WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - The O Street Mansion has a rich history that is woven into the fabric of the District, but the significant impact it had in helping Rosa Parks is a story many do not know.
H.H. Leonards purchased the O Street Mansion nearly 50 years ago as an art space for creative minds and as a 110-room bed and breakfast.
Leonards, who provided free rooms through a program that supported creatives coming to DC, received a phone call asking if Parks could stay at the mansion after she was attacked in her Detroit home.
“I got a call from someone I didn't know. He said my name is Willis Edwards. Mrs. Rosa Parks was just beaten up in her home. She's in bad shape, she's in the hospital, she's not prepared emotionally or physically to go home right now. She has no money. Can she stay with you for just a few days?” Leonards recalled.
Leonards said she didn’t know who Parks was, but wanted to help.
“I think because I didn't know who she was, we became close friends she felt comfortable here,” Leonards explained.
The couple developed a friendship that lasted for years and it gave Leonard a rare, intimate insight to Parks, the private person.
“She was not a talkative woman unless she had something to say, so our times of silence together were really quite beautiful because you could feel her grace,” Leonards said. “She had amazing creator hands. I would love to hold her hands because you just felt life coming through her to you and to the world.”
The O Street Mansion, Leonards said, was established to help people like Parks make a difference in the world.
“I wanted to create that place where people can come and rejuvenate. A sanctuary that they could understand where they had come from and go out and do amazing things,” Leonards said. “Every ceiling in the Mansion, and there are 110 rooms, is totally different to get people to understand, ‘look up, there's something bigger here than you.’ Also understanding that God has a plan for everybody and you have to be positive.”