History of the House
In 1805, merchant and landowner Thomas Peter (1769-1834) acquired an eight-and-one-half-acre city block overlooking the busy port of Georgetown. The son of prosperous Scottish-born merchant and landowner Robert Peter (Georgetown’s first mayor), Thomas married Martha Parke Custis (1777-1854) in 1795. A daughter of Martha Washington’s son John Parke Custis, Martha descended on her mother’s side from the Calverts, Maryland’s founding family.
The couple financed their purchase with $8,000 from the sale of land that George Washington had left Martha Peter. Why they decided to call this new “urban villa’ Tudor Place, a name that entered the public record in 1811, remains a mystery.
The land was part of the “Rock of Dumbarton” (originally, “Dunbarton”) tract in George Beall's Second Addition to Georgetown, an area also known as Georgetown Heights. In 1794, Francis Lowndes, of the prominent Bladensburg, Maryland, family, purchased the site from Beall’s son. In 1805, Lowndes sold it to Martha and Thomas Peter, who were one of several affluent families establishing “urban villas” in the area. Other prominent families to establish on the Heights came to include the names Carroll, Dodge, Linthicum, Nourse, and Stoddert. While Tudor Place supported some subsistence uses, including limited grazing of livestock, a smokehouse, and a kitchen garden, substantial provisions for the household came from the Peters’ extensive farm-holdings in what is now Seneca, Maryland. These goods were transported to Georgetown primarily by enslaved African-Americans, as until the Civil War or shortly before it, the Peters relied on slave labor to maintain their properties and households.
Tudor Place remained in the Peter family through six generations under the stewardship of four owners. In accordance with the wishes of the fourth owner, Armistead Peter 3rd, the estate was deeded after his death in 1983 to a private foundation that he and his wife, Caroline Ogden-Jones Peter, had created to preserve and operate it as a museum devoted to public education, a role it continues to fulfill today under the direction of the Tudor Place Foundation.