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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

Tingey House (Quarters A)

The Tingey House (Quarters A) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. This history was compiled when the house was nominated.

Tingey House became the official residence of the Chief of Naval Operations in 1977.

Description

Quarters A is a 2 1/2 story Flemish bond brick structure situated on the crest of a hill in the Washington Navy Yard. It is east of the Main Gate at 8th and M Streets, S.E. and faces Leutze Park in the direction of the Anacostia River. The original house, of late Georgian design with a symmetrical five-bay front, has been substantially Victorianized by additions and lengthening of the windows.

The original rectangular main block of the house is 48'2" (five bays) wide by 32'2" (three bays) deep. "The three bays project slightly forward and carry a pedimented cross gable with a semicircular lunette. The house has a molded brick water table, a belt course, and a modillion cornice with paired brackets. The entrance door has a semicircular glazed fanlight transom and sidelights. The central bay on the second floor is a palladian window. The windows have splayed voussoir flat arch lintels with keystones. The cornice continues uninterrupted across the East and West ends of the house creating pedimented end gables. An elaborate late 19th century enclosed porch and advanced porte-cochere completely envelop a small pedimented wooden entrance porch, possibly original, and mask the entire South and East side of the ground floor. To the North are two-story service wings and later additions. The original window sash and dormer windows of the main house have been replaced. The two interior end chimneys each carry four flues.

The house has a central hall plan. On the first floor there is a large parlor to the West side with two fireplaces, and on the East side another parlor with a small cross hall behind it. The dining room, library, and kitchen are in the wing and additions to the North. The second floor has four bedrooms and the attic, two chambers. The house was extensively renovated and retrimmed in the mid-19th century. The marble mantle pieces date from that period. The double fireplaces in the West parlor have modern "colonial" mantles. The stairway is a two-run stair with abnormally steep risers. It is also a mid-century replacement. The basement has a concrete floor. The brick foundation walls have been substantially rebuilt or replaced as have the floor joists and subflooring for the first floor. The grounds around the house have also been relandscaped and enriched on numerous occasions. The present garden to the South and to the East of the house has concrete walkways, cast iron lamp standards, and an enclosing iron fence. On the North side of the garden is the high North wall that encloses the Navy Yard. The many additions to the exterior of the house have for the most part covered up, but not destroyed, the original fabric. Very little remains of the original interior except on the attic floor. The exterior should receive a sensitive restoration, whereas the interior is better left to retain its late 19th- century appearance."

(Quoted passages from nomination form prepared as part of the national historic landmark program, 1971.)

Significance

The Joint Committee on Landmarks has designated Quarters A of the Washington Navy Yard, popularly known as the Tingey House, a Category II Landmark of importance which contributes significantly to the cultural heritage and visual beauty of the District of Columbia. Constructed in 1804, Tingey House was one of the earliest buildings erected at the Washington Navy Yard, our foremost early navy yard. It was one of the few public buildings not seriously damaged in the British invasion of the Capital in 1814. It has served as the residence for all of the Washington Yard's commandants, including its first, Captain Thomas Tingey, and important figure in the early history of Washington. The original 2 1/2 story Georgian style townhouse has been enlarged and remodelled several times. It still retains much of its original character and could be successfully restored on the exterior.

A good deal of uncertainty has surrounded the construction date of Quarters A, but it can now be stated with assurance that the house was constructed in 1804. The major source of confusion has been due to the discussion of the pre-1814 period of three different houses for the head of the Washington Navy Yard. The first mention of such a building is in an October 10, 1801, order from Secretary of the Navy Smith for the construction of "a house to accommodate the officer of Marines and the Superintendent of the Navy Yard." This house, the present Quarters B, was erected late in 1801, but the Yard's Superintendent, Thomas Tingey, remained in a rented house at the corner of 11th and G Streets, S.E. When Captain John Cassin was temporarily appointed the Yard's commander on April 7, 1803, he was also assigned other quarters, a cabin on the frigate United States.

On March 28, 1804, Secretary of the Navy Smith again ordered that plans and a cost estimate be prepared for a house for the Washington Navy Yard's Superintendent, "a Brick House...to be constructed in a substantial and durable manner and on the most suitable spot in the yard." This house was soon constructed and it is cited in Benjamin Latrobe's plan of the Yard, a sketch of the Main Gate section of the Yard in a July 10, 1805, Latrobe letter to Shadrack Davis, and an August 1812 letter from Latrobe to Tingey. Confusion arises from the fact that Captain Cassin remained quartered in the building even after Tingey reassumed command of the Yard on November 23, 1804. Thus the building is denoted as Captain Cassin's house in Latrobe's 1804 plan of the Washington Yard, and Latrobe discusses the construction of a new house for the "first officer of the yard."

02 March 1997