Restoration of the Gazebo and Arbors

As part of its Master Preservation Plan, Tudor Place recently completed restoration of the wooden gazebo and arbors to the west of the main house. The service yard and its significant structures have served a variety of uses since the late 1700s. And the Asian-inspired gazebo built in the 1960s has provided a serene garden retreat for residents, and now the public, ever since. The October 2017 restoration and archaeological investigations that preceded it not only preserve them for a third century but enrich interpretation and scholarship surrounding them.

For more than a century, the area was a domestic service yard, hosting a kitchen, well and smokehouse. The kitchen and well were replaced in 1876 by construction of the attached kitchen a few paces away. The smokehouse — one of the District’s oldest known dependencies, or outbuildings — remained in place but was turned to contemporary uses that illustrate the changing nature of urban life over time. As Georgetown’s rural surroundings retreated, the Peters likewise migrated away from farm activities like smoking their own meat, leaving the smokehouse available for new ends. In 1927, when Armistead Peter Jr. converted it into a coop to raise squab, or culinary pigeons, he had an adjoining arbor built as an outdoor pigeon fly. In 1953, the smokehouse and attached arbor became a kennel for the family’s beloved English Spring Spaniels.

The west garden’s arbors also met decorative and recreational purposes. Rose arbors have graced that side of the main house since the earliest known photographs of the house were taken, in the 1860s. In the mid-20th century, Armistead Peter 3rd extended the structure, adding a graceful archway connecting the arbor to the pigeon fly.  Around 1962, he designed the gazebo as a place to host luncheons and cocktail parties with his wife, Caroline.

The restoration replaced wooden elements of the gazebo damaged over the years by weather and the activity of carpenter bees and squirrels. The smokehouse arbor has been restored to its appearance during the pigeon fly era, with opportunities for new interpretive themes to share with visitors.

Before disturbing the soil for the restoration, Tudor Place engaged long-time partner Dovetail Cultural Resources for archaeological exploration of the area beneath. The findings yield a better understanding of the changing uses of this area over time, uncovering a range of artifacts including an 1898 Indian Head penny, clay marbles, fragments of a clay smoking pipe from about 1820, and a mid-19th century glass button. Part of a glass syringe was a reminder of the medical practice run from the west wing by Armistead Peter, Britannia Kennon’s son-in-law (and husband of Markie).

A generous financial commitment from a Tudor Place Board member underwrote the Smokehouse Arbor Restoration. Named gift opportunities remain available to support other aspects of the restoration work.

View vintage film footage of the pigeon fly:

Bee-Gone Bygone: Farewell to a Long-Serving Poplar

After nearly four years, the 20-foot stump of a tulip poplar that has stood sentinel at the southeast corner of Tudor Place’s South Lawn for nearly two centuries, was removed this week. Arborists in 2013 deemed the tree irredeemably weakened by age and structural damage from the June 2012 Derecho. But they also made a surprising discovery in the tree’s lower trunk.

Wild honeybees had been living in the tree, a Liriodendron tulipifera, for more than 10 years, it was estimated, pollinating flowering plants and trees of Tudor Place and its neighbors. After removal of hazardous overhanging limbs, therefore, the tree’s lower part remained as a bee-friendly “snag,” an ungainly-looking length of trunk reaching about 40 feet in the air.

Arborists had first examined the tree after the June 2012 derecho windstorm. The following year, they found a 20-foot “torsion” crack in the main trunk inflicted by the derecho. With a bus stop and busy intersection below, Tudor Place couldn’t risk dropping limbs or, worse, the XXX-foot tree’s collapse. In 2014, a 70-ton crane was brought in to accomplish the task. To maximize education potential, the museum posted signs explaining the odd snag’s purpose. Separately, plans were laid to cultivate (domesticated) honeybees elsewhere on site. In the winter of 2016-2017, however, for reasons unknown, the feral bee colony decamped. At that point, Tudor Place decided to finish removing the tree.

When the snag came down in January, its decayed interior proved to be, as expected, almost completely hollow. The tree will be replaced with a similar, albeit younger and smaller, specimen. With assistance from expert arborists, Tudor Place continues caring for the many old and younger trees on its five and one half acres, including the (still thriving!) South Lawn tulip poplar, more than 200 years old, known as D.C.’s “Millennium Tree.”

An Illuminated Christmas, 1914

New Holiday Installation Recalls the Mansion’s First Electrified Winter

In December 1914, the Peters of Tudor Place and their servants returned after a long absence to a newly renovated mansion, just in time for Christmas. For the museum’s 2017 holiday installation, Curator Grant Quertermous has recreated that moment when family traditions met the novelties of electric lights, state-of-the-art appliances, and other changes in an ancestral home.

All through December, Tudor Place visitors can take in artifacts, vignettes, and stories showing how the family observed the holiday that year. They can also see how the estate’s servants prepared for the season’s numerous meals and celebrations even as they adjusted to new and unfamiliar technology. The installation covers every room of National Historic Landmark, from the formal Drawing Room tree covered in period and historic ornaments, to teenaged Armistead’s bedroom with its “high-tech” radio, to the sparkling new kitchen where longtime Cook Annie O’Connor was mastering a new combination gas-and-coal stove from DuParquet on the fly. In some rooms, later furnishings have been removed and rarely displayed objects set out to recreate the home’s 1914-era appearance.

Such detailed interpretation took months of detailed research and planning within and beyond the Tudor Place collection and archive. To learn what types of food would have appeared on the family’s tables and in its larders, for example, Grant consulted grocery and dry goods receipts in the archive. Diaries and letters provided information about dining, gifts exchanged, and the season’s social events. Ledgers revealed names and roles of servants in the family’s employ, their pay, and the end-of-year gifts they received from the Peters.

Artistically and technically inclined, young Armistead Peter 3rd enabled a detailed recreation of his ham radio set-up through detailed drawings and photos he made of it. Relying on those and consultations with vintage radio specialists, the curator has precisely recreated “the boy’s” arrangement of radio equipment in the same location and on the same table where he used it over 100 years ago.

The full installation can be seen on all house tours and public programs in the historic house, including daily public tours, evening Candlelight Tours, a Saturday, December 2, family program of house explorations and holiday crafts, and Tudor Lights, the December 7 cocktail party featuring Christmas décor indoors and festive holiday lights in the garden, newly added this year. Most holiday programs sell out, so reserve soon for your chance to experience An Illuminated Christmas, 1914.

Holiday Programs

BBQ in the Smokehouse – Great Day Washington

Hearkening back two centuries on this estate, pork butt was on the menu and the Brews, Booze & Bites heritage food fest on our minds as we showed the 1794 Smoke House WUSA-9’s Andi Hauser (and told her about our unusual Elopement Package).

The Smoke House can be seen on any garden visit. There is no suggested donation for self-guided visits to the Garden; illustrated garden maps and smartphone audio tour information are available in the Visitor Center.



Visit the Garden

A “Revealing” Project in the Office

From a stuffed bird under a dome to manual typewriters to crystal and silver desk sets, the Office at Tudor Place is so densely stuffed with fascinating objects that it can be hard to know where to look first. The room appears almost exactly as it did in the 1920s, when Armistead Peter, Jr., the estate’s third owner, made it his headquarters for correspondence, estate business, and numerous hobbies and collections, reflected in its furnishings today.

Visitors on a second tour or given the chance, as at Tudor Nights or another event, to linger a while, may notice a more recent oddity, however. In the room’s southwest corner, the forest green plaster has been removed, revealing exposed brick wall beneath.

This seeming flaw is there on purpose. The open corner serves as a reveal, letting visitors see the wall’s basic structure, covered on the house exterior by stucco and, indoors, by plaster. It also enables preservation staff to monitor for deterioration of bricks or plaster.

Recently, that’s precisely what our Director of Buildings, Gardens and Grounds found — bricks at risk of disintegration from water damage, threatening the integrity of the entire wall. Tudor Place staff carefully removed furniture, collections objects, and books from the area, and commissioned Federal Masonry to make repairs. They replaced the weakened bricks with ‘new’ ones from our cache of old and original bricks conserved from prior projects. They also removed unstable mortar, and repointed the fresh bricks with historically-based lime mortar.

Last, the green plaster lines were neatened to maintain the reveal as an educational feature in the otherwise pristinely finished room. Now you will know to take a closer look at the corner when you next come through the Office.

Peter Waddell: Artistic Visions of Tudor Place

Tudor Place Artist-in-Residence Peter Waddell is a history and architectural painter who has created major works with the White House Historical Association, Mount Vernon, the U.S. Capitol and other sites. For Tudor Place, he has created images that depict the house, gardens, and history of the site. This post — and its slideshow — will be updated as Peter makes further changes to his painting of the original Tudor Place wings.

My work frequently starts with someone needing an image of a place in history, usually where no images exist. Sometimes I am asked to record an existing building or interior because of a need for a permanent and minutely detailed record that also reveals the deeper meaning of the subject. Others start with an interest in painting an interesting place at a specific time in the past.

Whether because of an impulse, or with detailed instruction, all the works begin with a visionary moment that defines what I want to say and how the image will be composed. I am usually drawing at the time, but also may be showering or swimming, as I find water is conducive to creative activity. I try to hold the vision until I can get it down on paper or canvas, as it can be fleeting. The initial vision is then informed, and often inspired, by subsequent research. This research is essential to my work.

Tudor Place is unique because so much detailed information is available about one house. The Peter family, who lived here for 178 years, were proud of their lineage and never threw anything away. Once it became a museum, a professional staff of curators and archivists have continued the family tradition, digging and discovering, preserving and recording, the Tudor Place story. Despite this, there is much to be discovered about the early history of Tudor Place. Images of the house in its earliest period do not exist except William Thornton’s original designs for the house. His “as-built” drawings are not known to exist, perhaps worn out and never copied in those pre-Kinko’s days.

My painting of the original entrance to the property was based on historic maps and other sources, but also on educated guesses. From these sources we know that visitors arrived at Tudor Place from Road Street (R Street today), at the northern end of the property. During the mid-nineteenth century, in accordance with Martha Peter’s will, northern sections of the Peter family’s estate were sold and the main entrance moved to the east side of the property along Congress Street (31st Street today). Information passed down through the family says that slave quarters were located beside the original drive near the entrance, a common arrangement on Southern plantations. The gate posts are conjectural but of a type common in the South at the beginning of the 19th Century. Opportunities for exploring for further evidence of these structures have passed since our neighbors probably would not appreciate major archaeological excavation beneath their properties.

With a house undergoing such close examination as Tudor Place, discoveries are being made constantly. I created a painting depicting the site when it was first purchased by Thomas and Martha Peter in 1805. It was based upon the site’s interpretation at that time. According to the Peter family the previous owners, the Lowndes family, had already constructed the wings of a grand house on the site but got no further. My painting shows the two wings, the east used as stables the west as a dwelling. It also expresses the openness of the site and the distant prospect from Georgetown Heights in those times

Recent scholarship and dendrochronological evidence (the examination of tree rings) indicate that the west hyphen, the section joining the wing to the central part of the house) was built around the same time as the wings, and the east hyphen at a later time. With the results of this examination and the assistance of Curator Grant Quertermous, I am adding the west hyphen to the painting and showing the East Hyphen under construction to take account of the new information. If more information turns up I will change it again, much like a book undergoing revision.

Much of what is important about Tudor Place is subtle. In my painting of the Entry Hall I have tried to convey not just the minute details of the architecture but also the feeling of the space and of the sense of time stood still, and time passed. The artist J.W.M. Turner’s last words were “God is light.” Light is the common subject of all my work. The beauty of the light in Tudor Place is a testimony to the quality of William Thornton’s designs. Being frequently in the house has allowed me the deep examination of the pattern of light and shadow in this space.

Because Tudor Place was lived in by the same family for many generations, the rooms convey layers of history. They tell us a great deal about the taste of the last owner Armistead Peter III (1896-1983). His final iteration of the house was a sort of mid-century modern interpretation of an English country house.

My paintings are constructed realities. I try to find out everything that is known about the subject I am painting. I dread the thought that there is some important detail I have not found. Washington is full of historians, professional and amateur. If I miss something I am sure to hear about it.

The evidence I love most are firsthand accounts from people who were there and saw it as it was. For nineteenth century Washington, Margaret Bayard Smith, wife of Samuel Harrison Smith, editor of the National Intelligencer, is an indispensable source. She seems to have known everyone from President Jefferson on down. She was everywhere and saw everything and recorded the details in her diary. Likewise, we are fortunate that the Peter family recorded the details of their lives, like the arrival of Lafayette at Tudor Place in his yellow carriage in 1824. Britannia W, Kennon Peter in 1895 recorded her remembrances of this event — remembrances I included in my allegorical screen about Tudor Place. [seen in slide show above]:

He drove to Tudor Place in a private carriage. I can see the grand old man now as he entered the door of the parlor, his general manner and dignified appearance making an impression on my mind which time cannot efface. Advancing to my mother, he tenderly embraced her, the meeting with whom no doubt bringing to his mind recollections of former days when he had known her as a child, roving over the lawns of Mt. Vernon, the guest of his everlasting friend George Washington.

—“A Page from the Life of Lafayette: His Visit to the Tudor Place in 1824 Related by the GreatGranddaughter of Mrs. Washington” The Washington Times, July 4, 1895.

Newspapers from the nineteenth century contained masses of detailed description. I had a good technical education and learned architectural drafting.  Often buildings are changed over time and I can restore them to the original plans when I need to.  From the Tudor Place collection, we can discern the evolution of the architect’s ideas for the house.

The puzzlement of what was here, what it looked like, and how it felt was a constant companion of my childhood, one which has stayed with me and become an integral part of my work as an artist. In my native home in New Zealand such recreations were easy, as European settlement didn’t take place until the middle of the nineteenth century and was much in evidence as were the primeval forests and sites of Maori settlement.

One of the unique things about Tudor Place is that much of it remains as it was from its earliest days. With the exception of the 1876 kitchen addition, the house is little changed architecturally from its completion in 1816. Although many of the contents are still there from Thomas and Martha Peter’s time, other furnishings and the garden are greatly changed. So Tudor Place offers distinct challenges to the history painter— challenges that intrigue me.

Tudor Place Book Wins Prestigious Awards

Tudor Place is the product of all our different pasts. Its artifacts, images, voices, and ghosts—even the all-knowing tulip poplar—carry us back to our own origins as people and as a nation.

Joseph Ellis, Tudor Place: America’s Story Lives Here, Foreword

WASHINGTON, DCTudor Place: America’s Story Lives Here, the first full-length book on the Tudor Place estate, collections, and history, has received two prestigious prizes. Deemed “Best Regional Non-Fiction (Mid-Atlantic)” in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, the book was also named top regional title in the Independent Book Publishers Association’s 29th Annual Ben Franklin Awards. Covering the people, collections, architecture, and landscape of the National Historic Landmark, the book was published jointly in fall 2016 by the Tudor Place Foundation and the White House Historical Association. It richly chronicles life on the Georgetown estate that was home to six generations of one family descended from Martha Washington.

“We are proud of the book and pleased to see this recognition from the publishing industry,” said Executive Director Mark Hudson. “A historical study and catalog of the collections, it also makes a beautiful coffee table book and appeals to readers with a variety of interests.” he added. (Hudson said as much in December 2016 to The Washington Post.)

The IBPA awards are one of the highest national honors for independent publishers. The Independent Publishers’ “IPPY” Awards, the world’s largest international and regional book awards competition, recognize exemplary independent, university, and self-published titles. This year’s winners, selected from among 5,000 entries, will be celebrated May 30 during the annual BookExpo convention in New York. “One word to describe this year’s IPPY medal-winning books is vivid,” said awards director Jim Barnes – an adjective that certainly applies to the Tudor Place book’s stunning historic prints and images by photographer Bruce M. White as well as the accompanying essays.

Edited by former Tudor Place Executive Director Leslie L. Buhler, the text includes essays by Architect Emeritus of the U.S. Capitol William C. Allen, landscape historian Patricia Marie O’Donnell, and Buhler and former Tudor Place Curator Erin Kuykendall. The foreword is by historian Joseph J. Ellis. White’s arresting photographs appear alongside historic maps, prints and photographsfrom the Tudor Place and other archives.

Tudor Place: America’s Story Lives Here can be purchased at the Tudor Place Museum Shop, the museum’s online shop, through the White House Historical Association, and on

Buy It Now

Garden Lighting Enhancement

Completed in February 2017, Phase One of the Master Preservation Plan’s lighting plan called for restoring historic lighting features across the grounds while installing discreet contemporary lighting for enhanced security and esthetics. Improved illumination at the main entrance, along the walkway to the Visitor Center, and on the path to the Dower House look beautiful in daylight and promote visitor safety at evening events.

Enhancing Water Management

With environmental stewardship a key aim of the Tudor Place Master Preservation Plan, sound water management becomes an essential goal. The museum will take a key step in that direction this summer with the expected installation of a cistern to conserve and control stormwater run-off. The project expands on past efforts to improve drainage around the historic house, with benefits extending as far as the Potomac watershed.

A decade ago, a new perimeter drainage system at the main house connected existing downspouts to drains installed in window areas. While this system successfully carried water away from the house, the resulting discharge on the South Lawn led to erosion and runoff. In 2016, an erosion-control intervention on the lawn’s southwest corner (using jute mesh, jute logs and silt fencing) temporarily mitigated the problem, but it’s a stopgap. The long-term solution is to install an underground cistern to capture the rainwater, treat it, and retain it for irrigation. On the rare occasions when runoff exceeds the cistern’s 21,000-gallon capacity, it will discharge through pipes directly into the city’s storm sewer system on 31st Street.

The full system will reduce erosion and runoff while also cutting our consumption of fresh water.  We expect the work to happen in late summer 2017.

Sustainability at Tudor Place

Recycle symbolIn addition to preserving a National Historic Landmark, Tudor Place strives to be a good neighbor and thoughtful member of the local and global communities. We are proud to advance a Master Preservation Plan that includes sustainability measures such as effective storm water management, the use of geothermal energy, installation of LED lighting, and other energy conservation activities.

#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


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.