Museums 101: Primary Sources on Tour

Have you ever wondered how docents and tour guides knew all the stories that they told? Have you ever wondered if the stories they recited were even true?

Check out this Museums 101 video to see how Tudor Place found primary sources for a popular story that is part of the historic house  tour.

Then: Explore historic newspapers from your home state on Chronicling America

Find more Education at Home posts.

Ribbons, Roses and Wine in the Garden: Box Knot Rededicated

 

Tudor Place Trustee Bruce Whelihan, here flanked by
wife Alice (RIGHT) and Executive Director Leslie Buhler,
was celebrated for helping to secure funding for the
project from The Ruth S. Willoughby Foundation.
Celebration came to these historic gardens this month when Tudor Place Trustees and staff gathered with neighbors and other supporters to “cut the ribbon” on the newly restored Box Knot Garden. This formal layout of heirloom roses in geometric beds defined by boxwood hedges dates to the home’s earliest days. Its renewal and restoration for centuries to come, completed in November 2011, signals the commitment to the preservation of the entirety of historic assets stewarded by Tudor Place Foundation for the public good.
The North Garden donned its best spring colors for the evening reception, which featured wine, canapes, and heartfelt remarks on the historic estate’s past, present, and bright future. Once the ribbon was released, guests trod lightly among the flower beds where Tudor Place founder Martha Custis Peter herself once tended beloved roses. During the Civil War, the garden fell into disrepair and its original layout was lost. It was recovered in the 1926 from a garden design book showing Avenel, in Virginia, where the Knot had been copied, and a restoration was completed in 1933 based on the Avenel drawing.

The sundial that centers the geometric layout came from CrossBasket Castle in Lanarkshire, Scotland, the childhood home of Robert Peter, tobacco merchant and first mayor of Georgetown. His son Thomas bought the land on which Tudor Place sits with his wife, the former Martha Custis, in 1805. They funded the eight-acre purchase with a legacy from George Washington of $8,000 (some $11 million in today’s dollars).
Trustee Dan Dowd came prepared for rain, but none fell.
Instead, a gray twilight lent its glow to the spring blossoms.

 

Curator of Collections Erin Kuykendall (RIGHT) shared stories with
Collections Committee member Elizabeth Edgeworth.

 

Director of Gardens & Grounds Suzanne Bouchard, who shepherded the project from vision to completion, discusses its contours with Board Vice President Geoffrey Baker and Trustee Margaret Jones Steuart.

 

Guests were invited to take home cuttings from the
estate’s historic boxwood.

 

The Circle Garden, with the aroma of mock
oranges floating in from its perimeter, made a
perfect setting for cocktails.

 

As a token of appreciation, Mr. Baker presented Mr.
Whelihan a painting of the restored garden, commissioned
for the occasion from Tudor Place Artist-in-Residence Peter Waddell.

 

Director Leslie Buhler exchanges a word with Trustee
C. Jackson Ritchie, cradling his boxwood seedling.

 

A new leaf, literal and figurative, for a landscape nearly spanning our country’s history — truly something to celebrate!

 

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: