Friday, May 23, 2008

Dumbarton House

Dumbarton House: Home of America's First Register of the U.S. Treasury

If you're interested in historic homes in the D.C. area, Dumbarton House should be on your list of must-sees. Located at 2715 Q Street NW in Georgetown, the home is a wonderful example of Federal architecture and decorating in the city. Originally owned by Joseph Nourse (pronounced Nurse), this historic home is now the headquarters for the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America. The home was built around 1800 and, according the NSCDA's website, is "one of few brick homes of its style still in existence in Georgetown."

Joseph Nourse, who was the first Register of the U.S. Treasury (today's equivalent of the Treasurer of the United States), lived in the home with his family from 1804 - 1813. While he lived there, it was called Cedar Hill. It features all the classic characteristics of a Federal style home right down to the furnishings, which are often present in duplicates and set so as to mirror one another. In the entry hall, the home features an Argand Chandelier that Mr. Nourse paid $10 for in 1804. The wood floor is covered with a piece of canvas that was painted seven times on both sides producing a look we would call linoleum today and was crafted to look like black and white squares of cultured marble tile.

One of the unusual features of the home are the rounded bays at the back of the home on both sides. This wasn't typically a component in Federal architecture, but was included as a means of providing more natural light to the rooms on the back of the house. In 1814, Charles Carroll bought the home and renamed it Belle Vue. It was here that Dolly Madison, First Lady and wife of President James Madison, having saved precious documents and a portrait of Washington, first stopped as she fled advancing British troops who burned the White House and the city.

The home is open to the public for tours. The cost is $5/person--relatively cheap compared to other historic homes--and is near Dumbarton Oaks, Oak Hill Cemetery, and within walking distance of Georgetown's waterfront. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed in the home, so all I have are exterior shots. The home features a lovely garden and side patio which can be rented for special events. Dumbarton House is Metro accessible. (Click on images to enlarge.)

Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential, 4/08

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