In the Garden, Early March

This week has been busy in the garden and our recent weather has everyone eager for spring. Visitors and staff have remarked on how great the garden looks and have stopped to admire the early flowering bulbs like the crocus coming up in the Thistle Terrace lawn. We have been working hard this winter to get things ready for the upcoming year. Last week, one of our oldest Catalpa trees and a smaller holly (Ilex opaca) on the South Lawn were professionally pruned to take care of some broken limbs damaged in recent storms. Two California Incense Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens) trees by the grape arbor are being removed this month because both trees are diseased and have been officially deemed hazardous. The lean of one tree has become a major concern for visitor safety while its neighbor lost most of its canopy last year during an August storm. We will be replacing both trees in the near future.

Late winter is the time to prune rose bushes. Pruning practices vary depending on rose species and location. We cut back our floribundas and hybrid teas in our knot garden to reduce their size in relation to the boxwood (Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’) hedges. The remaining rose species around the property are pruned to remove dead wood and to reshape them like our moss, damask, and china varieties. We also apply lime sulfur spray to our roses to get a jump start on our rose maintenance program.

Have a Cocktail with the 1919 Pierce Arrow Roadster

Strolling the grounds of Tudor Place, across the back driveway and to the garage, if the weather is nice, you will find the garage door open to display a 1919 Pierce Arrow Roadster.  This antique car, now decommissioned, belonged to Armistead Peter, 3rd and was one of many Pierce Arrow Roadsters owned by the Peter Family.  It is the highlighted object at the upcoming Tudor Nights Coctail Event on September 30 6-8 p.m. (free for members! details: ) So I thought I would share a little of its history to prepare you for the excitement of seeing it up close…

Photo by Cathy Kerkham

The Peter family had a long history with the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company. Armistead Peter, Jr. and his wife, ‘Nannie’, bought their first Pierce-Arrow in 1913. It was a 48-B2 Vestibule Suburban and cost $6,353.90. Between 1914 and 1920 the Peter family purchased at least four more Pierce-Arrows.
In 1920 they purchased a Town Brougham for a staggering $8,958.00! The Pierce-Arrow currently on display was purchased in 1919 for their son, Armistead Peter 3rd in 1919. It was his second Pierce-Arrow and proved to be his favorite. It is the only Pierce-Arrow he retained from its purchase until his death in 1983. The chassis was bought from the local Washington, DC Pierce dealer, The Foss Hughes Company, for $5,441.25. The body however, was built by the Brewster Company in New York, at a cost of $3,041.45.

Mr. Peter was actively involved in the design process. In the exhibit case are some copies of his designs. He asked Brewster to incorporate a new seat-to-steering wheel ratio designed by Rolls Royce to accommodate his height. The headlights are also by Rolls Royce. There is a box on each side of the running board. One contained the very light Arctic Brand oil that the car used, while the other held tools. A mobile tool kit was essential for an early twentieth century driver. In the 1920s service stations were not commonplace and therefore a driver needed not only to know how to maintain the car but also how to fix it when necessary. This Roadster covered some 37,000 miles, with few problems. Mr. Peter ordered the new Budd-Michelin disc wheels used on General Pershing’s car during World War 1. They were the first to be installed on a civilian car in the Washington area. An earlier skid on an icy winter road had led to a broken wooden spoke wheel, so Mr. Peter was keen to not repeat the performance.

Armistead Peter, 3rd in the 1919 Pierce-Arrow Roadster Model 48-B5

In 1973 Armistead Peter 3rd decided to have the car restored to its original condition. The body and works were restored to running condition and Mr. Peter finally drove it home in 1977. Afterwards he wrote, “When the car was delivered to me in Bethesda, Maryland, I drove it the seven miles to my home here in Washington, and I admit that it felt more like a truck than a car. Everything was built very heavily in those cars, including the gears, and a special trick has to be employed in shifting which I still remembered, although I had not driven the car for forty-seven years.”

Posted by: Heather Bartlow

Pocket Treasures

It seems Armistead Peter Jr. did not empty his pockets before storing away his hunting jacket in the 1930’s!  While inventorying the textile collection here at Tudor Place, Collections Assistant Joni Joseph and Intern Rachel Jakab found a whistle, a cup, a leather strap, and a match case in the pockets of that jacket.  Joni says –  “We think the whistle was to call the dogs while hunting, though I didn’t blow it! We’re not sure what the leather strap was for.  The cup is not a collapsible one – it is simply smashed beyond use and as stiff as can be. It is made with a material treated with a waterproof coating.”

All of the items have been removed and stored properly for better preservation of both the objects and the jacket.  They have been entered in our PastPerfect database with a note as to where they were found to retain their history.

Teaching Teachers at the Civil War Washington Teacher Fellowship

As the Education Director of Tudor Place, I work on developing and implementing a number of educational programs and one of my favorite programs, Civil War Washington Teacher Fellowship, takes place over the summer. We partner with Ford’s Theatre, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, and Lincoln Cottage to create a week long program that focuses on providing teachers with the resources they need to feel comfortable teaching the Civil War to students. This year we had 36 enthusiastic teachers participate in the program. I was overwhelmed with the engaging discussions and creative ideas generated throughout the week.

At Tudor Place we focused on teaching with primary sources. Teachers participated in a Civil War Walking Tour of Georgetown and then performed 3 short plays based on primary documents from the collection. Using additional primary documents teachers took on the role of enslaved workers living in Georgetown in the 1850s and based on their circumstances decided whether they would escape to freedom or stay in bondage. This activity led to a lively discussion on slavery in Washington D.C. and the nation. After working with documents for the majority of the day, teachers turned their attention to teaching with artifacts. Teachers learned the basics of artifact analysis and how artifacts can provide a tactile connection to the past. The day concluded with an engaging discussion on using historic places and artifacts for both history and language arts classes.

Although, teachers spend only a week working onsite with us, we have established an online learning community to encourage discussion and sharing throughout the school year. About 80% of the teachers have already posted lesson plans based on the information they learned throughout the week to the website!

Posted by: Talia Mosconi, Education Director

Martha Washington’s Waxwork Tableau

Fine Arts Conservator Amy F. Byrne of Amy Fernandez, Inc, and Textile Conservator Jennifer Zemanek, examine a tableau made of wax and shells, that once belonged to Martha Washington. The tableau, which depicts the parting of Hector and Andromache, is now part of the collection at Tudor Place Historic House and Garden in Washington, DC.

Below is an article from the Winter/Spring 2010 Tudor Place Times describing the piece in more detail:

A Curious Piece
by Leslie Buhler
Resting atop a sideboard in the Parlour is a curious piece that surprises today’s visitors. It is a rare wax and shell tableau within a glass and wood frame box that was once a prized possession of Martha Washington.

The wax and shell tableau was given to Martha Washington by Samuel Fraunces, an ardent supporter of General Washington. Fraunces owned a tavern in New York City frequented by Washington and his men. It was there on December 4, 1783, that General Washington gave his farewell address to his Revolutionary War officers. (Fraunces Tavern at 54 Pearl Street in lower Manhattan was restored as a Museum and is open to the public.) After he was elected President of the thirteen United States in 1789, President Washington selected Samuel Fraunces to be the household steward of his executive mansion in New York City.

Samuel Fraunces created wax figures, a popular art form during the 18th century. Spectacular displays of life-sized historical figures in elaborate garments were in fashion in both England and the American colonies.
Fraunces chose to create for Mrs. Washington a wax and shell tableau depicting the parting of Hector and Andromache, a popular subject for engravings and paintings during the mid to late 18th century. The waning Age of Enlightenment, the rise of interest in Roman mythology, and a developing Romanticism found expression not only in script but also, in paintings, engravings, and other art forms. Fraunces probably selected his subject because Andromache was honored as the epitome of the loyal wife. An engraving on this same subject was at Mount Vernon and now is held at the Alexandria Masonic Lodge.

Having completed the wax and shell tableau, Fraunces wrote to President Washington: “I most earnestly beg your Excellency will order about the Carriage of a small piece of Shell-Work which I have lately completed for Mrs. Washington purposely – whose acceptance of it will confer the greatest honor on me – the field is Hector and Andromache adorned with Shell-Flowers the collections of a number of years.” New York Governor George Clinton facilitated the shipping of the wax and shell tableau, noting on March 5, 1785 that it was a “. . . very Ginger Bread piece of work.” Upon receipt, it is believed that Martha Washington placed the tableau in the bedroom she shared with her husband.

The wax and shell tableaux was purchased by Thomas and Martha Peter, Martha Washington’s granddaughter, at the 1802 estate sale following Mrs. Washington’s death. The Peters also purchased the chest-on-chest upon which it stood. When the Peter’s home at Tudor Place was completed, the chest-on-chest with the tableau was placed in the upper hallway of the center block. The chest-on-chest remained in this position for six generations of the Peter family. It was a constant reminder of the family’s ties to the Founding Father and his beloved wife.

The winter of 1954/55 the last owner of Tudor Place, Armistead Peter 3rd, was dismayed by the condition of the waxwork. He explained in his book, Tudor Place:

“At some time it had apparently been dropped or treated extremely badly, probably in the moving of the furniture which I have described earlier, at the time of the Civil War. The figures were all thrown about, the nurse on the left side had the right side of her face bashed in, and was lying in the summerhouse. The man had been thrown over and his head snapped off. The woman was still standing but her arm had been pulled loose from the corner of the frame. Most of the flowers had fallen down into the bottom, because it had evidently been put in such heat that the wax had melted that held them together; the animals were in disarray; the whole thing was really a shambles. I decided to do something about this . . . and took it down to the shop, opened it up, took the figures out and laid them carefully on bath towels that I had provided for the purpose, emptied out all the shells that had been parts of the flowers, sorted them all out into similar categories, took out the little summerhouse, and put the whole thing back together in the condition that you now see it.”

Today, however, the wax and shell tableau which so poignantly depicted the sacrifices of the wife of the Founding Father is in a state of severe deterioration. The chest-on-chest on which it so proudly stood is now undergoing a comprehensive conservation effort on Williamsburg, Va.; now this historic tableau also needs major conservation, and funding is sought to repair the ravages of time.

Posted by: Heather Bartlow, Director of Communications

Why I Love Tudor Place Volunteers…

Volunteers are seldom paid; not because they are worthless, but because they are PRICELESS!
–author unknown

As the Communications Director here at Tudor Place, visitor feedback is vital to many of my marketing decisions.  So, in 2010 we started distributing an improved visitor survey.  Over the last 6 months I have analyzed data from hundreds of these surveys and the one thing that has stood out to me is the constant praise our volunteers receive.  On virtually every survey, a visitor comments on how fantastic their tour guide was, how he or she was knowledgeable, friendly, patient, helpful, the list goes on and on!  These knowledgeable and friendly people are what keep places like Tudor Place alive. They give up their afternoons, evenings, weekend to help us further the mission of this historic site.  It does not matter what type of exhibit we have, what historic rose is blooming in the garden, or what great event we have coming up, a visitor who has a bad experience at Tudor Place is not likely to return.  Additionally, visitors do not return because we have a really great advertisement in the newspaper, they come back because they had an enjoyable experience that they want to repeat or share with a friend.  This experience is more often than not provided by our volunteers, and they are doing a heck of a job!
So, on behalf of all of us who can continue to keep places like Tudor Place running because of the great experiences provided to visitors by volunteers, THANK YOU!!
Tudor Place volunteers not only give tours, but some help in the garden, in the administration offices, at special events, and/or education programs. Additionally, our very capable and friendly volunteer coordinator, Jeralynn Graham, provides educational programs exclusive to volunteers, once a month. Recent programs have included:


A lecture on the Underground Railroad in Washington, DC by Jenny Mazur
A tour of Dumbarton House’s exhibit Preparing for the Ball: Costume of the Early Nation
A lecture on the restoration of George Washington’s Chest-on-Chest by Executive Director, Leslie Buhler
Strands of Time – The Hairwork Jewelry Collection at Tudor Place, lecture by Collections Manager Fay Winkle


Tudor Place is in need of more volunteers!  If you or someone you know are interested in volunteering, please see below.

Museum Docents:

Volunteers are needed to lead house tours! Training is provided, on-site parking is available. For further information call Jeralynn Graham at 202-965-0400 x 115 or email

Tudor Place Garden Volunteers :
Tudor Place is currently seeking volunteers to help support the garden staff with the upkeep of our 5 ½ acre historic estate. Volunteer days are currently Monday and Friday with two shifts, (9:30 am – 11:30 am) or (1:30 pm – 3:30 pm). We can accommodate other schedules depending on skill level. Garden volunteers can expect a wide range of tasks including weeding, dead heading, seed collecting, mulching, and pruning. Volunteering requires the ability to work within a group setting or work independently, at times. This is an excellent opportunity for new gardeners or those who have been gardening for years to learn more about horticulture and the challenges of landscape preservation. Please contact Suzanne Bouchard, Director of Gardens & Grounds, at (202) 965-0400 ext 111 or email for more information.

Tudor Place is located in the neighborhood of Georgetown in Washington, DC. Please visit our website,, for more information about the museum and our gardens.

Post by: Heather Bartlow

“Gentlemen, you have played this d—d well.”

The outbreak of Civil War brought turmoil and tragedy to citizens in Georgetown and across the capital city. For the Peter family, the most tragic occurrence of the conflict was the execution by hanging of two family members accused of being Southern spies. They were executed 147 years ago today June 9, 1863. The below article from Harper’s Weekly tells their story…

Orton & Gip in their Confederate uniforms (photo on display in the SW bedroom at Tudor Place).


In the case below the photo are the spurs that were removed from their bodies at the time of their disinterment. Inscription: “Two pair of spurs that were removed from the boots of Uncle Gip and Cousin Orton when Father had their remains disinterred after their execution – given to me by Father, AP, Jr.

HARPER’S WEEKLY – July 4, 1863


WE are indebted to Mr. James K. Magie, of the 78th Illinois Regiment, for the sketch of the execution of the two rebel spies, WILLIAMS and PETERS, who were hanged by General Rosecrans on 9th inst. The following account of the affair is from a letter written by the surgeon of the 85th Indiana :



June 9, 1863.

Last evening about sundown two strangers rode into camp and called at Colonel Baird’s head-quarters, who presented unusual appearances. They had on citizens’ overcoats, Federal regulation pants and caps. The caps were covered with white flannel havelocks. They wore sidearms, and showed high intelligence. One claimed to be a colonel in the United States Army, and called himself Colonel Austin; the other called himself Major Dunlap, and both representing themselves as Inspector-Generals of the United States Army. They represented that they were now out on an expedition in this department, inspecting the outposts and defenses, and that day before yesterday they had been overhauled by the enemy and lost their coats and purses. They exhibited official papers from General Rosecrans, and also from the War Department at Washington, confirming their rank and business. These were all right to Colonel Bayard, and at first satisfied him of their honesty. They asked the Colonel to loan them $50, as they had no coats and no money to buy them. Colonel Baird loaned them the money, and took Colonel Austin’s note for it. Just at dark they started, saying they were going to Nashville, and took that way. Just so soon as their horses’ heads were turned the thought of their being spies struck Colonel Baird, he says, like a thunder-bolt, and he ordered Colonel Watkins, of the 6th Kentucky cavalry, who was standing by, to arrest them immediately. But they were going at lightning speed. Colonel Watkins had no time to call a guard, and only with his orderly he set out on the chase. He ordered the orderly to unsling his carbine, and if, when he (the Colonel) halted them they showed any suspicious motions, to fire on them without waiting for an order. They were overtaken about one-
third of a mile from here. Colonel Watkins told them that Colonel Baird wanted to make some further inquiries of them, and asked them to return. This they politely consented to do, after some remonstrance on account of the lateness of the hour and the distance they had to travel, and Colonel Watkins led them to his tent, where he placed a strong guard over them. It was not until one of them attempted to pass the guard at the door that they even suspected they were prisoners. Colonel Watkins immediately brought them to Colonel Baird under strong guard. They at once manifested great uneasiness, and pretended great indignation at being thus treated. Colonel Baird frankly told them that he had his suspicions of their true character, and that they should, if loyal, object to no necessary caution. They were very hard to satisfy, and were in a great hurry to get off. Colonel Baird told them that they were under arrest, and he should hold them prisoners until he was fully satisfied that they were what they purported to be. He immediately telegraphed to General Rosecrans, and received the answer that he knew nothing of any such men, that there were no such men in his employ, or had his pass.

Long before this dispatch was received, however, every one who had an opportunity of hearing their conversation was well satisfied that they were spies. Smart as they were, they gave frequent and distinct evidence of duplicity. After this dispatch came to hand, which it did about 12 o’clock (midnight), a search of their persons was ordered. To this the Major consented without opposition, but the Colonel protested against it, and even put his hand to his arms, But resistance was useless, and both submitted. When the Major’s sword was drawn from the scabbard there were found etched upon it these words, “Lt. W. G. Peter, C.S.A.” At this discovery Colonel Baird remarked, “Gentlemen, you have played this d—d well.” “Yes,” said Lieutenant Peter, “and it came near being a perfect success.” They then confessed the whole matter, and upon further search various papers showing their guilt were discovered upon their persons. Lieutenant Peter was found to have on a rebel cap, secreted by the white flannel havelock.

Colonel Baird immediately telegraphed the facts to General Rosecrans and asked what he should do, and in a short time received an order “to try them by a drum-head court-martial, and if found guilty hang them immediately.” The court was convened, and before daylight the case was decided, and the prisoners informed that they must prepare for immediate death by hanging….. (read the REST OF THE STORY HERE)

Book Inventory Revelations!

For the last few months interns Torrance Thomas and Yyonette Fogg have been unpacking, cataloguing, photographing and re-housing over 3,000 books currently in storage in the garage building at Tudor Place. No one really knew what they would find when they started the project, as these books had been sitting in storage for years. What they discovered was a very diverse collection ranging from Bibles to books about the constellations. Below are some of their more interesting finds: (though our Archivist would yell at me for using the word “find.” “We have always known where they were,” she says):

Holy Bible, Containing The Old and New Testaments, with Copious Marginal References (1814)
Inscribed: Beverly Kennon Peter from his Grandmother/This Bible belonged to his Great Grandmother Martha Custis Peter.


Colton, J.H. Coltons’ Map of Virginia (1861) Drawn before there was a West Virginia!


Burrit, Elijah H. Atlas, Designed to Illustrate the Geography of the Heavens (1835)


Swift, Jonathan. First Edition of Gulliver’s Travels Originally entitled Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. (1726)
The Jonathan Swift novel was found with a Christmas card inside indicating that it was a gift to Armistead Peter, Jr. from his wife Nannie Peter in 1922.


Morrison, William H. Morrison’s Stranger’s Guide for Washington City (1882)

Jewelry Made With Human Hair? (You have to see it to believe it!)

Last summer, we wrote about our discovery of a note in the attic that contained a lock of hair. (on facebook: Found in the Attic Part III and Secrets Revealed! Found in the Attic Part IIIa)  The note eventually helped staff discover the true owner of a locket inscribed “our child” in our hairwork jewelry collection. Well, this inspired us to look closer at the hairwork jewelry collection (which includes pieces with George and Martha Washington’s hair) and develop a mini-exhibition and evening lecture….

Jewelry Made with Human Hair?

Tudor Place Presents: Strands of Time
Lecture and Exhibit of 18th and 19th century
Hairwork Jewelry
WASHINGTON, DC – In the Tudor Place collection is an unassuming gold edged locket. Behind glass on each side of the locket are curled locks of George and Martha Washington’s hair (DNA tested and confirmed by the FBI). This locket is one of a number of pieces of hairwork jewelry that is currently on display at Tudor Place through April 30, 2010. The exhibit is free with regular admission. A special lecture “Strands of Time: Lecture on Tudor Place’s Hair Jewelry” will be held on March 30, at 6:45pm. The cost is $8 per person and is free for Tudor Place members. (register for the lecture here:
“During the 19th century hairwork jewelry exploded in popularity fueled by Britain’s Queen Victoria, who wore hairwork jewelry while mourning the death of her late husband in 1861. Fashion in both Britain and America began to reflect a growing trend for this type of jewelry of sentiment.” notes Collections Manager Fay Winkle. “The heavy losses of life during the Civil War increased the market for hairwork jewelry in the late 19th century, as wives, mothers and friends wanted mementos of their lost loved ones.”
“Though jewelry made with hair sounds rather macabre, this collection and the complex techniques used to make these pieces is actually quite beautiful,” says Winkle. The intimacy of a lock of hair as a means of preserving the memory of a person is still as powerful today as it was in the 19th century and earlier. In our current era of photographs, videos, and webcams it is interesting to note that clipping and retaining a lock of a baby’s hair is still a common practice, though now placed in a baby book or scrapbook.
The idea for this exhibit came from a discovery last summer of a note containing a lock of child’s hair from 1845. The note helped the Tudor Place staff trace the provenance of a locket in the collection containing hair and inscribed “our child.”

18th Century Double-Barreled Pistol Discovered During Dig on Historic Tudor Place Grounds

Press Contact:
Heather Bartlow,
202.965.0400 ext. 104
Tudor Place Historic House and Garden
1644 31st Street NW
Washington, DC 2007

Download the PDF

March 15, 2010

Washington, D.C. – March 15, 2010 — A late 18th to early 19th century brass flintlock pistol was discovered early in the day March 10, 2010 on land that was once part of the 8 acre Tudor Place estate. Landscapers working on the property directly north of the Tudor Place administration building uncovered the antique double-barreled pistol. The current property owner immediately called Executive Director Leslie Buhler about the discovery. The brass flintlock pistol appears to have been manufactured in Belgium probably dating to the late 18th or early 19th Century according to Phillip Schreier, Senior Curator of the National Firearms Museum. The wood handle has rotted over time but the brass is in good condition with beautiful roping and linear details and a distinct oval proof mark. This type of pistol was often used for personal protection and dueling during the late 1700’s as it had a short effective range. It was also common for a woman to own this weapon since it was small and easy to carry in a waist pouch.

Further archeology on the site on March 11 revealed what appears to be an ash pit, both hand and machine made bricks, and an iron hinge complete with screws and wood fragments. Additionally a square block of schist was discovered that could potentially be a foundation pier for a structure!

These discoveries are extremely exciting and significant. The Tudor Place estate was originally the entire city block from Q to R streets and 31st to 32nd Streets. The northern portions of the land were sold after the Civil War, and despite all that is known about the site, there are still many unanswered questions. “We have yet to establish the location of slave quarters and service buildings vital to the function of an early Georgetown estate. Historical documentation has not yet revealed information about these features and archeology may be our only method for discovering this potentially enriching aspect of the site’s history.” says Executive Director Leslie Buhler.

Located in Georgetown’s Historic District, this National Historic Landmark is a house museum distinguished for its neoclassical architecture, decorative arts collection, and five-and-a-half acre garden. Built in 1816, it was home to Thomas Peter and his wife, Martha Custis Peter, granddaughter of Martha Washington. It housed six generations of the Peter family over the course of 180 years. Now, open to the public, the historic home is one of our nation’s hidden gems. For details visit