#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.

 

Land for Sale: Inquire Within

George Washington’s ties to the land –to Mount Vernon and his other farms, and his extensive knowledge of Lord Fairfax’s extensive Virginia properties–are widely known. But far less has been written about the details of his land speculation far to the west, in the Ohio River valley extending into modern-day West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky. In his will, Washington left vast tracts of what was then western Virginia to the future owner of Tudor Place, Martha Peter, and her siblings and cousins. Even less has been recorded about the disposition of these inheritances.

In this deeply researched essay, Archivist Wendy Kail tracks dealings by Washington, his executors and heirs, and their agents to find the answer to a long-standing mystery about the origins of Tudor Place: What was the land sale that paid for it? Specifically, to what property did Thomas Peter refer when he said he bought Tudor Place in 1805 with a “… sum of money received by me upon the Sale of certain real property belonging to my Wife Martha Peter devised to her by her deceased relative Genl. George Washington”?

The source of this nest egg was long thought to be a bequest to Martha Parke Custis Peter from Washington, her step-grandfather, of land in what is now West Virginia. Ms. Kail’s thorough dig through archives including and well beyond the one at Tudor Place identifies that land as 1,425 acres along the Ohio River in Ravenswood, West Va. Placing them in the context of the War of 1812 and the Panic of 1819, she narrates the dealings of Peter, his sons, and their appointed agents to show definitively that Martha Peter’s “Ravenswood Tract” was ultimately sold–and then only with great difficulty–long after Tudor Place was completed.

Along the way, the author unearthed details about Washington’s attitudes, beliefs, and western travels, early American Federalism and the turmoil that surrounded its decline, and the Peters’ real estate savvy and travails. The story, with “cameo appearances” by Presidents Jefferson, Madison and Monroe; the tragic death of young Columbia Pete;, and the early Riggs Bank; has as many twists and turns as the river itself.


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A Day to Celebrate Washington and Experience Life Before Electricity

By Haylee Wilson, Tudor Place Communications Intern

Stepping into George Washington’s shoes, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and other young people experienced life without apps, engines and appliances on Presidents’ Day. They joined more than 100 visitors of all ages in “Celebrating George” and his influence at Tudor Place, along with the chance to see Washington items of special significance on view just this one day each year. (The wider “Window on Washington”  featuring displays of many Washington artifacts remains on view through March.)

The event provided a rare occasion to snack on period treats, try one’s hand at early American artwork, and stroll freely through the mansion with expert staff and docents on hand to highlight the Washingtons’ legacy here. During Presidents’ Day only, visitors could examine one of three surviving letters from George Washington to his wife, in which he bade her a fond farewell as he took up his Continental Army commission. Mrs. Washington’s handcrafted needlework was also on display for one day only, as was a famed miniature portrait of the first President, an engagement gift from him to his step-granddaughter, Martha Custis Peter — founding mistress of Tudor Place. — and one of the few portraits for which he personally sat.
Guests were met in the Conservatory with colorful baked goods made from period recipes, including Codling Apple Tarts, Hyson’s Green Tea, and Martha Washington’s own Great Cake (recipe follows this post).

Every child was invited to complete a scavenger hunt through the grounds, and its completion earned them small prizes. Our camera followed one set of scouts and families who, clipboards in hand, headed off after treats were finished for a little adventure.

 

Natural sunlight beaming through the windows lighted their way throughout the house as they searched for clues. First, they were introduced to appliances that residents used before the conveniences of electricity.  They considered the absence of microwaves and freezers in the Peter family’s 1914 kitchen.

Scavenger hunters learned how, even in the absence of motorized tools, domestic workers pulled off elaborate dinners for the estate’s constant stream of guests and residents. In the absence of modern appliances, they recognized pots and pans and stoves, considering the different ways they were used before electricity changed household routines.
Moving into other areas of the house, boys and girls alike were fascinated with the network of bells and wires throughout the house that used to summon servants.  As they explored the house, they searched for the cords in each room.

Traversing a gravel path through the North Garden, they next visited the Dower Townhouse, our administration building, for hands-on learning about the art of silhouette-making, a popular medium for early American portraits. Inspired by the images of America and Columbia Peter that flank the main house Drawing Room, and using a three-dimensional bust of our first President, Artist-in-Residence Peter Waddell demonstrated how to first sketch a profile.
Students drew and discussed the visual angles in various works of art before drawing profiles of George Washington, which they then cut out and placed on elegant white backgrounds. To further adorn their images, Peter taught them about differences in fonts, uses of capital letters, and the origin of serif lettering.

 

Crossing back through the garden, the Pierce-Arrow Garage came next, where guests learned from “Martha Washington” herself how to have still more fun without electricity.  She began with a lesson in dancing, explaining that Georgian-era style valued balance and symmetry. 

       Mrs. Washington also introduced period games requiring no fancy boards, batteries, or sound effects.  Building houses of cards, playing card games, and dominoes were among entertainments our guests had heard of.

 

    Much of what children and families learned on Presidents’ Day encourages a commitment to sustainability. The Girl Scouts will use their new understanding on March 31, when they participate in Earth Hour, a World Wildlife Fund initiative that creates awareness about climate change by asking participants to turn off the lights an hour. Families can also connect with nature and sustainability, in one of the city’s greenest spots during the popular annual Earth Day at Tudor Place, Sunday, April 22. From 1 to 3 p.m., enjoy games, a themed scavenger hunt, and planting seeds from the historic garden in pots you decorate yourself.
Tudor Place offers additional  events for visitors of all ages throughout the year, including educational programs for scouts, school groups, and homeschoolers. Visit us soon!
For still more photos from Presidents’ Day, and to add your comments on the day, see the Facebook album. Good luck with the recipe below, and let us know how it turns out!

Martha Washington’s Great Cake
tweaked for the modern kitchen by curators at Mount Vernon

original
Take 40 eggs and divide the whites from the yolks and beat them to a froth. Then work 4 pounds of butter to a cream and put the whites of eggs to it a Spoon full at a time till it is well work’d. Then put 4 pounds of sugar finely powdered to it in the same manner then put in the Yolks of eggs and 5 pounds of flour and 5 pounds of fruit. 2 hours will bake it. Add to it half an ounce of mace and nutmeg half a pint of wine and some fresh brandy.

modern adaptationsIn making Martha Washington’s famed cake, Mount Vernon’s curatorial staff followed Mrs. Washington’s recipe almost exactly. Where the recipe called for 5 pounds of fruit, without specifying which ones, 2 pounds of raisins, 1 pound of currants, and 2 pounds of apples were used. The wine used was cream sherry. Since no one pan would hold so much batter, it was divided into two 14-inch layers, which were then stacked. (The cake in its original form would have been a single tall layer). These layers were baked in a 350-degree oven for 1.5 hours and iced with a very stiff egg-white-based icing flavored with rosewater or orange-flower water.

We’re in the Comics! An Animated History of D.C.’s Start

Note: Post updated, February 23, 2012, with addition of an older comic — sort of a ‘flashback Flashback,’ regarding another real estate transaction involving Tudor Place forebear Robert Peter. (Click on comics to see enlarged.) 

Close those history books. It’s time to learn a little D.C. history from the “funnies” page!

First, some background: Many people know that Robert Peter

(1726-1806)

, first mayor of Georgetown, tied his family to that of George Washington in 1795, when his son, Thomas

(1769-1834), married Martha Washington’s granddaughter, Martha Parke Custis (1777-1854). Martha and Thomas Peter went on to buy, build and reside at Tudor Place. But what is less well know is that, four years before the wedding, Robert Peter and the President engaged in a different sort of transaction, one that helped to bring about the new District of Columbia.

Georgetown was a wealthy colonial port and the nearby capital city no more than a promise and a sea of mud when the President authorized his agents to secure land for a new city. It’s brought to life in this February 5 “Flashbacks” by Patrick M. Reynolds:

 

CLICK TO VIEW ENLARGED

A successful tobacco merchant, Peter was born in Scotland with little prospect (as a later-born son) of inheriting the family estate of Crossbasket. He is thought to have arrived in the American colonies in 1745. He and his wife, Elizabeth Scott (1744-1812), had 10 children, of whom seven survived to adulthood.

Thomas and Martha Peter also had 10 children, of whom five reached maturity. Britannia (1815-1911), the youngest of these, inherited Tudor Place.

 

 

It would be more than a half century after the Meridien Hill sale before the rustic, under-populated District overtook (and, in 1851, incorporated) its more prosperous neighbor, Georgetown. The property Mayor Peter sold to Washington’s agents later was the site of a 19th-century society “castle” and is now a renowned park.

And here’s another ‘Flashback’ to a later land deal by Robert Peter:

An Heirloom Returns: The George Washington Plateau

By Curator of Collection Erin Kuykendall and
   Communications Officer Mandy Katz

Imagine the excitement at Tudor Place last week when we accepted delivery of the exquisite plateau, or set of mirrored trays, that belonged to George and Martha Washington, according to Peter family tradition. Hand-crafted of exotic woods and mirrored glass and set on ball feet, the artifact had been away since May 2010, undergoing treatment at the Williamsburg, Virginia, studio of conservator Thomas Snyder. Today, visitors will find it center stage in the Dining Room for the duration of the Window on Washington  (through March 18), a close look at Tudor Place items relating to the first First Family.

The Tudor Place Dining Room is set to show how the plateau might have appeared
 on a late-18th-century table. With its original seven sections, the mirrored set 
could have added sparkle to a full banquet-length table at Mount Vernon. 

Plateaus were a fixture of fashionable European dining tables in the late eighteenth century, so it seems fitting that the new American President — albeit living on a more modest scale than his counterparts across the Atlantic — would have acquired one, too. During his presidency, Washington asked his close friend, Gouverneur Morris, to send “mirrors for a table … the frames may be plated ware or anything else more fashionable.” What Morris sent was a nine-part, silver-plated French plateau with a pierced gallery of turned balusters. It repeatedly graced the presidential dining table until Washington retired to Mount Vernon in 1797. At that point, he sought something simpler and more suited to life on his Virginia estate.
A Vermeer? No, this image shows Curator Erin Kuykendall examining an endpiece of 
Tudor Place’s recently returned mahogany plateau before a south-facing window
in the mansion’s Dining Room, where the piece will be displayed through March 18.
The Tudor Place plateau is carved from mahogany and has delicate satinwood-inlay stringing around the lower edge. Small, ball-shaped ebony feet elevate the plateau above the table-top. Each section contains a silvered-glass mirror bordered by a carved, gilt molding. Of the plateau’s original seven pieces, four are owned by Tudor Place Foundation, and a fifth is on loan from a Peter family descendant. The Washingtons also owned a dozen figurines of unglazed “bisque” (or “biscuit,” meaning not-fired) porcelain like the ones below, which would have been arrayed atop the mirrored trays in fanciful arrangements: 

Bisque figures on loan from Martha Custis Peter, 
descendant of Martha and Thomas Peter.



Around these figures, the hosts would have displayed twinkling candles, gleaming silver candlesticks, and colorful flowers for a truly dramatic effect.

During the Window on Washington, four sections of the plateau, each measuring two feet, take their place on the Tudor Place dining table, bearing items from the French porcelain dinnerware service that the Washingtons purchased in 1790 from a French diplomat, the Comte de Moustier. The Washingtons’ delicate English wine glasses with wheel-engraved decoration (on loan from Martha Custis Peter, a descendant of Martha and Thomas Peter) also grace the table. 


This cut-glass salt cellar (left) and Sèvres sauce boat served on both
Washington and Peter family dining tables.
The plateau’s treatment by Conservator Thomas Snyder included a thorough cleaning to remove centuries of surface debris. Two new ebony feet were turned to match and replace missing ones and adhered with fish glue. Gaps and breaks in the plateau’s gouge-carved mahogany railing, or “gallery,” were filled with replica pieces crafted from mahogany and stained to match the original.
The plateau’s edge, or “gallery,” needed extensive repairs. 
(Plateau section on loan from Walter Gibson Peter III, a
descendant of Martha and Thomas Peter.)

Replacement pieces were crafted, like the original, of mahogany.
The mahogany insert was stained to match the original.
Mercury leaching from the original silver-amalgam glass had to be contained; broken mirrors were replaced with commercially obtained reproduction glass of tin leaf-and-mercury, sealed in place with hide glue. (Antique replacement glass was considered but rejected for the reasons that it might later be mistaken for an original installation or repair, and because it might also fail over time, much as the original pieces had.) Here is the renewed piece, its wood shined with a mixture of pigmented beeswax and carnauba waxes:

Microscopic examination by Dr. Martha Case of the Herbarium of the College of William & Mary (WILLI) identified the loose seeds and grasses cushioning the two ends of the plateau as containing a species of Asteracea, or commonly found field daisies and sunflowers. These plants grow all over the world. Since the seeds ripen during the summer months, it is likely this practical, botanical packing material was collected and assembled into the plateau sometime in June, July or August.

Detail of the seeds, plants, and animal frasse found
in the curved end section of the plateau
.
The original glue blocks in place on the plateau sections also provide further clues as to the plateau’s origins. Microscopic analysis of the wood identified the species as Pinus strobus, or Eastern white pine, and the use of this locally available wood suggests the plateau was probably made in America, rather than imported from England or Europe. George Washington purchased furniture from prominent Philadelphia cabinetmakers and it is possible this plateau was also made in a thriving urban port such as New York, Philadelphia, or perhaps Baltimore. If the plateau was made by an American frame-maker or carver working in the new American republic, it would be an exciting discovery, since very few wooden plateaus survive in American museums and collections. Further research on these questions is still underway. 
The plateau was still at the conservator’s studio when
Curator of Collections Erin Kuykendall came to Tudor Place
in August, so she is making the most of this first opportunity
to study it first-hand.
Executive Director Leslie Buhler examines a
hand-made brass screw from the original piece.
Curator Erin Kuykendall’s observations on the construction
and materials of the plateau will enter the object record for this piece
and add to our understanding of decorative arts in the Federal period.