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Carol: An Iconic Portrait in the Tudor Place Collection

Carol by Armistead Peter 3rd
Oil on canvas, 1925
Collection of Tudor Place Historic House & Garden

Tudor Place Curator Grant Quertermous tells the romantic story behind this 1925 portrait of Caroline Ogden-Jones Peter, which visitors see in the Dining Room at Tudor Place. Relying on primary sources, Quertermous provides rich details about the painter, his process in creating the portrait, and the American art community’s recognition of the painting.

The article contains footnotes.

Read here.

Diverse Women of Tudor Place

October 11th was declared the International Day of the Girl by the United Nations in 2011. The day serves a dual purpose: highlighting the challenges girls in today’s world face and simultaneously promoting girls’ empowerment. In 2018, the day focuses on expanding learning opportunities by encouraging girls to think outside the box as they develop their skillsets. Tudor Place is filled with the stories of incredible women and, in particular, the stories of women who had to be creative and innovative throughout their lives. In telling these stories, we hope to inspire girls to discover their own stories while exploring those of the women who lived and worked here at Tudor Place.

The first woman on our list is Britannia Kennon. Born in 1815 as the youngest daughter of Thomas and Martha Peter, she married at age 27 in 1842. She had one daughter, Martha called Markie, before her husband was killed in a shipboard accident in 1844. She never remarried, choosing instead to live as sole mistress of Tudor Place until she passed away on the eve of her 96th birthday in 1911. During her 56-year period of ownership, she took in four of her sister’s orphaned children, rented out rooms during the Civil War to avoid governmental seizure of the house, sold land at the northern end of the property to support the family, and assisted in raising her grandchildren following her daughter’s early death in 1886. We at Tudor Place are particularly fond of Britannia because she provided us with a treasure trove of knowledge about the objects in her care—including our extensive collection of objects from Mount Vernon. These handwritten notes detail the ownership and use of these objects and are invaluable resources for our curator and collections team. Because of this, we consider Britannia to be the house’s first ‘curator.’

Agnes Peter, Britannia’s only granddaughter, is another intriguing woman who lived at Tudor Place. In 1918, Agnes enrolled in a specialized summer course designed to prepare women for war work that included classes in wireless telegraphy, electrical repair, Red Cross work, the French language, and automobile repair. Following the course, Agnes prepared to go overseas with the Red Cross for war work. Though her trip was cancelled when the Armistice was signed in November of 1918, she did go to work in France with the YMCA and operated shelters for soldiers and children throughout France. In 1921 she received two medals from the French government for her humanitarian work there. Agnes did not marry until age 73; she married Dr. John Mott, an 88-year-old widower. He passed away in 1955 and she in 1957; she is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery near her parents, several of her siblings, and her beloved grandmother.

Caroline Peter, wife of Tudor Place’s last private owner Armistead Peter 3rd, was born in Paris in 1894 while her American parents were living abroad. Also a Red Cross volunteer during both world wars, Caroline served at the U.S. Debarkation Hospital and Georgetown University Hospital. At her Georgetown station she was a captain of the Red Cross Nurse’s Aides and completed over 4,000 hours of service. Having taken nursing courses at Johns Hopkins prior to World War I, she continued to volunteer in the medical field at the Mount Alto Veterans Hospital following World War II. Caroline was an active member of numerous local organizations, including the Literary Society, the Junior League, the Alliance-Française, The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America, and the Georgetown Garden Club.

But Tudor Place’s story is not just limited to the members of the Peter family. Numerous people, both enslaved and free, worked here on the property and we have the opportunity and responsibility to tell their stories too. The Peter family did own enslaved people and they represent a significant component of Tudor Place’s history. For example, the Peters owned a cook named Patty Allen prior to 1831. Though only fragments of information can be found about Patty, we do know that an enslaved woman named Patty was included in Thomas Peter’s Day Book listing of enslaved people received in 1796—Patty is noted to be 25 at this time. Patty was actually married to a free man who lived here in Georgetown and our records tell us she went home each evening, which was unusual as most enslaved people lived on their owners’ estates. Because of this, we see Patty as someone who was able to negotiate with the Peters and advocate for herself in a way that differed from the norm.

Another enslaved woman at Tudor Place, Stacia, did live at Tudor Place and worked in the household; her duties included caring for the Peter family’s children and occasionally acting as a nurse. Stacia was given major responsibilities by the family, including nursing a nephew through a bout of typhoid fever (which she did successfully) and caring for the house and grounds while Britannia, then-owner, was travelling. Stacia was roughly the same age as Britannia and they maintained a lifelong relationship, keeping in touch following emancipation in the District of Columbia in 1862. Stacia continued to live in Georgetown and her last recorded contact with Britannia was in 1892, only 19 years before Britannia’s death.

Like Stacia, Hannah Pope straddles the line between enslaved and free. Born in 1828 to Barbara, daughter of one of the Custis dower slaves, Hannah was raised at Tudor Place and her primary duties were as a lady’s maid to Britannia. Britannia noted that Hannah had mixed racial ancestry and, though her father is unknown, her descendants believe that he was a member of the Peter family. Hannah was sold to a nearby Georgetown family, the Carters, in 1845 to marry one of the Carters’ enslaved workers—a man named Alfred Pope. Both Hannah and Alfred were manumitted, or freed, in Colonel Carter’s will and proceeded to become prominent members of Georgetown’s African-American community. Alfred, with support from Hannah, became a successful business man and, at the time of his death, owned a significant amount of land in Georgetown.

Following emancipation, the Peter family turned to the immigrant population in addition to the newly-freed African-American population as a source of paid labor. Margaret “Maggie” Carraher, who had immigrated to the United States from Ireland in 1868 at the age of 19, lived and worked at Tudor Place between 1880 and 1888, then again from 1904 and 1911. Armistead Peter 3rd, Tudor Place’s last private owner, remembers watching her make bread when he was a young boy, which she did “expertly.” Following her retirement in 1911, Maggie received cash gifts from the Peter family for several years. She passed away in December of 1932 and is buried nearby in Holy Rood Cemetery.

Each of these women demonstrate the resourcefulness, determination, ingenuity, and dedication that the International Day of the Girl hopes to inspire in new generations of girls. From negotiating to live offsite, as Patty Allen did, to utilizing nursing skills during the world wars, as Caroline Peter did, every one of these women were able to achieve remarkable things with the circumstances they were in. We can learn important things from all of these stories; determination from Britannia, adventurousness from Agnes, dedication from Caroline, ingenuity from Patty, capability from Stacia, resourcefulness from Hannah, and tenacity from Maggie. Perhaps we can even see a little of ourselves in these women and, in turn, learn something about ourselves from the girls of the past.

The Washington Post — How Does Eliza Hamilton End Up in Washington? Here’s How.

Find out about the close ties between Alexander Hamilton’s widow, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, and Britannia Peter Kennon, a past owner of Tudor Place. Objects from that friendship remain in the collection at Tudor Place.

Thomas and ‘Patty:’ Meet Tudor Place’s Founders

Who were they, the founders of Tudor Place? Martha Parke Custis Peter and Thomas Peter, civic leaders in Georgetown and the capital city, helped shape our national life but few Americans today know their names. That anonymity belies the tangible legacy they left, thanks to the constancy of their descendants and an almost genetic devotion to preservation in the lasting family line.

A businessman, landowner, and slaveholder, Thomas began life with great wealth accumulated by his father, a Scottish immigrant. Active in the business of Georgetown and the new city of Washington, he pursued personal interests extending to farming, horse racing, playing his flute (now in the Collection), and courting a certain debutante with illustrious Virginia origins.

She was Martha Parke Custis Peter, called Patty, and their 1795 marriage united two prominent American families. Patty was born at Mount Vernon to Martha Washington’s son and his wife, a daughter of Maryland’s founding Calvert family with the inherited title Baron Baltimore. A favorite of her grandmother, she was also close to her step-grandfather, the President.

Meet the Peters in this essay by former Executive Director Leslie Buhler, from Tudor Place: America’s Story Lives Here, newly published in collaboration with the White House Historical Association.


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Tudor Place Family Hero: George Peter and the War of 1812

In the state of Maryland, every September 12 is Defenders Day, commemorating a crucial American victory in the War of 1812. The Battle of Fort McHenry helped reverse American losses and also inspired a British prisoner’s poem that became our national anthem. It also recalls a hero with ties to Tudor Place who, less than a month before, had defied U.S. Army superiors to fight the calamitous British attack on Washington.

Tudor Place founder Thomas Peter had no fancy for a military life, but his brother George Peter (1779-1861) did. On August 24, 1814, Major Peter commanded a light artillery company that was one of the few to return fire at Bladensburg, Maryland, slowing the British advance on Washington. As the British tried to cross Turncliffe’s Bridge, they met crossfire from Peter’s Commodore Joshua Barney’s batteries (story begins page 8 at the link). Though taking vicious fire, Peter defied early orders to retreat before finally capitulating. The British burned the capital that afternoon and night.

During a long life of military and public service, George became the most publicly known Peter family member. His first “enlistment” came at age 15, when he ran off to join Maryland’s Whiskey Rebellion. (His parents sent an emissary to retrieve him.) Later commissioned by George Washington into the U.S. Army, he attained the rank of major before seeking election to the U.S. House of Representatives, ultimately serving several terms there and in the Maryland House of Delegates. His legacy and the legacy of the War of 1812 are reflected at Tudor Place in Peter’s artifacts (including a rare “square” piano he purchased for his daughter), in Peter family correspondence and activism relating to the war, and in the family’s relationship with anthem-author Francis Scott Key.

Even the very names of the property’s owners reflect the war’s impact. George Peter named his son Armistead for one of his favorite lieutenants. A medical doctor, Armistead Peter married his Tudor Place cousin, Thomas Peter’s granddaughter Martha Custis Peter. Their son and grandson, the Armistead Peters,  Jr. and 3rd, later inherited and stewarded the family’s storied estate.

  • Learn more about Tudor Place denizens and history in our Reading Room.


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American History TV · Washington’s Descendants at Tudor Place

Grant Quertermous at lectern, TV screenshot

Curator of Collections Grant Quertermous talks on American History TV about the Washington descendants at Tudor Place. The family, which built and remained at Tudor Place through six generations, descended from Martha Custis Washington’s son John Parke (“Jacky”) Custis, George Washington’s stepson. Quertermous shares how and what we can learn about the Washingtons, the owners, servants and slaves at Tudor Place, and the history around them, by studying and preserving the thousands of objects they left behind, including more than 200 of the Washingtons’ personal items and a rich archive of documents and correspondence.


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