Week 13: Tudor Place

Tudor Place Foundation mission: Tudor Place Foundation operates a historic property located in the heart of Washington’s Georgetown area. Firmly rooted in the community, Tudor Place Foundation’s mission is to educate the public about American history and culture. Its focus is on the historical development of the Federal City and the Nation’s Capitol Region from the 18th century as seen through the lens of Tudor Place, home of Martha Washington’s granddaughter and six generations of her descendants, the Custis-Peter family. The Foundation is committed to protecting, preserving, maintaining, and interpreting the historic property and the collections, while instilling the value of the past in the public perception.

Tudor Place is not interpreted as a period home from any particular time. As in any other family, the objects belonging to the Peter family accumulated over time, some staying in the family for generations. The sixth generation of the family living at Tudor Place owned several heirlooms from the first generation as well as some gadgets that hadn’t been invented during the lifetime of the fifth generation.  To further complicate matters, many of the later Peters enjoyed collecting antiques. Your house probably reflects a similar mixture of time periods, unless you staunchly refuse to furnish it with anything not made in 2011.

Plus, in the case of the Custises and Peters, their house was also inhabited by soldiers, slaves, and servants. And they ended up with numerous items that actually came from Mount Vernon.

Though the house furnishings are eclectic, the tour guide wove a story that linked objects to the people who used them, and helped us visitors keep track of the information with phrases like, “Remember this, because I’ll talk more about it upstairs” and “Earlier I mentioned…” Since it’s a house museum, objects are, of course, arranged by their function in the house, not by chronology or theme or ease of relating to the tour script.

I did not leave with all the dates and names memorized (though who can forget the names of sisters America, Britannia, and Columbia?), nor do I have pictures of inside the house since photography is not permitted indoors. But I do remember the house with its holiday decorations, which include four Christmas trees, bowls of fake peppermints and truffles, stockings by the fireplace, and evergreen sprigs everywhere. On the tables were vintage greeting cards for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. A fifth Christmas tree can be found outside.

Christmas tree at Tudor Place

Christmas tree at Tudor Place

The Peters were big dog lovers: throughout the house are pictures and knickknacks that depict canines. Many are hunting dogs (the Peters were also big hunting lovers). In the gardens are two whippet sculptures, further evidence of the family’s dog fancy.

Dog sculpture at Tudor Place

Dog sculpture at Tudor Place

Other highlights from the house: books everywhere, a fake cake along with Martha Washington’s recipe (calling for 40 eggs, five pounds of flour, and five pounds of fruit), the 1914 toilet in the visitors’ bathroom, and the tall chest of drawers from Mount Vernon that only George Washington could have reached.


About Laura

Paralegal with Master of Arts in Teaching in Museum Education, frequent museum visitor, based in Washington, DC. I care about what museums can do, both in terms of public offerings and internal practices, to make the world a better place. I blog about museum education ("informed"), the social work of museums ("humane"), and visitor experience ("citizenry").
This entry was posted in Museums and Holidays, Photos, Weekly Museum Visits Part II and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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