The Evans-Tibbs House is a historic home in Washington, DC’s Shaw neighborhood. Built in 1894, the house is particularly notable for being the residence of the first African American opera singer of international fame, Lillian Evans Tibbs. For some time after her death, her grandson housed an art gallery in the home. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in September of 1987.
Backstory and Context
The Evans-Tibbs house was built in 1894 by a man named Richard E. Crump. Little is known about the inhabitants of the house shortly after it was finished, but in 1904, Lillian Evans-Tibbs moved into the house with her family when she was fourteen. Lillian’s family was quite prominent among the black intellectuals of Washington, DC, and as a result, the house was often used as a gathering place. Being in such a prominent position, Lillian had many educational opportunities to pursue, and she worked to gain her Bachelor’s Degree in Music from Howard University in 1913 and began teaching music. She married Roy Tibbs, a music teacher, in 1918, but soon after the marriage, she decided to focus on her operatic skills in the early 1920s. Though she was a skilled opera singer, there were not many opportunities for opera singers in the United States during the early 1920s. As a result, she traveled to Europe to pursue her opera studies, and she continued her studies fervently in Paris, France. While in France, she took on the stage name Evanti and debuted at the star of the 1925 opera Lakme. Because of Lakme’s success, Evanti toured Europe with the Paris Opera Company.
When she returned to the United States, opportunities for opera singers were still scarce, and as a result, Evanti was unable to be hired on by a professional company. Still, she continued to perform, eventually performing for Eleanor Roosevelt in 1934. Her career boomed, despite not having a sponsor. As her career continued, Evanti continued to live in the Evans-Tibbs house with her son and husband up until her death in 1967. After her death, her grandson, Thurlow Tibbs, Jr., used the home as an art gallery, but upon his death, the home no longer continued to hold the artwork. The house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 8th, 1987.