Thomas Peter, a landowner and tobacco merchant, and his wife, Martha Custis Peter, granddaughter of Martha Washington, purchased 8 1/2 acres on the outskirts of Georgetown in 1805. Today, the remaining 5 1/2 acres of this unique garden maintain much of the original Federal period design. In the early-19th century the family had many different requirements for the land including orchards, vegetable gardens, a stable, and grazing land for cows and horses. Six successive generations of the Peter family cared for and embellished the landscape as Georgetown and the Federal City grew around them. The last owner, Armistead Peter 3rd, completed major projects during the mid-20th century that shaped the gardens we see today. In 2011, Tudor Place completed an intensive archeological survey to guide future research, interpretation, and educational programming on the history and uses of the site; in 2012, the survey received the District of Columbia prize for Excellence in Historic Preservation (Archaeology).
The Bowling Green was Armistead Peter 3rd's favorite spot
in the garden. At the one end is the brick-edged Lily Pool
adorned with a statue by sculptor Paul Wayland Bartlett,
stepfather to his first wife, Caroline. In 1909 Bartlett designed
a portion of the pediment for the House wing of the U.S. Capitol
Building, and is well represented in the Tudor Place collection.
At the opposite end of the Bowling Green, terraced above, is the
Summer House that offers a delightful view of the garden framed
by sculptures of greyhounds.
The Tennis Court Garden may originally have been a peach orchard, according to Tudor Place's last private owner, Armistead Peter 3rd. In 1885, the area was leveled for use by the "Tudor Place Lawn Tennis Club." President Grover Cleveland used to pause and watch the games on his way north from the White House to his summer home in what is now D.C.'s Cleveland Park neighborhood. The tennis court was removed in the early twentieth century, when today's beautiful lawn was created, with a screen of white pine, American holly, and magnolias. Crape myrtles, hydrangeas, and occasional displays of potted plants add seasonal displays of color.
Much of the original English boxwood at Tudor Place was planted under the direction of Martha Custis Peter shortly after the house was completed in 1816. The reconstruction of the original Flower Knot in its present location took place in 1933. It was based on a rendering of the original garden layout discovered by Armistead Peter 3rd in 1926 in a book on historic Virginia gardens. The garden at Avenel, the estate of a Peter family cousin, contained a boxwood layout copied from Tudor Place. The Avenel plans, combined with Peter family reminiscences, informed the 1933 reconstruction.
Today, you see many heirloom roses in the Box Knot, including moss, hybrid tea, and shrub roses, as well as the floribunda rose, Rosa 'Gruss an Aachen,' a favorite of Caroline Peter, the last owner's wife. At the center of the Flower Knot stands the sundial from Crossbasket Castle in Scotland, ancestral home of the Peter family. In 2011, the feature was again restored, this time, to resemble its appearance under the ownership of Tudor Place’s last resident, Armistead Peter 3rd. Due to environmental challenges, the Knot's English boxwood were replaced with newer boxwood varieties that will survive under modern conditions. The regrading and replanting also provided an opportunity to further the implementation of sustainable horticulture on the Tudor Place property.
Tudor Place is renowned for its boxwood. The English Boxwood
Ellipse (Buxus sempervirens 'Suffruticosa') was planted by Martha
and Thomas Peter as the focal point for the approach to the main
entrance of the house.
Martha Peter also planted the boxwood that makes up the East Garden. During the Civil War trespassers plundered the boxwood for Christmas wreaths. Many of the remaining bushes were moved ca. 1862 to the Lower Walk.
Japanese Tea House
The Tea House, built by Armistead Peter 3rd for outdoor lunches,
offers a shady seat to view the Temple Portico of house. Next to the
Tea House, the Rose Arbor is covered with a wonderful yellow rose
and a coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens). An arbor has been
in this location since the house was built. One owner remembers the perfume of the white lilacs just outside the old kitchen door. These lilacs were planted by Britannia Kennon and are still growing.
The large Tulip Poplar located at the southeast corner of the lawn
is 20 feet in circumference and over 100 feet tall. In 2002, it was
designated the "Millenium Landmark Tree" for the District of
Columbia by the America the Beautiful Fund. The South Lawn once provided an area for cattle to graze and a view of the port of Georgetown. The Tulip Poplar trees and American holly are original to the property.
Tudor Place Tree Walk
There are more than 400 trees at Tudor Place, many of which are undergoing documentation and measurement for formal accession into the museum's living collection. This informative walk from Casey Trees covers a sampling of those that merit special attention, including the famous "D.C. Millennium Tree," a 200-year-old tulip poplar. Download this informative guide by clicking the image at right.