The Royal Visit: “Two burning, boiling, sweltering, humid furnace-like days in Washington”

United Kingdom king george VI and his wife queen elizabeth standing at top of stone steps with dignitaries
The King and Queen’s arrival at the British Embassy garden party, June 8, 1939. Press photograph now part of the Tudor Place Collection.

As Great Britain prepared for World War II, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth made an historic visit to the United States. A 1939 party invitation in the Tudor Place Archive led to research by Curator Grant Quertermous; here is his article with the story of the royal visit to Washington, DC and how that involved members of the Peter family.

Read the essay.

Pigeons in the Smoke House (Film Footage)

Pigeons in a smoke house? By the 1930s, the Peter family had converted the 1794 Smoke House, seen here, into a pigeon coop. It was most likely Armistead Peter 3rd, whose father owned the estate at the time, who shot these 1940s “home movies” of their brood in flight and perching. (The footage also shows an unidentified man, waving as he passes through the shot.) The film proved a useful reference for the recent restoration of the Smoke House arbor and fly pen, completed October 2017. It provided clues to otherwise elusive details of the pen’s structure, including how the mesh sides were attached to the frame and where the perches sat.

#DayOfFacts at Tudor Place

On February 17, 2017, Tudor Place joined hundreds of other museums, historic sites, archives, libraries, science centers and cultural organizations on social media to address confusion over “alternative facts.” This “Day of Facts,” in the words of its grass roots organizers, reaffirmed “values of curiosity, intellectual pursuit and openness. Facts matter, our visitors matter, and we will remain trusted sources of knowledge.”

These are the stories behind the facts shared by Tudor Place:

Marietta Minnigerode Andrews: Artist, Poet and Author

Suffragist cover by Marietta M AndrewsBorn in Richmond, Virginia, Marietta Minnigerode Andrews (1869-1931) studied art in Washington, New York, Paris, and Munich. In 1895, she married her former art instructor, Eliphalet Fraser Andrews, Director of the Corcoran School of Art.  After he died in 1915, she began to write and publish prose and poetry.  She was also a founding member of the Washington Watercolor Club, a designer of stained glass windows, and creator of intricate paper silhouettes.  This cover drawing for the April 18, 1914, issue of The Suffragist, called “Signs of Spring,” depicts a woman orator addressing a crowd. The Suffragist was published by the National Women’s Party and issued monthly from 1913 until 1921. A group of works by Andrews came to the Tudor Place collection by way of Helen T. Peter, widow of Minnigerode Andrews’s son. Helen married Armistead Peter 3rd, the property’s last private owner, following the death of his first wife, Caroline.

Max F. Rosinski: “Washington’s Finest Cabinetmaker”

reproduction chippendale chair

This ca. 1903 Rosinski chair matched a Peter family set once owned by George Washington.

Max F. Rosinski (1868-1962) was born in West Prussia and moved to Washington, D.C., with his family at age 13. On March 12, 1895, he took the U.S. oath of citizenship. After an apprenticeship in cabinetmaking, he established his own shop in the city, where he was active for over 60 years. Tudor Place owner Armistead Peter 3rd was a loyal client, describing him as “the finest cabinet maker that Washington ever had.”

Rosinski’s works at Tudor Place include original pieces like a telephone table and an unusual sideboard/serving table in the Dining Room referencing Colonial style, as well as a pair of chairs commissioned to match the Peter family’s set in the Queen Anne-Chippendale style that were owned by George Washington in the presidential mansion in Philadelphia. Peter also employed Rosinski to repair significant pieces, including the square piano on view in the Saloon, and even had him work on the eight maple doors and pocket doors in house’s reception rooms.

John Luckett: Enslaved by Virginians and Union Soldiers

John Luckett w garden tools, A1.41bw

John Luckett, in characteristic apron and derby hat, with tools on South Lawn.

During the second Battle of Manassas, the Union army sacked a plantation in Lewinsville, Va., in Fairfax County, and “stole” several enslaved people. One of them was John Luckett. Impressed to drive a pair of mules pulling an army supply train, Luckett hatched an escape plan with 20 other men but was one of only three who actually ran. With no pass from an “owner,” Luckett ran the risk of recapture and imprisonment. As he told the story to his first Tudor Place employer, Britannia Peter Kennon, which she then recounted to her grandson, Armistead Peter Jr., Luckett and his fellows were again detained by Union forces but managed to convince them they had been visiting friends. His account of his enslavement and escape ended with, “I just kept on—crossed the Chain bridge and made for Georgetown.”

Kennon described Luckett’s 1862 arrival at Tudor Place in her reminiscences:

John came to ‘Tudor’ in March 1862. I was standing on the brow of the hill by the gate when he came in and asked: ‘Do you want to hire anybody?’ ‘Yes,’ I said. ‘I do want to hire somebody!’ ‘Well, I’s looking for a job!’ ‘Where did you come from?’ I asked. ‘Over yonder!’ ‘But, where is ‘over yonder’?’ ‘Over yonder,’ he said. Well, as I wanted some one to work the gardens, I asked him, ‘What wages do you ask?’ ‘Fifty cents a day and you needn’t be afraid to take me neither! Which I told him I was not and from that day to this John has proved to be all that I could wish for.”

Luckett was one of thousands of African-American migrants seeking work then in Georgetown and Washington City. A month after he arrived, Lincoln issued his emancipation decree for the District of Columbia. Did Britannia know he had been enslaved? Perhaps, or perhaps she only realized it later, but she was a single woman running an estate in wartime and needed help. Luckett told her only that he came from “over yonder,” later amended in family lore to “over yonder in Virginie.”

Luckett worked at Tudor Place for 44 years and was loved by the Peter family. His recorded wages in 1904 were $22 a month plus holiday gifts and paid sick leave. “Old John was a character (and one we loved dearly),” wrote one local chronicler, “not much over five feet tall, with grizzled hair and goatee, and always wearing an apron tied around his waist and a derby hat on his head.” Though the Peters offered to buy them a house in Georgetown, Luckett and his wife chose to live across the city. They raised six children in a home on Capitol Hill from which John walked to and from Georgetown every work day, almost until his death in 1906.  Family lore maintains that the Peter family adorned his coffin with fronds from their sago palms, a tradition usually observed for family members only.

Margaret Carraher: From a Tiny Pecan, a Mighty Tree

Maggie2

Born in Ireland, cook Maggie Carraher retired from Tudor Place in 1911, the year this was taken.

Margaret, known as “Maggie,” Carraher was an Irish immigrant employed at Tudor Place from 1905 to 1911, when she retired following the death of her employer, Britannia Peter Kennon. Listed on the 1910 census as “cook,” with an immigration date from Ireland of 1868, Carraher was later described by the Kennon’s grandson, Armistead Peter 3rd, who remembered as a small boy “helping” her in the kitchen and “particularly, I used to watch her making bread, which she used to do expertly, and which was the only bread that was used in the house.”

Carraher is perhaps best remembered for a tiny gift she gave Kennon, her mistress: a pecan nut that grew into a tree that today towers more than 80 feet. Britannia planted the nut south of the house. Though pecans’ generally prefer more southern climates, it not only survived but grew so large it had to be relocated, as described in the Tudor Place book by Kennon’s grandson, Armistead Peter 3rd:

The pecan tree to my left was planted during my great-grandmother’s lifetime, in the east end of the arbor, by the kitchen. I think that she had expected it to shade the path in front of the house in the afternoon, but they decided that it was a little too close to the house, and it was then moved down to where you now see it. My Father said that it stayed there for many years, practically with out growing at all, probably as a result of cutting the tap root. However, a few years later it started to grow and ever since then has made a splendid growth every year.

While at Tudor Place, Carraher lived in the room that is now shown as the office and helped care for Britannia Kennon in the last years of her life. She retired at age 62. House records indicated that the next owner, Kennon’s son Armistead Peter Jr., sent her cash gifts at Easter and Christmas for several years after.

 

From Our Garden | The Pecan Tree

By Kellie Cox, Director of Gardens and Grounds

With the season upon us for nutty treats like stuffing and candied pecans, our thoughts turn to an arboreal star at Tudor Place, its widely admired pecan tree. (If this makes your thoughts turn to nutty treats, try our Candied Pecans recipe!)

In our historic gardens, we are fortunate to have a magnificent pecan tree (Carya illinoensis), Washington, D.C.’s, oldest and largest living specimen, according to the Casey Trees Living Legacy Campaign. This 80-foot-plus tree was planted from a seed nut ca. 1875, when Britannia Peter Kennon (Thomas and Martha Peter’s daughter) owned Tudor Place. Britannia planted the nut in the Dining Terrace, southwest of the historic house, from a pecan nut given to her by Maggie Carraher, an Irish immigrant who worked as the Tudor Place cook. Surprisingly, given pecans’ preference for southern climates, the tree has survived and produces fruit to this day.

The pecan tree to my left was planted during my great-grandmother’s lifetime, in the east end of the arbor, by the kitchen. I think that she had expected it to shade the path in front of the house in the afternoon, but they decided that it was a little too close to the house, and it was then moved down to where you now see it. My Father said that it stayed there for many years, practically with out growing at all, probably as a result of cutting the tap root. However, a few years later it started to grow and ever since then has made a splendid growth every year.

— Armistead Peter III

History of the Pecan Tree

The name ‘Pecan’ is a Native American term, translating to “all nuts requiring a stone to crack”.  The history of pecan trees can be traced back to as early as the 1500s. Many people consider the pecan to be one of the most valuable North American nut species, as it is the only major tree nut that grows naturally in North America. One of the earliest pecan tree plantings was documented to around 1711, 60 years before the first recorded planting by colonists in the future United States. The first pecan tree planting on these shores occurred in Long Island, N.Y., in 1772. Towards the end of the 1700’s, pecan trees were planted along the eastern coast, including in the gardens of George Washington (ca. 1775) and Thomas Jefferson (ca. 1779). Their cultivation and commercial planting started in the 1880s, in Texas and Louisiana, and sales of pecans emerged throughout the country. Where Maggie Carraher obtained the nut she gave Britannia is unknown. It may have come from Mount Vernon or a local store in Washington.

Try Communications Director Mandy Katz’s recipe for candied pecans (great for homemade gift-giving!). And visit the historic pecan tree here any Tuesday through Sunday on a walk or self-guided tour of the 5½-acre historic garden for only $3 a visit. We also offer scheduled garden programs throughout the year, including monthly guided garden tours in spring through fall.  Thanks for reading and stay tuned for a new From Our Garden post in December!

BONUS: A recipe for Candied Pecans. Try it!
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Pencils, Paperclips, and Mystery Objects: Sorting the 20th-Century Desk

By Becky Bacheller, Tudor Place Collections Management Intern
The first-floor office is one of the rare rooms at Tudor Place whose furnishings point to a single era rather than a span of time and use. The mansion’s fourth and final owner, Armistead Peter 3rd (1896-1983), worked here into the 1980s, but maintained the room and its furnishings much as his father had set them up in the 1920s. With its natural artifacts and memorabilia, book-lined décor, and veridian walls, the room by design continued to reflect the tastes and interests of Armistead Peter, Jr., (1870-1960), who worked here throughout his adult life.

Armistead Peter, Jr.’s, partner desk: Made by W. K. Cowan Company (Chicago, 1894 to 1916), ca. 1900.

In fall 2012, my internship in collections management focused entirely on the Office — focused, in fact, on a single piece of its furniture, the ca.-1900 Colonial Revival partner desk that anchors the room. The cataloging project required inventorying the contents of the desk, manufactured by W. K. Cowan & Company of Chicago as a replica of George Washington’s presidential desk in New York City. It came to Armistead, Jr., on November 3, 1912, as a gift from his wife, Anna “Nannie” Peter (1872 – 1961).

Sorting through its accumulation of office supplies proved to be a way of sorting through the past century. Like virtually everything in the museum, the desk – down to the interiors of its drawers: pens, pencils, stamps, and stationary supplies – had transferred intact to the Tudor Place Foundation after Armistead 3rd‘s death. Its contents were catalogued then and left undisturbed. For preservation reasons, it recently became necessary to re-house them, and that is where I came in. My internship project was to sort, label, and rehouse the drawers’ contents, photographing, measuring, and cataloguing them in the museum’s PastPerfect digital collections database as I progressed.

  
Working drawer by drawer, beginning with the wide central one (open in top photo), I first carefully removed each object from a drawer and placed it for transport in a blue board tray lined with archival tissue paper. I next determined its accession number. Many, like the pencils pictured above-right, were already tagged; these I matched it to physical (printed) accession files as I removed them.

I next photographed each item or group of items to document them and their condition. An abundance of loose tags from the last cataloguing exercise persuaded us that each object this time should be physically numbered. I practiced labeling my own pencils first with the collection labeling kit before venturing (carefully!) to number each of the Peter family’s writing utensils, as shown below:

I hand printed each accession number on a clear base of B-72. Based on the objects’ color, I selected  contrasting inks for maximum visibility. The numbering process is reversible, and I took care to mark the numbers in the least noticeable place on each object. While handling them, I wore nitrile or cotton gloves.
To re-house the collection, I created a cradle of archival tissue paper for each object and then placed the artifacts in customized dividers. Six trays could be stacked in one box. These were temporarily stored under my worktable but are destined for eventual on-site storage with the rest of the collection.

Archival tissue in stacking trays
served to hold the desk contents.

Here is my Collections office work station,  
located in a former bedroom.

After three weeks of cataloging, the first drawer was complete. A total of 41 objects, including pencils, dip pens, mechanical pencils, and fountain pens, all  made during the first half of the 20th century, had been photographed, catalogued and re-housed, filling four sub-divided trays.

One of the things I love about projects like this is the exposure to historical objects and the knowledge gained in figuring out what each one is and how best to describe it. A fat blue pencil became one of my favorite finds in the collection, because of its resonance from an earlier project I had worked on.

As a curatorial assistant researching WWII-era pencils for an exhibition at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, I discovered Bob Truby’s Name Brand Pencils, an entire website devoted to the subject. I learned then that pencils from the Second World War period have distinctive cardboard or plastic ferrules as a wartime adaptation: Metals were needed for the war effort, so hard cardboard or plastic had to substitute for the nickel or brass usually wrapped around the eraser’s base. Although interested to know of this distinction, I was unable to find an example during my Smithsonian tenure.

One year later, in the Armisteads’ desk, I came upon a pencil with a plastic ferrule:

Not everything I found looked familiar, however. The center object in the picture below stumped me at first. On either side are colored pencils “sharpened” by peeling off the wrapped paper. Asking around, I learned from Tudor Place Artist-in-Residence Peter Waddell that the non-writing utensil among them was a tortillon, used by artists to smudge or blend marks.

Peeling pencils (top and bottom), I recognized. But what was the middle object from the pencil drawer, whose ends peeled away without exposing a writing mechanism?

One drawer contained hundreds of unused pen nibs, cloth pen wipes, and
eyedroppers for ink and feather quill pens.

During my fifth week, I found a metal tray full of paper clips. That presented an interesting numbering challenge, as they differ in type and also did not match previous catalogue records. I sorted each type into a separate archival bag to forestall further corrosion and researched the correct name for the contents of each bag. For example, one style, designated a “square clip,” is actually an “ideal” or “triumph” clip according to Early Office Museum, another specialty web site I consulted.

Paper clips: How to sort and number?

By type, of course, and name.

By the end of my sixth week, I had catalogued more than 100 objects. Below you can see the entire contents of the Cowan partner desk, catalogued and re-housed:

What’s in your desk? Armistead Peter 3rd’s contained everything from writing implements and 
sealing wax to drafting tools, photographs, and even a pocket watch.

It included a box of unused book plates in excellent condition. 

Ephemera and manuscript material from the desk, including these plates, were transferred to the Archive.

This assortment of rubber stamps also was stored in the desk. Some had deteriorated: For example, the rubber face of one had melted off the wooden handle and adhered to the bottom of the drawer. Others had unidentified surface crystallization.

The stamp collection numbered over 38 items. During my fourteenth week, I finished cataloguing it. While most of the stamps bore predictable labels like “paid”, “received”, and other terms associated with business transactions, one read simply “pigeons.”  Armistead Peter, Jr., raised pigeons at Tudor Place, selling them to friends and family. He presumably used this stamp to help organize files pertaining to this hobby.

Manicure set.

The unique manicure set at right was another unusual find. I initially took it for a pocket knife, but the delicate spoon and pointed blades — for cleaning ears and getting beneath fingernails — ultimately revealed its true function
.

At the conclusion of my project, I had digitally catalogued over 330 objects and re-housed them in four archival-quality boxes. I feel confident these fragile and tiny objects will be preserved for future visitors and scholars, now that they are safeguarded in improved storage condition. The internship was a fantastic opportunity to experience many facets of historic house collections management, while peering through the “drawers” of the 20th century.

“Sleeping Time” and Christmas Memories


Tudor Place Drawing Room,
watercolor by
Armistead Peter 3rd.
by Mandy Katz, Communications Officer

In the folio book on Tudor Place he published  in 1969, Armistead Peter 3rd dwells lovingly on many of the mansion’s objects and features. One of these is the Drawing Room mantel, “which must have been made here,” he writes, “as it is of exactly the same design as the simpler mantels up in the bedrooms.” The Drawing Room version, however, is graced by a special feature, one that called to mind the passage of time.
“I have always particularly liked the carving of Father Time with his broken scythe, sleeping, and giving the feeling that time stands still for those who live in this house,” wrote Armistead, the last of six generations of Custis-Peters who would live here. “It is a charming symbolism. 
Father Time with his broken
scythe, sleeping

“As I stand before this figure of ‘sleeping time’ I think that I should recall some of the things that took place in this room during my lifetime,” he continued. “First of all were my Christmas parties with a splendid tree in the center of the north side of the room. My great-grandmother [Britannia] Kennon was always present, and there is a winged Victorian armchair in the garret on the flat arm of which may be seen the fine lines made by her fingernails as she tapped them quietly while watching the festivities…

“I am happy to say that we had many happy gatherings of our friends in these rooms throughout the years, over which my wife presided with the beauty of one of the little porcelain shepherdesses that might have come to life and slipped out of the cabinet for the occasion. I can still see her in the blue dress that I loved best, sitting on the end of the sofa, waiting for her guests to arrive.”
 I can still see her sitting on the end of the sofa,
waiting for her guests to arrive.
There are many opportunities in the coming month to picture these touching scenes for yourself while making your own holiday memories. Our regular, hourly docent tours show the house dressed for a gay 1920s Christmas that Armistead himself might have presided over with his wife, Caroline, a society beauty who spent much of her childhood in France. The same settings will sparkle by night on December 1, during Tudor Nights, our quarterly, adults-only members’ celebration. (Non-members may attend for $15, space permitting, or are invited to take the occasion to support Tudor Place by joining us.) And guests of all ages can enjoy a tour of one, two, three or four historic houses, all decked for the season, during the “Holidays Through History” open house, 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 3.


Please come see us this winter and reflect for yourself on a place where time “sleeps,” yet never truly stands still.

Shovel Ready! Knot Garden Restoration Underway

By Suzanne Bouchard, Director of Gardens & Grounds



Having progressed in the past year and a half from imagining to planning to scheduling, restoration of the formal English Knot Garden begins this month!  The project entails replacing the garden’s declining English boxwood with hardier varieties, improving the drainage system, and renovating soil beds. This ambitious restoration effort provides an opportunity to deepen our scholarship on the entire landscape feature and expand our commitment to sustainable gardening.

Tobacco blooms.

Phase one of the project requires: cutting back, digging up, and safely storing the rose bushes; removing the English boxwood, saving those that are still viable; and removing other plants growing within the beds such as the Cleome (common name: “spiderflower”) and flowering tobacco. Next, the soil will be removed down to ten inches and replaced with 3” of sand and fresh topsoil. At the same time, the drainage system will be restored to function effectively. In late October, we will plant new boxwood and replant the roses inside the new edged beds.


The restoration work has been generously funded by the Ruth S. Willoughby Foundation, and a donation from The Honorable Jane Sloat Ritchie and Mr. C. Jackson Ritchie will pay for replacement rose bushes. In fact, the question of which rose bushes to plant and which to replant poses questions both historic and botanical.

A copy of our knot garden, diagrammed and planted long ago at
Avenel in Virginia
offered insights into our garden’s history.


As we researched and documented the English Knot Garden, questions arose about the varieties of roses and their locations in the layout. We look to documentation of the grounds by Peter family members, in particular the last private owner, Armistead Peter 3rd.  The original Knot Garden design mentioned by Britannia Peter Kennon, his great-grandmother and the estate’s second owner, recalled a feature edged in boxwood and filled with a mixture of roses, perennials, bulbs, and annuals.  The Knot Garden was lost during the Civil War and the design “found” by Armistead Peter 3rd in 1926.  He and his father, Armistead Peter, Jr., replanted the box along with roses, sage, lavender, and ambrosia.


This 1984 photo shows the garden shortly after the property passed to
the Tudor Place Foundation.

Over time, more roses were added to the beds. The Knot Garden now holds a multitude of floribundas, hybrid teas, and several antique varieties. The Peters mentioned over 55 different rose varieties in writings that span 150 years.  However, when asked in 1982 to write an account of the garden’s evolution, Armistead Peter 3rd admitted he couldn’t identify all the varieties, because they had been replaced so often. In recent years, some have been identified with rosarian Nick Webber while others require further research.


Roses will be identified and
tagged before removal.

Tudor Place is committed to improving its maintenance program to incorporate more sustainable practices into daily routines.  The restoration project presents us with the challenge of maintaining rose beds surrounded by boxwood while using sustainable practices.  As our readers may know, rose cultivation can depend heavily on chemicals to control fungal diseases, mites, and a host of other insects.  We currently have a spray program that begins in March and ends in October. During spring, we spray the roses twice a week; in early summer up until fall, the schedule stretches to once every three weeks. For many varieties, this program is essential for healthy roses, preventing defoliation by June.


Cleome, or “spiderflower,” leaning in from the left, are among
several varieties of flowering plants growing alongside the roses.

New trials at the New York Botanical Garden and other public sites are testing which rose varieties best tolerate pests without chemical applications, while some public gardens have switched to an all-organic approach. When we reinstall the roses at the end of October, we will apply a new approach to caring for the Knot Garden. First, we will begin reducing the amount of pesticides we apply while monitoring the roses to see which ones can thrive with a less rigorous spraying schedule. We will stop the current spray program completely and replace it with an all-organic spray program. The boxwood hedges surrounding the rose beds will be added to the organic program to reduce the total amount of synthetic chemicals used in the garden.

As with any change in practice, it will take time to see what approach works best. Our goal is to continue showcasing the roses so loved by the Peter family while using sustainable practices. To retain aesthetic continuity in the historic garden, roses unable to thrive in the new environment will be replaced with hardier but similar varieties. The oldest and best-documented roses, such as ‘Old Blush,’ will receive special attention to support their continued presence. 

Watering in the Heat: Hands, Hoses and History

I think the greatest measure of a gardener’s ability 
is the ability to water and feed plants correctly. 
A plant can be as easily killed by overwatering as by underwatering; in fact, possibly more easily. However, 
when a plant shows the need for water, don’t hesitate.

 

These are the words of Armistead Peter 3rd, Tudor Place’s last private owner.  Given the weather of recent days, we take to heart his remark, “Don’t hesitate.”
July’s heat wave, the mid-Atlantic’s worst since 1995, imposes excessive environmental stresses on designed landscapes like the historic garden at Tudor Place. Whether in containers or beds of various types, in conditions like these, all our plants need watering. While our aims are historic, maintaining plantings installed by the Peter family over two centuries, we turn to the most modern methods we can to conserve water and water only when necessary.

 

For a public garden, also hosting beautiful weddings
and other events, green lawns are a priority.
Our lawns are seeded with tall fescue, which needs watering all summer to prevent dormancy: As a public garden which hosts events, we do keep our lawns green as best we can. We are lucky to have automatic irrigation on the South Lawn, reaching almost an acre of turf, with runoff benefiting the  perimeter plantings and islands. But the formal garden rooms on the house’s north side are less fortunate. The North Garden must be watered by hand, sprinkler and, to minimize water loss through evaporation, soaker hose. We water in the early morning, to give foliage time to dry and thus reduce the spread of powdery mildew. With an older pipe system, only a few sprinklers can run at a time, so water pressure must be monitored.
Morning watering in the Bowling Green.

We water the garden in sections, as our diverse plantings each have their own requirements. Mature plants are watered less often than newly planted material, and established trees require less water than herbaceous beds. We concentrate on the container plants, which can dry out quickly, and new trees.

The latter we water weekly, except when rainfall has measured at least an inch. (As Armistead Peter 3rd noted, overwatering can be as harmful as underwatering.) Watering during extreme conditions

Herbaceous beds, like this one on our center walk, are
laid with an eye to plants’ native needs.
helps minimize heat stress, but we won’t know the full extent of any heat damage for another month or two, when stress symptoms might typically begin to appear.
Every generation has added improvements and applied new learning. Today, our emphasis is on finding suitable environments for our plantings, which reduces the need for human intervention later. As new arrivals are put in, we assess soil conditions in the design phase and embed each according to its “cultural” (soil, water and light) requirements. This helps them thrive.
As you walk through our gardens, you will see evidence of similar care and thoughtfulness, dating back 200 years.

More on the Garden

Garden Programs

Visit the Garden

To visit our gardens: Tudor Place grounds are open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 to 4, and Sundays, noon to 4. Self-guided visits to the Garden are free; illustrated garden maps and smartphone audio garden tour information are available in the Visitor Center.

 

Originally posted July 2011; links updated March 2015.

Reviving the ‘Niagara:’ A Grapevine Story

“Big Daddy:” For almost 50 years, this
Niagara grapevine held up the arbor.

Armistead Peter 3rd was a faithful steward of his family’s house and gardens at Tudor Place, but that doesn’t mean he never made changes. In the early 1960s, he built an arbor in which to sit and enjoy the North Garden. To its northeast corner, he added a ‘New Dawn’ climbing rose (roses being a specialty). In spring, he knew, the front would be covered in blush colored blossoms. For summer interest, he planted two grape vines to cover the back.


Mr. Peter chose his vines carefully. One of his father’s favorites had been a red variety, Vitis ‘Delaware’, so he added that to the southwest corner of the arbor and planted the northwest corner with a green variety, Vitis ‘Niagara.’ Both were and are popular table grapes also used in wine making. The vines stayed put for 50 years on what came to be called the Grape Arbor.


While the plants thrived, though, the arbor itself suffered from insect damage, rot, and the passage of time. Starting last fall and over the winter, we restored it to its original condition in Mr. Peter’s day. That required removing all the climbing plants in November, in order to dismantle the structure and pour new concrete footers. The climbing rose, unfortunately, had to be discarded after removal, as an infection of rose mosaic virus was causing it to lose canes without producing new strong ones. (We replaced it this spring.)


Next, the grape vines. After cutting them back and excavating the rooting areas, we found that the Delaware grape had just one large and viable root. So, rather than remove it, we gently propped it on a nearby viburnum for the duration of the project. The Niagara, by contrast, we discovered was actually holding up the arbor’s entire northwest corner, where the wooden base had rotted. It was carefully removed to a protected location and heeled in. Beforehand, though, we took cuttings – four stems, each 12-15 inches long with at least 2 sets of buds each — and refrigerated them, just in case.

Out of the fridge: heirloom Niagara cuttings repotted.
The next generation.
Well, “just in case” came to pass: The Niagara didn’t survive its replanting, so two months ago, the cuttings came out of the refrigerator and were repotted. We placed the pots in a sunny location and watered them faithfully. All four rooted within the month! Today, we are happy to say that the healthiest was installed in the northwest corner of the Grape Arbor, replacing the parent vine.

Just as Tudor Place passed from generation to generation, now this arbor has passed to a descendant, too. It will take some time before it grows to cover the northwest corner, but we can now take confidence that a Niagara grape vine will always be at Tudor Place.