The National 4-H Conference Center, one of the largest nonacademic youth education and conference facilities in America, is up for sale.
“It’s a COVID-driven decision,” said National 4-H Council President and CEO Jennifer Sirangelo. She said the Council previously had plans to further develop the facility, but it’s been closed since March 22, 2020 due to the pandemic. It is not expected to reopen to youth groups and guests in 2021 due to local government restrictions on group gatherings and broader travel restrictions.
Located on 12 acres in the upscale neighborhood of Chevy Chase, Maryland, 10 miles from downtown Washington, D.C., the complex has long been a destination for numerous youth groups from around the world. Those global guests represented about 80% of the location’s traffic; the remaining 20% were National 4-H Council hosted meetings and events attended by approximately 2,500 4-H youth each year.
“I feel like there's a bright future for 4-H. And there's a lot we will be able to do to continue to support extension from the sale,” added Sirangelo. One outcome from the pandemic is that “people really understand that young people need support right now.”
National 4‑H is delivered by USDA and Cooperative Extension — a community of more than 100 public universities across the nation that provides experiences where young people learn by doing. With steady growth in both urban and rural areas, 4-H has become America’s largest youth development organization — claiming nearly six million young members.
In a statement, the National 4-H Council said the decision to sell the property came “after a long and thorough process of weighing all possible options.” The organization “will focus its efforts on expanding opportunities for America’s youth through increased investment and participation in 4-H positive youth development programs — including youth-focused convenings in the nation’s capital.”
The National 4-H leadership offices will remain in the Washington, D.C. metro area in a yet-to-be-determined location.
The estimated value of the property was not released, but the Council said it was encouraging potential purchasers to maintain the existing residential zoning.
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“National 4-H Council is incredibly proud of the rich 60-year history of the National 4-H Conference Center and the positive impact thousands of youth organizations have had on the youth they serve through their conferences on our campus,” the Council noted.
“As the nonprofit partner to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Cooperative Extension, National 4-H Council’s commitment to support the 4-H program will continue in three ways: (1) the convening of national events, (2) telling the 4-H story and (3) building public-private partnerships,” the group added.
According to a 4-H history of the property, the Chevy Chase Inn was built on a large plot of farmland in 1893 by Francis Newlands. In 1903, the property was converted into a college for women, an identity it maintained for nearly half a century.
In 1951, the National 4-H Club Foundation, established two years earlier, bought the school to house its national training center. However, due to the growing conflict in Korea, the U.S. Defense Department immediately requested the use of the property for an Operations Research Office.
The property was returned to the 4-H movement in 1957, and promptly underwent renovations with the aid of the Ford and Danforth Foundations, among other funding sources.
On June 16, 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower presided over the opening ceremonies for the National 4-H Center, which quickly became the national home for 4-H, hosting annual 4-H conferences and year-round training programs for youth, volunteer leaders and professional staff.
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