National House of History

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Imagine what it would be like to live in the same house your grandparents and great- grandparents did when they were your age. How do you think the house and furnishings would have changed over time?

Tudor Place, in Georgetown, was home to the Peter family for 178 years, from 1805 to 1983. The house is important not only for the delightful walk through time it represents, but also for historical reasons.

Martha Custis Peter and her husband, Thomas, were the first owners. Martha was the granddaughter of Martha Washington and the step-granddaughter of George Washington. More than 100 items that belonged to the Washingtons were enjoyed by Peter family members for six generations.

There's a camp stool that General Washington used during the Revolutionary War and a tea table and porcelain punch bowl that his wife used when entertaining guests at their Mount Vernon estate. There's also a miniature 1795 portrait of George Washington that Martha Custis requested when she became engaged, which prompted our first president to say, "I could never believe the wish dearest to a young lady's heart on the eve of her marriage was to possess an old man's picture."

Tudor Place also has one of only three existing letters George Washington wrote to his wife. It's dated June 1776 and tells of his sadness at being away from his family as he took command of the Continental army before the Revolutionary War and the sense of duty he felt in taking that position.

But Tudor Place is more than a collection of old objects; it's one family's story of how people and life changed during two centuries. From the British attack on Washington in 1814 through the Civil War and into modern-day Georgetown, Tudor Place stirs the imagination.

-- Ann Cameron Siegal

The Garden

Tudor Place has more than five acres of gardens, equal in size to four football fields. In the 1800s, a visitor would have seen hayfields and grazing sheep and cows. Many of the trees and boxwoods there today are 200 years old. There's an 1875 pecan tree. The sago palms are descendants of those purchased by Martha Peter in 1813. Palm leaves were placed on caskets during funerals at Tudor Place.

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