Designed by the same architect as the U.S. Capitol and home to more artifacts and memorabilia relating to George and Martha Washington than anywhere outside of Mount Vernon, Tudor Place Historic House and Garden is a worthy destination for American history buffs.
But the 5 1/2-acre Georgetown estate often gets lost amid Washington's historical sites.
This is the perfect time to discover Tudor Place's collection. The museum is offering $1 admission though the end of February, and the hour-long guided tours prove it's a rarity among historical houses. (Tours usually cost $10 for adults; kids age 5 and under are still free.)
The estate was purchased by Martha Parke Custis Peter, the granddaughter of Martha Washington, and her husband, Thomas Peter, in 1805, using proceeds from the sale of land that George Washington left Peter in his will. Construction on the main section of the house, designed by architect William Thornton, was finished in 1816.
For almost two centuries, Tudor Place remained in the same family, with many of the furnishings and the building's character remaining intact, even as the house was modernized. It opened as a museum in 1988.
The Peters were collectors and archivists, and Thomas Peter purchased numerous items from estate sales at Mount Vernon after Martha Washington's death. Later generations carefully inventoried and labeled china and other artifacts so they'd know which ones came from Mount Vernon.
Larger heirlooms include one of George Washington's camp stools, Martha Washington's tea set, a Chinese export porcelain punch bowl decorated with a fox-hunt scene, and an engraving of George Washington that once hung at Mount Vernon, which was willed to Martha Peter by her grandmother.
But the house, famous for its two-story, glass-fronted portico that would have offered views of the Potomac River, is about much more than Things That Belonged to The Washingtons. Because the Peters, in the words of a tour guide, “never threw anything away,” different rooms of Tudor Place are decorated to show vignettes of life from the early 19th century through the middle of the 20th: musical instruments, a hand-built child's model of the Wright Flyer, an office with historical typewriters and phones, and a closet full of couture fashions.
Admission to the sprawling gardens is included, but this isn't the best time of year to explore them. Give yourself a reason to come back in the spring.
1644 31st St. NW. House tours offered hourly from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Free reservations are suggested, especially on weekends.