In 1805, Martha Washington’s granddaughter, Martha Custis Peter and her husband, Thomas Peter, purchased an 8 1/2-acre parcel of land using an $8,000 legacy left by Custis Peter’s step-grandfather, George Washington.
The Peters hired Dr. William Thornton, first architect of the U.S. Capitol, to design their house, which was completed in 1816. The Washington-Peter family descendants lived here for 180 years, until 1983, when the Tudor Place Foundation acquired it.
A tour of the Georgetown house and gardens reveals a lovely estate, now 51/2 acres, full of historic significance. The suite of first floor rooms—drawing room, dining room, parlor, study, and central salon—appear in their original Federal period mode, complete with more than 100 of George Washington’s furnishings and other family items, from the estate’s 8,000-piece collection. Docents tell upstairs-downstairs stories about what life was like here in the 18th and 19th centuries for both slaves and owners.
House tours are docent-led only, but you can tour the garden on your own, with or without the use of an audioguide. The Federal period landscape plan has survived these many years, including a bowling green, boxwood ellipse, lily pool, and old trees, like the tulip poplar and the American holly.
Note: Of paramount importance, of course, is the array of George Washington’s original belongings, but you also don’t want to miss some eye-catching artifacts from succeeding generations, like the 1919 Pierce Arrow Roadster.