Tudor Place Returns to Agrarian Roots: Re-Interpreting for Its 3rd Century

To meet Americans’ growing fascination with land use, ecology, and food sources, and to mark the site’s bicentennial, the Tudor Place Foundation has reassessed the National Historic Landmark’s interpretive focus. As of today, April 1, 2016, in a nod to its semi-agrarian origins, the site has been converted to a working farm.

Executive Director Mark Hudson, who came to Tudor Place in October, spearheaded the redirection. “Tudor Place was just too many things to too many people,” he explained. “It has a vast archive and more than 15,000 artifacts and tells stories of American domestic and political life over more than 200 years. Imagine trying to cover all that in a 55-minute tour!”

“This way, we confine the story to a single function during a single 20-year time period,” Hudson continued, adding, “So much simpler. And besides, the grain harvest and livestock sales are good for the Annual Fund.”

Since opening to the public in 1988, the historic house was interpreted just as it was lived in by six generations of one family, from the years before its 1816 completion through the last private owner’s death, in 1983. Its five-and-a-half-acre historic garden traced Georgetown’s and the District’s evolution from a rough-hewn, semi-rural community to a major metropolis and offered a haven for plant lovers among elegant lawns, garden rooms, and features like gazebos, fountains and wooded paths.

In what some see as a nod to his Kansas origins, Hudson early in his tenure identified farming as a more profitable function for the site’s Gardens & Grounds professionals. Staff now tend cattle and hogs in the former North Garden, where the Boxwood Knot and its roses have proven especially appealing grazing. Tudor Place’s horticulturalist is also testing crop varieties on the South Lawn, where the Peter family once harvested hay by scythe. The 1919 Pierce-Arrow and new Tudor Place Garden Utility Vehicle now pull plows.

Practical functions have likewise been found for iconic but unproductive locations like the Summerhouse, now a grain storage depot, and the Bowling Green, where meals for farm hands — cooked by the Education staff in the 1914 historic kitchen — are laid out daily on trestle tables. The historic house designed by William Thornton has been closed to the public. Its first floor serves important museum and farm administration functions like bookkeeping, stuffing envelopes, grain sales and (to hedge against poor harvests) commodities trading.

On the house’s second floor, the Development department now occupies the west bedrooms and is enjoying a banner year, having sold three generations’ worth of Peter family toys and Caroline Ogden-Jones Peter’s exquisite 20th-century couture collection on Ebay. Britannia’s Civil War-era bedroom has also been emptied, to make room for a state-of-the-art Social Media Suite. That’s where the communications director and former Curatorial staff divide their time between thinking up viral memes using onetime collection objects and tweeting calf and piglet videos.

Outdoors meanwhile, visitors are flocking as never before to the original Tudor Place Smoke House. Recently dated (using dendrochronology) to 1794 and recognized as one of the District’s oldest original service buildings or “dependencies,” the brick-floored, roughly 10-foot-square building now houses D.C.’s newest entry in the popular farm-to-table restaurant space. EAT, the Smoke House Cafe, can accommodate just one table, a two-top. Book soon — the wait for reservations already extends into 2020. Note that Tudor Place members enjoy a 10% discount on dessert!

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Garden Party 2016

2016 Garden Party Honors Tudor Place on Its Bicentennial

Add Your Gift!



Mary Michael Wachur Invitations have been mailed.
Director of Development Please register online.
202.580.7323 | mwachur@tudorplace.org

Purchase Tickets

The 24th Annual Garden Party to support Tudor Place will take place on May 25, 2016, celebrating a rare American milestone, the National Historic Landmark’s year-long Bicentennial, with a party for 500 under an elegant lawn tent in the estate’s 5½-acre garden. Chaired by Ms. Marcia V. Mayo, the event recognizes the 200th anniversary by naming as honoree Tudor Place itself. Now a historic house museum and garden, the estate was completed in 1816 by Martha Parke Custis-Peter, a granddaughter of Martha Washington, and her husband Thomas Peter, a prominent Georgetown landowner and investor.

The music-filled evening runs from 6 to 9 o’clock p.m. and will showcase, in addition to the historic landscape, the 1919 Pierce-Arrow motor car and the elegant, art-filled rooms of the 1816 neoclassical mansion. The event is also known for its “exhibition” of hats, from elegant to fanciful, worn by many guests. Attendees will include Georgetown and Washington civic leaders, trustees, donors, and other supporters, neighbors and friends of the museum, and members of the Diplomatic Host Committee, so far consisting of ambassadors for the nations of Denmark, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Philippines, and the United Kingdom. Members of the Washington National Opera Young Artist Program will perform with costumes and repertoire reflecting the estate’s early American origins.

Tudor Place Historic House & Garden hosts more than 23,000 visitors annually, with education programs that serve more than 3,000 school children each year from schools in D.C. and surrounding communities with a living classroom on American history, the environment, architecture and other subjects. The Garden Party is the institution’s most important fundraiser of the year.

Arrival and Parking Information

Welcome! The party is from 6 o’clock to 9 o’clock on Wednesday, May 25, rain or shine. Enter through the main gate on 31st Street.

Are last-minute tickets available?

Yes. Easiest is to buy online.

Where do I park?

All guest parking  is in the reserved GARDEN PARTY LOT at 2233 Wisconsin Avenue NW (next to Einstein Bros. Bagels), between W Street and Hall Place — look for the gray/blue “Atlantic Parking” sign. Shuttles will transport guests between this lot and Tudor Place. View map.

We recommend taxis or ride services like Uber and Lyft. There will be no parking at Tudor Place.

Can I drop off guests at the party entrance?

Absolutely! Prior to parking, please bring guests to the main gate where ushers will await them and all shuttle arrivals. The Tudor Place main gate, 1644 31st Street NW, between Q & R Streets. Drivers can then proceed to the Garden Party Lot before rejoining their party. View map.

Is there valet parking?

There will be NO VALET PARKING for this event, in accordance with neighborhood zoning restrictions.

What if I have a question?

We’re party-prepping away from our desks, so call us:

  • regarding the guest list, call Felice, 202.580.7321.
  • regarding sponsorships, vendors, and other party-related matters, call Mary-Michael, 202.580.7323.
See 2015 Garden Party photos: Facebook · Flickr · Washington Life · Capitol File.
Continue the celebration!

The elegant Garden Party marquee remains for an additional event on May 26, a Landmark Society luncheon featuring Carol Joynt’s Q&A Cafe on Southern entertaining, with author Julia Reed.