Museum in Washington DC is full to the brim with quirky memorabilia and art. It also has more than 70 secret doors within the 100+ rooms. Rae Wilson

The secrets inside the mansion on O Street

BUSTING out super sleuth skills to search for 70-plus secret doors in the O Museum's themed rooms will take you straight back to your childhood.

The time warp that awaits you inside the 100-odd rooms of an unassuming mansion on O Street is incredible - also taking you back to your parents' and grandparents' eras.

From celebrity-signed guitars to a retro kitchen, pinball machines and vintage clothing in rooms themed Victorian to Art Deco and Avant Garde, it's hard to know where to look.

Especially when you're on the hunt for secret doors to secret rooms and compartments.

But unlike Narnia where the kids enter a new world through a wardrobe, these doors are all either push or pull and you have to have a keen eye to spot them high and low.

Apparently, anyone who finds more than two is considered above average, so I was pretty chuffed with myself to find a dozen.

But my competitiveness left me frustrated I could not find closer to 70.

The O Museum is housed in a mansion owner H.H. Leonards bought in 1980.

The O Museum in Washington DC is full to the brim with quirky memorabilia and art. It also has more than 70 secret doors within the 100+ rooms.
The O Museum in Washington DC is full to the brim with quirky memorabilia and art. It also has more than 70 secret doors within the 100+ rooms. Rae Wilson

But its history goes back much further and as you explore the mansion, you'll be walking in the footsteps of presidents, freedom fighters, G-Men, historians, famous musicians and fiction writers.

Built 125 years ago, nearly every president since Teddy Roosevelt has visited.

The O Museum is in a series of five interconnected townhouses designed by Edward Clark, architect for the US Capitol building, in 1892.

He lived there with his brother James Clark, who was speaker of the house during Teddy Roosevelt's presidency, and another brother.

The O Museum's website details how FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's G-Men then used the residence during the 1930s and student leaders in the protest movement lived there in the 1960s.

On Valentine's Day in 1980, after heading to Washington DC to join the military but being rejected and forced to nanny for children, H secured 68 credit cards ranging from $500 to $2500 to secure her first piece of the mansion.

The interest did not worry her.

"If you start with nothing, it doesn't matter, it's all relative,” she said.

"As a single woman, you couldn't get credit if you wanted to. So I had to be resourceful.” 

The O Museum in Washington DC is full to the brim with quirky memorabilia and art. It also has more than 70 secret doors within the 100+ rooms.
The O Museum in Washington DC is full to the brim with quirky memorabilia and art. It also has more than 70 secret doors within the 100+ rooms. Rae Wilson

With just a few records and books when she moved in, she slept on the floor.

One day an antique dealer came to the home to buy a poster and saw the dearth of furniture.

She said she and her partner paid for storage for the overflow of stock for their antique shop and offered to provide the furniture, with price tags for mansion visitors, to avoid paying for storage,

"That's how it started, with everything being for sale,” she said.

"They were the first wedding here.

"He was so nervous; instead of saying 'I promise to love you', he said 'I promise to leave you'.

"Everybody burst out laughing but he had no idea what he said.”

Before sending me off on my journey, she tells me the adventure is not like Narnia and there will be no furniture leading to a doorway, nor will there be any secret openings behind art pieces or fireplaces or under flooring.

But, she says, the doorways are like Alice in Wonderland because they come in all different sizes.

The O Museum in Washington DC is full to the brim with quirky memorabilia and art. It also has more than 70 secret doors within the 100+ rooms.
The O Museum in Washington DC is full to the brim with quirky memorabilia and art. It also has more than 70 secret doors within the 100+ rooms. Rae Wilson

The collection rotates and changes daily.

It is an immersive, tactile experience where you will hear rare studio cuts, leaf through manuscripts, touch sculptures and experience different architectural styles.

"If you come back tomorrow, it's a different house,” she says.

"We're constantly moving things and changing the rooms.

"If you don't find the wine cellar, let us know so we can give you a hint, but we won't show you.”

Reserve a time to go on your hunt. And if you have some dosh, you can even book to stay in one of the rooms.


CQ mine marks major milestone at RG Tanna terminal

premium_icon CQ mine marks major milestone at RG Tanna terminal

IN THE early hours of Wednesday the loading of cape-size MV Marijeannie...

Hard work and community the pillars of success

premium_icon Hard work and community the pillars of success

David Nunn of High Risk Solutions travelled over oceans to get his Queensland...

More refugees headed for regions

premium_icon More refugees headed for regions

Plan to push more refugees outside of the big cities