Interviewer Margaret Missiaen adjusts microphone on interviewee Annie Bell Nelson, 2002. Photo Credit: John Franzén.

Our Mission

In keeping with its goal of building a stronger, kinder, more thoughtful community, the  Capitol Hill Community Foundation established the Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project to give our neighborhood a better knowledge of its past and a deeper understanding of the everyday lives of its citizens.

The Project collects oral histories from longtime Capitol Hill residents and former residents to create a permanent, accessible record of the people and events that have shaped our community. As a first priority, the all-volunteer effort focuses on elderly residents whose stories might soon be lost, but its ultimate goal is a many-voiced narrative from across the generations, representing all backgrounds and walks of life and illustrating the richly inter-connected life of our neighborhood over time.

To inform and inspire the broadest possible audience, we actively promote and publicize our collection and also sponsor lectures that explore our neighborhood’s history.

We undertake this Project in the spirit of its namesake, Ruth Ann Overbeck, who devoted much of her life to the exploration of our neighborhood's history and the preservation of its historic treasures. We share her strongly held belief that a community must know its own past in order to plan wisely for its future, and that the life of even the humblest citizen is worthy of study and respect.


One of the most rewarding parts of managing an oral history project over the long term is discovering connections between people.

The most successful of those connections started while reviewing the transcript of the interview with Ellen Breen. We realized Ellen was about the same age as our favorite author, Mary Zurhorst Gray, and that they had lived very near one another during the 1920s. It turned out that Ellen remembered Mary very well from their days at St. Cecilia's—she even remembered playing with Mary's wonderful 22 room dollhouse!

At a later date, Ellen moved quite near to where Mary Gray was living. Both were over 90 by then, but they eventually met in person for the first time in over 80 years!