Decatur HouseA Distinctive Destination
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Standing for more than 200 years, Decatur House is a testament to the complex history of the capital city. Designed by architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe in 1818, this historic home and National Trust Historic Site was the first and last private residence in Lafayette Square. An excellent example of Federal-style architecture, it features a preserved slave quarters, which also stands as one of the few remaining urban examples still in existence.
The home was commissioned by Commodore Stephen Decatur who made a name for himself during both the Barbary Wars and the War of 1812 as a brave Naval hero. Unfortunately, he and his wife Susan only resided there a mere 14 months, as Decatur was mortally wounded in a duel. Susan then rented the home to the likes of Henry Clay, Edward Livingston, and Martin Van Buren.
After Susan sold the home in 1836, the Decatur House continued to house many notable occupants, as well as both free and enslaved servants. The wealthy hotel and tavern owner John Gadsby initially purchased Decatur House from Susan; but upon his death, his wife, Providence, again rented out the home. The Federal government occupied Decatur House during the Civil War until Edward Beale purchased the home in 1871. The home stayed in the Beale family until 1956, when Marie Beale bequeathed the property to the National Trust for Historic Preservation as part of a concerted effort to preserve Lafayette Square's 19th-century charm. The Decatur House and its storied history is a hidden gem within the president's neighborhood.
Take a peek inside from the comfort of your home.
“For nearly 200 years as our country has grown and evolved, the Decatur House has grown and evolved right along with it.”First Lady Michelle Obama
In 2010, the White House Historical Association established the David M. Rubenstein National Center for White House History at Decatur House. The center houses historical documentation, supports research efforts, and provides education programs related to the study and history of the White House.
Decatur House is owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and operated by the White House Historical Association.
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Tours are free but pre-registration is required.
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