Tudor Place
Bookmark and Share




Tudor Place

Site Information

Country: United States of America
State: District of Columbia
Location: 38° 54' 41" N - 77° 3' 46" W
Field Documentation Date(s): January 29th, 2007
Project Release Date(s): November 26th, 2007
Time Range: 1795 CE - 1816 CE
Era: Federal
Culture: Neoclassical, American Neoclassical, Federal Style
Site Authority: Tudor Place Foundation
Heritage Listing: U.S. National Register of Historic Places
world map with location

Site Description

more

Tudor Place is located in the historic Georgetown Heights district of Washington, D.C. on an expansive site of five and a half acres of landscaped gardens overlooking the Potomac River. The Federal period mansion is a unified composition of parts: two story wings connected by one story hyphen structures to a handsomely proportioned central block noted for its unique entry Temple Portico, a circular domed and columned structure. Buff-colored stucco and a spare use of classical detail provide a unity of surface to the individual volumes. Many of the interiors have been maintained of the period and contain a valuable collection of furniture, china, silver, and other artifacts, many of which belonged to George and Martha Washington themselves. The gardens retain their original Federal period design including a boxwood ellipse with original boxwood from Mount Vernon. The gardens have both formal and informal areas both of which are home to a collection of period plants and flowers which include old roses very well preserved.
return to top


History

more

Tudor Place, built between 1795 and 1816, was the home to six generations, 180 years, of the Peter family. Thomas Peter, was the son of the first mayor of Georgetown, and he had had the good fortune to marry Martha Custis, granddaughter of Martha Washington. In his will, George Washington had bequeathed to his step-granddaughter $8000 which was used by Thomas Peter to purchase the property. The architect they engaged, Dr. William Thornton had been a close friend of George Washington. Thornton was self-taught, and he is also known for the design of the first United States Capitol and The Octagon. Peter family oral history has it that the Georgetown Heights property when purchased already had the two wings and perhaps one of the connecting hyphen structures. Thornton united the separate buildings into a whole with the second hyphen and most important the imposing central structure noted for its unique circular domed, columned portico. Spare neoclassical moldings and detail also served to unify the parts as well as buff-colored lime based stucco which covered brickwork executed in different years by different masons.

Tudor Place is an outstanding early example of Federal style American neoclassical architecture. As a style, neoclassicism abandoned the ostentatious drama of the baroque which was associated with absolute monarchy and looked toward the essential stylistic characteristics of classicism that were believed to embody the essential democratic principles of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Tudor Place played host to notables from early American history such as the Marquis de Lafayette, Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, John Calhoun and many others.
return to top


Project Narrative

more

The High Definition Documentation (HDD) project at Tudor Place was conducted in two separate phases. The goal of Phase I in January 2007 was to document the existing stucco layer and all of superficial details, including cracks, scoring marks, and water stains. Because of the level of detail required, it was decided that a combination of laser scanning for extremely accurate geometry combined with high resolution, high dynamic range panoramic photography would be used. METCO Services conducted the scanning portion while high resolution photography was handled by CyArk. This first phase was conducted in 3 days, in which the entire exterior was documented, as well as a sample of interior rooms. The data was processed for several weeks and a set of AutoCAD drawings were produced showing the relevant details.

Once the stucco layer was removed, Phase II of HDD began in early June, 2007. Here the goal was to document the newly exposed brick layer that had been previously covered by the stucco. METCO Services again returned for the scanning portion of the project while a team from INSIGHT conducted the photography. The strategy for this phase was to use the scan data as a support dataset to give accurate geometry to the high resolution photographic data set. Thousands of photographs were taken of every newly exposed segment of Tudor Place's exterior while scanning was being conducted at a very high level of resolution to capture the maximum amount of detail. Fused together, these datasets yield a complete ortho-rectified photographic elevation of every face of Tudor Place.
return to top


Preservation

more

Tudor Place was lovingly and respectfully maintained by the Peter Family for 180 years. Nevertheless, the mansion's age has inevitably presented preservation challenges. The most pervasive has been guarding the buildings from moisture infiltration. To address this Tudor Place Foundation devised a two phased project. Phase I Drainage Replacement was completed in October 2006. It involved in replacing the c.1914 underground drainage system. The excavations for this project turned up many interesting artifacts and new information about construction. CyArk was brought in to assist with documentation for Phase II Stucco Replacement. The brick construction of Tudor Place was originally covered with lime based stucco, typical for the era for stylistic reasons and for masking nonuniform brick work of the structures built at different times. Stucco has been replaced twice in the building's history, once in 1871, and then again in 1914. The common wisdom in 1914 was to replace old lime based mortar with Portland cement stucco. However, this system prevented the natural expansion and contraction, "breathing", of the underlying brick and mortar masonry, and trapping moisture within, exacerbating previous infiltration problems. Therefore Phase II was conceived to removed the existing metal lath and Portland cement stucco and replace it with the traditional lime based stucco. High Definition Documentation, conducted in two phases itself, was conceived as a necessary part of Phase II. HDD accurately recorded the existing conditions including all cracks and fissures in the stucco before its removal and replacement. Then HDD recorded the existing conditions of the underlying masonry brickwork after the stucco had been removed, a most valuable record document since once the new stucco was applied, this information would otherwise be invisible. Exposing the original brickwork also presented new information to both conservators and historians for analysis and interpretation.
return to top


Area Descriptions

more
Exterior
Interior
Drawing Room
Parlour
Saloon

Exterior

Exterior Description:

This Federal period mansion is a unified composition of parts: two story wings connected by one story hyphen structures to a handsomely proportioned central block noted for its unique entry Temple Portico, a circular domed and columned structure. Spare neoclassical moldings and detail also served to unify the parts as well as buff-colored, lime based stucco which covered brickwork executed in different years by different masons.


return to area list


Interior

Interior Description:

Many of the Federal Period interiors have been maintained. During 179 years of single-family ownership, an impressive collection of European and American decorative arts were amassed. Highlights include over 100 objects originally belonging to George and Martha Washington at Mount Vernon, an outstanding 19th-century American silver collection, and dozens of sets of porcelain family table settings. An extensive collection of furniture, glassware, sculpture, portraits, prints, and textiles tell the story of each generation.


return to area list


Drawing Room

Drawing Room Description:

Tudor Place has a floor plan typical of the Federal period-two parlors flanking a center room. During the construction of Tudor Place, an African American craftsmen named Sam Collins cast the plasterwork of this room and the Parlor in the Conservatory. The Drawing Room was the more formal of the two parlors. It was the scene of many formal entertainments, such as a reception for the Marquis de Lafayette in 1824. Today this room features a portion of the Peter family's extensive porcelain collection, including examples from the Meissen, Derby and Bow factories.


return to area list


Parlour

Parlour Description:

The Parlour was less formal than the Drawing Room and was used as both a parlor and a dining room through the late-19th century. During the Civil War, Britannia Peter Kennon took in Union boarders and it was in this room that they took their meals.

Today, this room showcases many Peter family treasures that were once owned by George and Martha Washington at Mount Vernon, including a tea table, Revolutionary War camp stool, and several important pieces of porcelain purchased by Washington when he was President in New York.


return to area list


Saloon

Saloon Description:

Visitors to Tudor Place during the Peter family's occupation would have entered through the center doors in the vestibule and walked straight into this room, the Saloon. The circular portico that extends into the space of the room is a prominent architectural feature of the house. The visitor is delighted by a floor to ceiling wall of glass, whose panes appear curved. The architect is practicing an optical illusion, however, for it is the woodwork that is curved and not the glass. Access to the South lawn is provided by the center windows of the Saloon, which open and can be pushed up into the wall above forming a door.


return to area list



References:

    more
  1. Mortice, Zach. Tudor Place: Democracy Starts at Home, http://www.aia.org/aiarchitect/thisweek07/0525/0525d_pw.cfm
  2. Tudor Place, http://www.tudorplace.org/

return to top

Credits:

more     - Kevin Cain
     - Mark Eakle
CyArk
     - John Mink
            Lead Researcher

     - Oliver Monson
     - John Brown
            Senior HDS Practice Lead

     - Dave Dunn
     - Brad Oswald
     - Mark Rondino
     - Tim Rondino
     - Brad Steinmetz
     - Leslie Buhler
            Executive Director

     - Jana Shafagoj
            Director of Architecture and Landscape Conservation