Tudor Place

East Lawn

In its conversion over two centuries from functional to sporting to ornamental purposes, the East Lawn exemplifies the evolving uses of the Tudor Place landscape. In 2013, it was the site of an archaeological dig that hints at yet another past usage awaiting study and further research.

The area originally served as a peach and pear orchard. Ca. 1885, Armistead Peter, Jr., (ultimately the estate’s third owner) and his siblings used it for use by the self-styled "Tudor Place Lawn Tennis Club.” Tennis was a new sport at the time, the first U.S. courts having been built in 1874. President and Mrs. Grover Cleveland – riding past on 31st Street between the White House and their summer home in what is now Cleveland Park – paused to watch games in progress.

In the early 20th century, the grass court was removed and replaced with a lawn. In the 1930s, perimeter plantings were added, including magnolia and holly, conferring privacy from the quickly urbanizing neighborhood. The area’s current design expresses the vision of the final private owner, Armistead Peter 3rd, who added limestone pedestals purchased in Venice, among other changes. Flowering fruit trees in the adjacent Holding Garden, along with crape myrtles, hydrangeas, and potted plants, add seasonal displays of color.

In the fall of 2013, a “Phase II” archaeological dig in the East Lawn turned up evidence consistent with the presence of a building foundation. The location of the site in relation to the historic house, and artifacts found there (including ceramics in particular) point to the possibility of an early- to mid-19th-century dwelling, possibly for enslaved workers and, later servants. The presence of a significant number of flowerpot fragments may further indicate that the occupants of the site practiced kitchen gardening or were raising plants for the estate’s ornamental gardens.