tv Tudor Place Historic House CSPAN July 7, 2017 9:06pm-9:40pm EDT
media. she discusses her book whereby the trouble with reality in which she looks at what constitutes reality today and how that criteria has changed over the years. >> i said at the beginning of the book our bilological wiring. and i wanted to show how we had evolved a culture that was designed to validate us and not to challenge us, certainly not to contradict us. it gave us the illusion that our realities were watertight when really they were riddled with weak spots and places that would crunch in. >> sunday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span's q and a. each week american artifacts takes you to museums and historic places to learn about american history. located in washington, d.c.,
tudor place was the home of thomas peter and his wife martha park custis peter, the granddaughter of martha washington. six generations of the peter family lived in the house from 1805 to 1984. we take a tour with the curator. >> hi, i'm the curator attituder place historic place and garden. and we're going to take a look at the house and some of the amazing objects we have in our collection. so tudor place was home to the peter family from 1805 until 1983, five different generations of the peter family lived here attituder place. and it was the wishes of the last owner the house become a museum so the public could enjoy and experience this amazing collection of objects. first i want to talk about the
architecture of the house. when they first purchased the house, only the two wings of the house with nothing in between. the owner had always intended to build a larger house but never did. they started talking to their friend, a doctor and amateur architect about designing a house for them. at this point thornton had already won a design piece and he took the wing of had house and incorporated the center block of the house into a five part house, an architectural style very typical here in the ches speak here in the 18th and 19th century. with its domed roof and marble floor. now, what thornton did is he actually made the temple portico come into the super structure of
the house with this wall of floor to ceiling windows. and it provides a transition between the interior spaces of the house and the exterior spaces of the lawn, beyond. now his inspiration were classical sources. he'slicking at engravings of roman temples and other architecture of that time period. so that's really a brief architectural over view of the house. the other thing i want to talk about today was the peters connection to george and martha washington. and the best place to do that is the drawing room. these were the very public places of the house for the family who entertained. one presented the family with an engraving you see up here on the wall.
lafayette had seen them in 1804. now just across the wall was an engraving of martha washington. this is an engraving -- it was actually a gift from the artist john trumble. and the engraving is after one of trumble's portraits of washington. and i think it's interesting that the peter family kept both of these engravings here in the drawing room hanging across from each other. after the death they attended a sale and purchased almost 800 of objects, porcelain, tableware said, and other household items. one of those items was this punch bowl. it's actually chinese export item and the theme is actually taken from a print source of a fox hunting scene while the
exterior portrays rice cultivation. so very interesting mix of western and eastern themes. it was used here to serve apple toddy, which is sort of spiced apple sider with a rum and spices and lots of alcohol. and she also tells us a congressman came here to one of their parties and drank a little too much apple toddy and made a spectacle of himself, but she doesn't tell us which one that was. and they were federalists. and they name their three daughters columbia, romania, and brita britanica. when thomas and martha peter
were married he asked her what she wanted as a wedding present and she replied she wanted a likeness of him. so washington complied. and he had the artist paint this miniature of him, and a piece that martha treasured for the rest of her life. an 18th inscription said she was wearing it. we even have here an image of martha. the other item we have is a letter. it's one of three surviving documents from george to martha washington. this letter and another letter were actually found in martha washington's desk while peter owned it. and what's so significant of this letter is where george
tells martha he's been given command of the continental army. he tells her he must proceed immediately to boston to take command of the army. it's such a significant document especially because mrgta washington burned all of the correspondence between she and her husband after his death because she felt that was one aspect of their very public relationship that could remain private. so this is a very treasured item. one of the other objects i wanted to highlight is this camp stool. it's actually one of two surviving camp stools that washington used in his tent during the revolution. a very significant object with great ties to our american history. i do want to talk about thomas and peter's youngest daughter. born in 1815 britannia was a very long time owner of this
place. she married in 1842. he was commandant of the washington navy yard and a very distinguished officer. unfortunately, they were only married for 14 months before he was tragically killed on the explosion aboard the princeton. this engraving up here on the wall actually illustrates that tragic scene on february 28, 1844. they were demonstrating a gun, ironically it was called the peacemaker aboard the princeton, which was the name of the ship. and the gun backfired and exploded sending shrapnel and exploded wood everywhere. command dor was killed, the secretary of state was killed and the secretary of the navy. britannia at 29 years old was a widow with about a four month old daughter, and she came back
here to tudor place and lived for the next 67 years. so here's an image of britannia with her daughter in about 1846. and then we have an image of her much later in life. she actually turned tudor place into a boardinghouse in order to prevent the house being seized as a hospital. britannia was actually a cousin by marriage to robert e. lee. they were cousins, and she was actually a member of their wedding party. she also had family members fighting for the confederacy as well, but most of place were union officers. in the late 19th century she became a celebrity of sorts as the late granddaughter of george
washington. and her grandchildren actually started taking oral histories as well. shield tell them stories about lafayette visited and her children wrote all these remanences down. and so it's a historic reference for us to learn about things throughout the house. when she died in 1911 the estate and the house was dwieed between her grandchildren. she died on the eve of her 96th birthday. and because she lived so long she actually outlived her daughter and son-in-law. so the estate went to her grandchildren. so the contents of the house were inven toried. a paper inventory was done, and to accompany the document, every
object got a label. and everything with history got a mount vernon label as well. so many of these objects you can see still has a label on them. and it's a very important part of the history as well. the thing to remember about a historic place like tudor place are changes over time. what we're going to step in over time is the dining room, but this was originally a bed chamber. this was thomas and martha peter's bed chamber. and a fascinating story related to this place is that on the evening the british burned washington martha peter and the doctor william thornton stood at this window and stood out and watched and they could see the smoke and fire from the white house burn, from the naval yard burning across the city.
and thornton wrote about this in her didiary. so thanks to ms. thornton's diary we know the two women stood here and watched washington burn. now as we we can look at the dining table, presently the dining table is focused with a number of those objects that thomas and martha purchased at that 1802 mount vernon sale. you see a number of those plates have the stickers on them that i mention mentioned. but the plates, all of these things are pieces that came from mount vernon and were used here attituder place by the peter family. after britannia's death in 1911, her son purchased the place
outright. they adding electricity, telephones, and an esteemed radiator system. now this space they used as an office. it's also a place to highlight some of the arin the family's collection and a number of engravings. here you see a freak wrnt visitor to the house in the 19th century. and then next to him the president woodrow wilson. he happened him to sign it, so he simply sent it to over to the white house and had him sign it. he recognized the significance of the armistice and fabric and didn't want to tear up the walls, so she simply had an extension cord runoff the
chandelier here in this room. so the desk in this office is actually a colonial revival copy of the desk washington used in the city. so i think that was another connection the family was trying to make. the office is time capsule as well and shows how well the family kept things here in the house. they modernized the house in 1913, 1914 adding electricity and the telephone systems. here's the original telephone, and it was actually an intercom system as well. and right next to it a slight rotary dial telephone from the late 1960s. we actually go from the office now into what was more the servants area of the house, some of the corridors and spaces that were used by the family servants. so now we're in the back hall, an area of the house that was typically a servants area.
you can actually see the original call bells hanging here on the wall. other of those bells would have had a different tone and corresponded to a different pull bell in the house. now, this system became obsuloot once the house got electricity in 1913, 1914. so let's step into the sitting room and look at what replaced it. here on the wall in the servants sitting room you see the call box and the announceiator. the family member would push the button and this box would buss and a little arrow would swing indicating which area of the room the member was in and wanted service as well. this is where servants would await being called upon, polish
shoes, that kind of thing. in the next couple of days we're actually going to be removing -- you see a number of paints on the walls is flaking off. that's due to plaster that's need oo be repaired beyond the paint. so the paint is going to be removed, the plaster redone and then repainted. it's over 200 years old and requires, you know, careful care and maintenance and up keep. so, again, just a great example of the ongoing preservation we're doing here attituder place. here in the servants sitting room i also wanted to talk about domestic service, which is very important of the tudor place story. we want to tell the story of both the enslaved workers and the servants. and we're very fortunate to have photographs of a number of those people thanks to peter's
interest in photography. we have archives to know the stories of a number of these people as well as images as well. one special story the story of john luckett. john was actually an escaped slave from virginia during the civil war who happened to be walking down the street and asked britannia if she needed any help. she said she was looking for someone to work in the garden, so she hired him and he worked here for over 40 years. john actually in in addition to being ingardener took britannia's son fishing and hupting. and we're very frpt to have a number of photographs with john with family members including this image of john with the last owner as a young boy. so now we're going to walk, again, through the hall into the butler's pantry, the place where all of the china and dinnerware
would have been stored. when he had the esteemed radiator system, the radiator here thpantry is also a combination warmer. there were many different plates for many different courses as each course would come out separately. so you needed somewhere to warm the plates. the butler's pantry is also a great place to look at the tablewares, over 50 different patterns. a number of those is something the last owner inherited from family members but also pieces he acquired because of 18th and 19th century european and asian porcelain. so now we're going to go up stairs and look at some of the bed chambers. as we come up stairs, now we're in the supper stair hall. and i want to focus on an
amazing object up here. this is also a piece they purchased at the 1802 versen sale. and what's interesting about the chest is george washington purchased it secondhand. washington purchased it at a sale at bellvar, which was fair fax's estate at mount vernon. so now we can take a look into the master bed chamber. right now you see the bed chamber largely furnsed as the last owner remembered it when his great grandmother britannia used this as her bed chamber. you see a number of photographs in here of the various family members whch when the last owner modernized the house, theyeded bathrooms as well. so for this master bed chamber
they took what had been a dressing room and made it into a bathroom. so this is good opportunity to see some of those original 1914 plumbing fixtures here in the bathroom including a toilet with a mahogany tank and mahogany toilet seat. in addition to the 15,000 objects we have in our museum collection, we have over a quarter million manuscript pages, financial records, photographs, these things that help us get an idea of how the family used these rooms in the house throughout the 19th and 20th century. and that really helps when we're furnishing the spaces how it looked. there's also pieces we learned through this archive where they were traveling, what they did in their spare time, because they kept so many of these pieces of paper and objects that really give us an insight into their past here attituder place.
some of the photographs and images i wanted to talk about here on the table, we've got britannia's granddaughter, agnes peter, taken about 1900. and next to her we've got agnes iii, february 14, 1921 during their wedding day. he was a naval officer who served in the specific and his wife carolyn volunteered with the red cross in georgetown. armstead peter iii is the one that really set things in motion to become what it is today. he recognized the significance of the house and this amazing collection and wanted to be able to share it with the public. so we used the inventories and
photographs of these rooms that we have in the archive and to furns the spaces so that if another family were to walk into the rooms of the house today, they would recognize where things were placed. now let's walk across the hall and talk a little about the civil war. as i said, britannia rented out rooms here attituder place to borders. and i should also mention she was a cousin by marriage to robert e. lee. lee actually staid in this room when he came back to washington to meet with general grant when grant was then president of the united states. during the civil war britannia had a number of family members who were fighting for both sides. one story that's especially interesting is the story of william thornton williams and his friend. we'll walk over here to see an image of them in their confederate uniforms. william was in the union army for a time.
he was even on general winfield scott's staff but he was suspected because of the close family relationship with the lle lle lees of carrying information to the lees. so he was actually jailed and then he went to confederate army. so fast forward when they're down in tennessee. imagine they're wearing union uniforms, ride into a union fort with papers and say they're here to inspect the fortifications. the commanding officer of the fort is a little suspicious but he lets the wassens complete their inspection. after the inspection they leave and someone realizes their impostors. so they're quickly captured and they're questioned. while they're being cap chard they admit, yes, they're both union officers. the confederate officer, they're tried and sentenced to be hanged
the next morning. so they're hanged in tennessee in the summer of 1863. and after the war gip's brother, married to britannia's daughter, actually arranges to have their bodies brought back here to georgetown and bury in the family plot. but before their buried, he actually keeps their spurs. so very interesting object there related to the civil war and talks about how really the family was affected by the civil war. so in the 20th century this room was used by the wife carolyn as her morning room. ask he said in his book he always wanted this room to remain where it was when she used it. you can see the desk here whenshield take care of business
matters. and we also have some of her pieces of clothing that are exhibited. we're very lucky to have a textile pieces. so this room is a great place to talk about all the generations of children who grew up here attituder place. and we have toys reflecting those generations from dolls to stuff toys to airplane models and zeppelins. here's a portrait of him over the mantle. but a great room with lots of history, and like i said a number of generations of children grew up here. just a great space. so now i'll step out here into the hall. a great image to end our discussion of the up stairs with is right here showing britannia with her great-grandson, again,
armstead peter iii. so you have her great-granddaughter with her great-grandson. think about all those generations of the family, and they're right out there on the garden pathway. and what's fantastic about the collection here you can see britannia is here in this wheelchair, and we have the very wheelchair here in our collection that she is setting in the photo. i think britannia and peter iii are the two family members who did the most to protect and preserve the house. ensuring the preservation of all these washington objects the family kept. and peter iii creating the foundation that we have today so the public could experience this amazing house and collection of objects within it. the other thing that's fascinating about tudor place is
we can tell the family story from the american revolution all the way up to the cold war. so now we're going to go outside to the garage and talk about that just a little more. we have an expensive garden. we have behind me the smokehouse in the district of columbia. and now we're going to walk into the garage. in 1913 the peter family built the garage, and we've got what's probably our largest artifact in the collection in front of me. the 1919 pierce roadster that belonged to peter iii. his parents bought it for him in 1919. and what's interesting about is a number of elements were customized for him. he was 6'2", so things like the steering column were adjusted to account for his height. so one of my favorite things about the car is it's got his monogram right here on the door,
ap3 for armstead peter iii. he loved it and kept it for the rest of his life. he had it expensively restored in the 1970s and could be seen driving around in it. here's a picture showing him sitting at the wheel of the car. so the garage was built in 1913, 1914, but the part of the garage we're standing in now was added in 1968. the most interesting part of this addition is actually what's beneath our feet, the bomb shelter we're going to go into right now. so we're now under that 1968 garage edition of the basement and walking into what was the bomb shelter. the last owner of the tudor place was a veteran of both the first world war and the second world war where he served in the pacific and was in the pacific
at the time of the atomic bombs. so one could see in the time of the 1960s, during the cold war things, why he would want a bomb shelter constructed. he wanted a shelter that would protect both from bomb blast as well as nuclear fallout, the radioactive particles that would have been in the air. so it's a fascinating space, it was originally a structure constructed to hold 12 people. we'll walk briefly into the shelter and then we'll come out here into the storage tanks and things. we're now in the nucleus of the shelter, and it's a space we now use as storage. you can see some of his radio equipment here on some of the shelves. that's going to be installed into a radio room in the main house. but the shelter, as i said, was designed for 12 people to live
in. and the thought was after a period of 48 hours the radioactive fall out would have diminished enough that people could come out-of-the inner part of the shelter and use some of these outer room as well. so let's walk back out there and look at some of the systems in place to use in the shelter. we've got here to my left three very large 400 gallon large water tanks used for holding fresh-water for use in the shelter. there's actually a pump right next to them. and by using that pump, you could actually draw water into a tank that's overhead here in the ceiling. and that over head tank actually powers an adjacent bathroom. so it uses gravity to use the shower and make the toilet flushable as well. and another feature is this small kitchenette. so it's got sink, stove, and
range as well that could be used when people are staying here in the bomb shelter. the other interesting thing about this is the escape tunnel. so we're going to walk here past the water tanks and into the tunnel. the tunnel actually has a dual purpose. these are actually steampipe that go to the radiators in the house. but it was also a tunnel that could be used to enter or leave the bomb shelter. the tunnel actually comes out about halfway between here and the house in the garden. so we'll go outside in just a minute and see the hatch where the tunnel ends. so we're now standing outside in the garden. and you can actually see that's the hatch where the tunnel ends that we were just in a moment ago. and the bomb shelter is a really interesting part of tudor place's history. and it will allow us to really tell the story of the family through the revolution up through the cold war. so it really is a part of the
garage we're going to open to interpretation in the fuch, and it's a project i'm very excited about. we've only had a chance today to see a portion of our collection. so i hope you'll come take a tour. we're constantly highlighting different items swelds through our archive to highlight the furnsed spaces of the house as well as exhibits. you can watch this and other american artifacts programs by visiting our website at c-span.org/history. c-span's washington journal, live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. coming up saturday morning the president of the american foreign council on president trump's first g-20 summit also senior policy attorney discusses the travel ban implementation and legislative actions against sanctuary cities.
and then a nation contributor talks about her recent investigation and article on the resentencing of juveniles facing life in prison. join the discussion. here on c-span 3, american history tv continues with more american artifacts. coming up next a visit to arch street meeting house in philadelphia. and later a look at some of the items that'll be displayed in the national law enforcement museum, which is set to open next year in washington, d.c. the state of pngs was founded by quaker william penne. many quakers have lived and worship ever since. next a visit to arch street meeting house constructed