Folk legend Pete Seeger’s first famous moment in Washington might have been as a witness before the House Un-American Activities Committee, where he was being probed for possible Communist ties. But the singer, who died on Monday at 94, had a much longer and richer history with the D.C. area.
In fact, he spent time at his family’s Chevy Chase, Maryland home during the 1940s and 50s when he was a young man. His father, Charles Seeger, was a musicologist at the Library of Congress and the elder Seeger’s second wife, Ruth, (Pete Seeger’s stepmother) was a music teacher and a noted composer. According to the Chevy Chase Historical Society, which has documented the history of the home at 7 West Kirke Street, “the den held two grand pianos and a steady stream of Ruth’s piano pupils. The Seegers entertained frequently; the lovely house was ﬁlled with music.”
Today, the old Seeger abode is home to Megan Rupp, her husband Dane Butswinkas and their two young boys. The family bought the house in 2009 from the family that had purchased it from the Seegers decades earlier, Rupp says. The property’s musical history was a part of the sales pitch — and the home even came with an old pair of andirons that had originally belonged to the Seegers.
“It’s been so fun for us,” she says. Charles and Ruth’s daughter Peggy, a prominent London-based folk singer herself, once visited to see how her childhood home had changed. “It was an important place to their family.”
For more on the family’s Washington-area roots, we dug up an old newspaper clip from a 1952 edition of the Washington Post about a country music competition held in Warrenton, Va., at which Peggy and her brother, Mike (also a half-brother to Pete) were performing. Their sound apparently caught the ear of a local “hillbilly disc-jockey” from Arlington, who declared the young musicians to be “hotter than a ‘tater.”