Secrets from the past at the DC History Conference

That’s where Jennifer Porter-Lupu found them. And what an interesting tale they tell.

It’s only one of the stories that will be related at the D.C. History Conference, Friday through Sunday at the University of the District of Columbia.

Halcyon House dates to the late 18th century. Among its owners was Albert Clemens, who died there in 1938. Clemens spent his life feverishly renovating the house, constructing rooms within rooms, stairways that went nowhere and a secret theater on the third floor.

The work of an eccentric? Those artifacts suggest a different story, said Porter-Lupu, a doctoral candidate in anthropology at Northwestern University. The trash buried under a patio during Clemens’s residency included clips from women’s corsets and garters.

Though Clemens was married, his wife lived elsewhere, with her female companion. Clemens collected works by lesser-known gay playwrights.

Porter-Lupu thinks the undergarments and the theater suggest Halcyon House could have been the site of an underground drag scene during Prohibition.

“It might look from the outside like this big stately mansion,” she said, “but the stories that it tells are much more complicated, and it…

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