Naval Historical Foundation Publication



The

Decatur House

and its

Distinguished

Occupants

Cover of 'The Decatur House 
and Its Distinguished Occupants.'


Foreword

Decatur House, Saint John's Church and the President's House are the three buildings which served to mark out what is now Lafayette Square in Washington. In the L'Enfant plan for the city, this was called President's Square.

Decatur House was the first house on the Square and the last to remain in private ownership. Over the past 150 years, it has been with the cultural, social, political and military activities which helped to develop a young nation with an infant navy into a nuclear world power. The will of Mrs. Truxtun Beale bequeathed the house to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1956. In 1961, it was designated a registered national historic landmark by the Department of Interior. It continues to be used by cultural groups as a meeting place and by the U.S. Navy for official entertainment.

Because our Truxtun-Decatur Naval Museum occupies the original carriage house, members will be interested to know about Decatur House itself, and its distinguished occupants during the years since Stephen Decatur moved into it in 1819.

The content of this pamphlet is largely extracted from ''Decatur House and Its Inhabitants" by Marie Beale. She came there in 1903 as the bride of Truxtun Beale, and continued to live on in the house for almost 20 years after his death in 1936. The Foundation is deeply indebted for permission to use this material to the National Trust which holds the copyright on the book.

Mrs. Beale's own version of the events leading to the acquisition of the carriage house for our museum will be of particular interest to members who will also enjoy visiting the renovated house with its historic furnishings when it is reopened later in 1967.


Painting: Stephen Decatur
Stephen Decatur


The Decatur House and its Distinguished Occupants

Stephen Decatur was born in what is now the town of Sinepuxent on the eastern shore of Maryland on 5 January 1779. His mother had gone there from Philadelphia, which had been taken by General Howe in 1777. He was the son of a sea captain who was a comrade-in-arms with John Paul Jones and Commodore Truxtun in the newly constituted American Navy. The younger Stephen represented the second generation in the Navy, as did Hull , Perry and Bainbridge.

He grew up in Philadelphia and in 1798 became a Midshipman in the United States Navy. He had over 20 years of illustrious service that included his daring exploit in the pirate harbor of Tripoli in 1804; duty as head of the Norfolk Navy Yard; victory in command of the frigate United States over the British frigate Macedonian in 1812; conclusion of the treaty that broke the power of piracy in the Mediterranean and various domestic waters' commands. Later he was appointed to the Board of Navy Commissioners and came with his wife to live in Washington. The prize money he won during his naval service was invested in Washington real estate including some of the land made available by President Jefferson's decision to reduce the size of the President's Square. This was then an open field or common, bare of trees, where the local militia drilled on occasions. It had been owned by the Pierce family--part of a tract called Jamaica. Nothing was left of the farm house of Edward Pierce but the stones of the family grave yard. To the westward was a race course where the local gentry matched blooded horses. Small game still abounded in the neighborhood. On part of this, Decatur built a home just a few hundred yards from the President's House.

The house was carefully planned through the services of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, an Englishman by birth, who carved his career in America. He was commissioned to redesign the two main structures in the new capital, the Capitol itself and the President's House. The first buildings on President's Square also were monuments to his architectural dexterity, St. John's and Decatur House, and have a special place, accordingly, in the architectural history of the country. Decatur House was designed as a town house of Georgian brick-compact, sturdy and gracious. The classic hall led through two archways to a curving staircase with a continuous rail banister. The central feature of the house was the great drawing rooms on the second floor. The kitchens, slave quarters and carriage house were in the rear. That Decatur would build such a home in a swamp-ridden city, where Congressmen lived in boarding houses, is a tribute to his vision and confidence of a new era in the life of Washington.

This was one of the three original buildings in what the L 'Enfant plan of the city called the President's Square. The others were Saint John's Church and the President's House. The Square came to be known as Lafayette Square after he had visited the United States in 1825.


Main Entrance Hallway
Main Entrance Hallway

Commodore Decatur and his wife moved into their home in January 1819. He was then 41 years of age and stood at the summit of his career--a national hero, remembered by his toast which ended, "but our country, right or wrong!" Mrs. Decatur, the former Miss Susan Wheeler, and the daughter of a prominent Norfolk merchant was well educated, beautiful and one of the reigning belles of her time. They had met while Decatur was the guest of honor at a ball being given by her father after his return from the Mediterranean. The Decaturs soon made their home the center of Washington¹s social activities. It was to this home, too, just about one year later, that Decatur was carried mortally wounded after his duel with Commodore James Barron at Bladensburg.

In March 1820, the Decaturs gave a ball at their home for President Monroe¹s daughter, Maria. She had married her cousin Samuel Gouverneur, in the first wedding to take place in the home of the Presidents. Few of those who attended the ball were aware of the impending crisis facing the Commodore. He had accepted a challenge to a duel with pistols at 8 paces. It was not his first experience in such an event. He had come through unscathed from his first one, when he had wounded the mate of a merchant vessel. On another occasion, he had been second for Midshipman Joseph Bainbridge who killed his adversary. Both Decatur and Bainbridge were sent home from the Mediterranean for this affair. This pending fatal duel


was the climax of longstanding enmities and quarrels of the participants. Decatur's opponent Barron had been in command of the frigate Chesapeake. Enroute to the Mediterranean in 1807, it was intercepted by the British frigate Leopard whose captain demanded the surrender of three crewmen claimed to be British deserters. Barron did not comply whereupon the British opened fire on the American frigate. Barron hastily capitulated and the British took the seamen. Tried by a court (of which Decatur was a member) for failure to clear ship for action, Barron was suspended for five years. He never forgave Decatur. Barron left the country and remained outside of it through the War of 1812, until 1818. When he returned to the United States, he sought another command without success. He blamed Decatur for this, too. Decatur, on the other hand, criticized Barron for his failure to return to his country during 1812. Thereafter followed an exchange of recriminating correspondence. One thing led to another until finally, in January 1820, the dispute came to a head. Decatur wrote in reply to a letter from Barron, "If you intend it as a challenge I accept it, and refer you to my friend Commodore Bainbridge." The final arrangements were made on 8 March 1820, the 14th wedding anniversary of the Decaturs, when Captain Jesse Elliot, who was Barron's second, called on Bainbridge, then in command of the Columbus, at St. Mary's on the Potomac. The duel was fought on 22 March 1820. Both men were wounded, Decatur mortally. It is reported that as both opponents lay on the

Southeast Corner of Dining Room
Southeast Corner of Dining Room


ground together after the duel, Decatur asked, "Why did you not return to America when war broke out?" Barron, who previously had declined to explain "under insult," now replied candidly that he did not have money enough. Decatur protested that he would have sent it. Decatur was brought home and died that night. He was buried in St. Peter's Church in Philadelphia where his parents were buried. Evidence in the Tayloe memoirs, Mrs. Decatur's letters to Henry Clay and many other sources indicate a poor role played by the seconds who made no effort at conciliation and ordered a cessation of conversation at the last moment.

After his death, Decatur House remained closed during a period of mourning. Mrs. Decatur finally moved to new surroundings and years later died in a Georgetown Convent.

For the next few years, it can be said that Decatur House stood on foreign soil. Under the usages of international law, confirmed in Vienna in 1815, the residence of a diplomatic representative was "independent" and "immune" like the representative himself. When, therefore, the French Minister to the United States, Baron Hyde de Neuville, took occupancy in 1820, the flag of France flew over Decatur House and the plaque of the French Legation appeared on its entrance. The Minister and his wife entertained extensively and the weekly teas of Madam de Neuville were an institution in Washington social and diplomatic life.

In 1822, the flag over Decatur House changed and it became the Russian Legation when the sovereignty passed to Czar Alexander. Major General Baron Feodor Vasil'evich Teil'-fan-Seroskerken, known for convenience as Baron de Tuyll, became Russian Minister to the United States. The Congressional Directory for 1824 lists his residence as "Mrs. Decatur's house, north of the President's." It was during his residency that he became a central figure in one of our country's greatest diplomatic moves. The Monroe Doctrine was promulgated as a reaction against the Holy Alliance, a combination of European powers under the guidance of Metternich and Czar Alexander. The Baron accepted his diplomatic defeat philosophically and continued to live at Decatur House "a prisoner of the gout." When he returned to Russia in March of 1826, Decatur House resumed its American birthright.

Henry Clay, who hoped to reside in the President's House, chose the next closest residence and followed the Russian Minister in 1827 as the occupant of Decatur House. Clay's appointment as Secretary of State by President John Quincy Adams brought forth much unfavorable comment. The Jackson followers spoke of it as a corrupt bargain. Such circumstances led to the duel between Clay and John Randolph of Roanoke in 1826. Neither participant was hit but it is reported that a bullet passed thru Mr. Randolph's topcoat after which both shook hands and Mr. Randolph said, "You owe me a coat, Mr. Clay," and Clay replied, "I am glad the debt is no deeper."

During the Clay's occupancy as Secretary of State, Decatur House was the scene of many balls and entertainments. Mrs. Clay reputedly was "overwhelmed with company, besides a very large dining


company every week and a drawing room every other week." The election of Jackson as President was a heavy political blow to Clay--and their longstanding ill feeling, of course, insured that Clay would not be a part of the new administration. Clay and his family left Decatur House for Kentucky in March 1829.

At that time, Decatur House received a new tenant when Martin Van Buren, then Governor of New York, became Secretary of State for President Jackson and took occupancy. He was a widower and a close personal friend of President Jackson. It was generally understood that there was a signal device in an attic window of Decatur House, which was the political nerve center of Washington, and another in the President's House. The President and the Secretary could exchange messages across Lafayette Square. The Secretary's reputation for avoiding personal commitments was also well known. The story goes, that in an effort to have him take a definite stand, he was asked if the sun rose in the east. His reputed reply was that he never got up that early. It was during his occupancy, too, that Washington social life was infected by what Van Buren himself termed, "The Eaton Malaria." John Henry Eaton of Tennessee, a very close and faithful friend of President Jackson, was appointed his Secretary of War. He had married widow Timberlake in January 1829. In spite of the personal efforts of both Secretary Van Buren and the President, she was never accepted in the official social circles of the Capital. The affair came to a crisis in 1830 and Eaton resigned from the Cabinet. The President appointed him as Governor of the Territory of Florida. Although involved in the Eaton affair, Van Buren continued to point for the Presidency. He resigned as Secretary of State so that he could move more freely towards the Vice Presidency. The President appointed him as Minister to England, but the Senate failed to confirm him in spite of the fact that he had already gone to his new post. In so doing, however, they insured he would receive something he valued much more. He was elected Vice President with Andrew Jackson as President in 1832. In 1836, he succeeded where Henry Clay, the former occupant of Decatur House, had failed. As President, Van Buren moved into the President's House.

The successor in residence to Van Buren was Edward Livingston, who followed him as Secretary of State and lived in Decatur House from 1831 to 1833. His biographer, Hunt, writes, "His manner of living and entertaining guests was not excelled in elegance, if equalled, in Washington." The Secretary was a life-long friend of President Jackson. In 1814, he welcomed General Jackson to New Orleans and remained as his aide-de-camp and interpreter until the War of 1812 ended. An eminent jurist, famed for the "Livingston Code," he had, in 1832, as Secretary of State, been entrusted by the President with the task of drafting the proclamation to the Nation, reasserting the nature of the Union, and denying to the States the right to secede. He had been in retirement, and was 70 years old when he was appointed Secretary of State. He was appointed Minister to France in 1833 where he was deeply occupied in negotiations over American shipping claims.


Following Livingston, Decatur House again became the center of diplomatic life in Washington when the British Minister to the United States, Sir Charles Richard Vaughn took occupancy. A man of cosmopolitan tastes and training he believed that in a republic one should act with appropriate "bonhomie," and is reputed to have peppered his conversation with slang and even profanity. He lived in Decatur House until 1835 when it acquired a different type of occupant, a representative of the new mercantile class that was then appearing in Washington.

He was Mr. John Gadsby who bought Decatur House for $12,000. He had been a successful proprietor of famous hotels in Alexandria, Baltimore and Washington. His first location in Washington was at 19th and I Streets, where he remodeled the Franklin House and named it Gadsby's Tavern (Lafayette was installed there on his last visit to Washington in 1824). Gadsby also built the National Hotel at Pennsylvania Avenue and 6th Street. During his residence in Decatur House, he and his wife lived in a semi-regal manner and the parties are reported to have been "unsurpassed." Gadsby died in May 1844 and, thereafter, his widow leased the house to a succession of occupants.

The first was the Vice President, George Mifflin Dallas of Pennsylvania, elected with Polk by a small margin over Clay and who leased the house in 1844. President Van Buren had chosen him to represent the United States at the Court of the Czar. He presided over the Senate during the difficult periods covering the clash with Mexico over the annexation of Texas and also the problem of the extension of slavery arising from the acquisition of new western territories. At the end of his term he vacated Decatur House, but not before the electrifying news reached Washington, on 16 September 1848, that gold had been discovered in California. The courier was Lieutenant Edward Fitzgerald Beale who had raced 4000 miles and crossed Mexico with dispatches, gold dust and nuggets in his saddle bag.

After Dallas, Decatur House, had a succession of tenants. It is noted by Mr. Tayloe in his memoirs that, "apartments in the second and third stories were rented first to Mr. Gates who always entertained handsomely and for two winters to Messrs John A. and James G. King, sons of the distinguished Rufus King, and members of the House from New York and New Jersey." Gates had been mayor of Washington from 1827-30--was an Englishman by birth and a journalist by profession. The King brothers, in Congress at the same time from their respective states, had their residence listed in the Congressional Directory, "Private Corner 16-1/2 and H Streets." They were followed by William Appleton, a Boston merchant, who served several years in Congress.

From 1857 on, the Decatur House became the residence of men of the Confederacy. First, was Mr. Howell Cobb from Georgia appointed to be Secretary of the Treasury by President Buchanan. He joined the Southern cause in 1861, became Chairman of the Secession Convention to create the Confederate States of America, organized the 16th Georgia Regiment, fought with it, and became a Major General.


He was followed by Judah P. Benjamin, a Louisiana lawyer of Portuguese-Jewish ancestry, who was born in St. Thomas in the British West Indies. In business in New Orleans, he also gave English lessons among French families and married one of his pupils, Natalie St. Martin. He came to Washington as a Senator in 1852 and became a leader of the secession bloc in Congress. Bent on the reconquest of his alienated wife, he rented Decatur House in 1859. It is reported that his furnishings were "the envy of local connoisseurs." The lure was effective and visions of another epidemic of "Eaton Malaria" were vivid in the minds of Washington society. Such was not the case, however--she would have none of washington society and suddenly disappeared from the city. Benjamin withdrew in 1861, went South to become Attorney General, Secretary of War, and for three years Chief Secretary of State of the Confederacy. He escaped through Florida at the end of the war to England -became an English barrister to be known as the "American Disraeli."

Benjamin was the last occupant before the Civil War. The Federal Government Took over this house, Dolley Madison, Blair and others in Lafayette Square where soldiers camped and hung their laundry on Jackson's Monument. As a matter of interest, that statue had been erected in 1853. It was the work of a young sculptor from Georgia, Clark Mills. It is understood that he never had seen Jackson and that he made it from melted down cannon Jackson had captured in 1812.

The house was used for military purposes during the Civil War. The city directory of 1866 designates the Commissionary-General's office, at "16-1/2 west, cor. H. North," headed by Brig. Gen. E. B. Eaton and lists 78 additional soldiers at this address, including one messenger and one laborer. The Government continued its occupancy until 1872. In February of 1871, however, it was bought in the name of Mary E. Beale, the wife of Edward Fitzgerald Beale, the courier who had brought the news of the discovery of gold in California to Washington. Beale did not obtain occupancy until 1872 and date of transfer of the deed for the property, at the conclusion of payments, was 10 July 1877. Born on 4 February 1822, in the District of Columbia, Beale was the grandson, on his mother's side, of Commodore Thomas Truxtun of Naval fame.

He was an acting Lieutenant in the Ohio, flagship of Commodore Thomas ap Catesby Jones, Commander of the Pacific Squadron when gold was discovered in California in 1848.

Beale was serving temporarily ashore because it is said he had incurred the displeasure of the Commodore incident to a caricature he had made depicting the commodore as a windy storyteller. At any rate, the Commodore picked him to carry dispatches back to Washington, challenging him to get there before the Army courier being sent by the acting Governor of California. He won the "Gold Dust Derby" by a record breaking 47 day trip, arriving in Washington on 16 September 1848. Beale carried with him gold dust and


nuggets of his own which he had traded for quinine. It is of interest to note that P. T. Barnum offered to buy "an 8 lb. lump of California gold" which he had been informed Beale had in his possession. But it is understood that Beale disposed of it by donating one half to the U.S. Patent Office and using the remainder for a wedding ring. He married his childhood sweetheart, Mary E. Edwards, of Chester, Pennsylvania on 27 June 1849.

Sketch: Midshipman Beale
Midshipman Beale


Beale resigned his Naval commission in 1851 and went to live in California. President Fillmore appointed him General Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the states of California and Nevada in 1852. An interesting incident occurred while he served in this capacity in that camel caravans appeared on the American desert plains. Beale had become interested in this method of transportation by reading a book by E. R. Huc, "Souveniers d'un voyage dans la Tartarie, le Thibet, et la Chine" (which had been translated by William Hazlitt in 1852). The then Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis, became an enthusiast and the project followed. The Navy sent a ship commanded by David D. Porter to the Near East. Thirty-three camels were bought and brought back to the United States on one voyage, and 44 on another. In his official report on the advantages of camels as pack-animals, Beale commented: "They are the most docile, patient and easily managed creatures in the world, and infinitely more easily worked than mules. From personal observation of the camels I would rather undertake the management of twenty of them than of five mules. In fact the camel gives no trouble whatever."

The public reaction may be gauged from a Los Angeles newspaper account:

"Gen. Beale and about fourteen camels stalked into town last Friday week, and gave our streets quite an Oriental aspect. It looks oddly enough to see, outside of a menagerie, a herd of huge, ungainly, awkward but docile animals, move about in our midst, with people riding them like horses. They bring up weird and far-off associations to the Eastern traveller, whether by book or otherwise, of the lands of the mosque, crescent or turban, of the pilgrim mufti and dervish, with visions of the great shrines of the world, Mecca and Jerusalem, and the toiling throngs that have for centuries wended thither; of the burning sands of Arabia and Sahara, where the desert is boundless as the ocean and the camel is the ship thereof."

"These camels under charge of Gen. Beale are all grown and serviceable, and most of them are well broken to the saddle and are very gentle. All belong to the one-hump species, except one which is a cross between the one and the two-hump species. This fellow is much larger and more powerful than either sire or dam. He is a grizzly-looking hybrid, a camel-mule of colossal proportions. These animals are admirably adapted to travel across our continent, and their introduction was a brilliant idea, the result of which is beginning most happily. At first Gen. Beale thought the animals were going to fail; they appeared likely to give out, their backs got sore. But he resolved to know whether they would do or not. He loaded them heavily with provisions, which they were soon able to carry with ease, and thence came through to Fort Tejon, living upon bushes, prickly pears and whatever they could pick up on the route. They went without water from six to ten days and even packed it a long distance for the mules, when crossing the deserts. They were found capable of packing one thousand pounds weight apiece, and of traveling with their load from thirty to forty miles per day, all the while finding their own feed over an almost


barren country. Their drivers say they will get fat where a jackass would starve to death. The 'mule,' as they call the cross between the camel and the dromedary, will pack twenty-two hundred pounds."

Two paintings in Decatur House by Narjot depict this incident. One is titled, "The Search for Water ," and the other, "The Horses Eagerly Quenching Thirst, Camels Disdaining."

Beale had been made a Brigadier General in 1856 by the Governor of California at the time of a threatened Indian war in the southern part of the state. He played a decisive role in the development of the west--and among others, to keep the far West from seceding. Anxious to serve his country in any capacity in the Civil War, he wrote President Lincoln in July 1861. "In a word," he said, "I wish simply to offer my life for the flag." Lincoln, however, considered Beale could serve best in his appointment as Surveyor General in California and Nevada, and Beale bowed to the President's decision. He also assisted the Mexicans in their revolt against Maximilian as Emperor of Mexico, and President Dias publicly recognized Beale as a "benefactor of Mexico." Terminating his work in California in 1864, he retired to his enormous ranch, near what is now Bakersfield, which he called Tejon Rancho. It is reported that he bought this 40,000 or more acres at 5c per acre.

Edward F. Beale's Camel Expedition, 1856
Edward F. Beale's Camel Expedition, 1856


Edward F. Beale's Camel Expedition, 1856
Edward F. Beale's Camel Expedition, 1856

From 1872 on, Beale and his wife divided their time between Decatur House and Tejon. They were outstanding leaders in the social and political life of Washington. He was a most trusted member of President Grant's inner circle and President of the National Republican League. Grant, whom Beale had first met while enroute across Mexico in 1848, spent much time at the Decatur House. In 1876, he appointed Beale as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of Austria-Hungary, where his diplomatic skill was necessary to overcome strained American relations. The reigning Emperor had helped his favorite brother, Maximilian, become Emperor of Mexico. The close friendship between General Grant and Beale prevailed throughout the remainder of their lives. Grant died in 1885. General Beale died at Decatur House on 22 April 1893. After a simple funeral in Washington, he was buried in Chester, Pennsylvania, his wife's home. His son, Truxtun Beale, who was born in California in March 1856, inherited the house.

Young Beale had the advantage of military, engineering, legal and diplomatic education and experience. He was widely travelled and had been Minister to Persia, Serbia and Rumania by the time of the inheritance. He returned at that time, soon thereafter went to California to live, and concerned himself mostly with administrative


and business affairs. In 1894, he married Harriet S. Blaine, youngest daughter of James G. Blaine, whom Cleveland had narrowly defeated for the Presidency. The marriage was not a happy one. Their only child was born in 1896, and in opposition to his wishes, was named Walker Blaine Beale. He requested a divorce, which was obtained the same year. Some time later he became reconciled to the little boy, and for the child's sake made an offer of remarriage, which never materialized. He was one of the first Americans of his generation to take up the study of the Nation's role in the world politics of the future, and wrote extensively on this and related subjects.

While in California, he made frequent trips to Washington to visit his mother who occupied Decatur House. After her death in 1902, the house was closed for a period. In April 1903, Truxtun Beale married Marie Chase Oge in New York, and brought his bride to Decatur House to continue and preserve the tradition of hospitality in the historic house. Each year after the President's reception, the entire diplomatic corps in Washington came to Decatur House for the annual supper. These assemblies brought them together with Cabinet members, judges, members of the Congress, and other celebrities in an elegance of Old World traditions.

Upstairs Drawing Room
Upstairs Drawing Room


During his life, he made many contributions to civic and educational projects. In 1916, he presented a town hall building to the Potomac District of Montgomery County for community affairs. In Annapolis, he gave a 32 acre public park on Spa Creek named after his great grandfather, Commodore Truxtun. He established university prizes totalling $10,000 in memory of his son by his first marriage, Walker Blaine Beale, who was killed in action in France in World War I. He died in his country home near Annapolis on 2 June 1936, and was buried at historic Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg, Virginia.

His wife, Marie Beale, continued to live in Decatur House having as she said, "inherited the responsibility of bringing this historic career to a graceful close." She was the last and longest resident in what was the first and last private residence in Lafayette Square. During her residence, Decatur House continued to uphold its tradition as a center of political and social life. Mrs. Beale realized that Decatur House belonged to history and did her utmost to preserve it undisturbed. In 1944, however, she retained Thomas T. Waterman, an architect to restore the "original severe purity of Latrobe's design."

The only other change is described by Mrs. Beale as follows:

"Washington acquired another museum for its residents when the Truxtun-Decatur Naval Museum was opened on May 12, 1950. It is situated in a building on H Street that was formerly the carriage house of the Decatur residence, now extensively remodeled and operated as a museum by the Naval Historical Foundation. Here historical mementoes of the American Navy are on public display, 'to unfold dramatically and educationally the potent history of the country's maritime development.' The building contains carefully planned exhibition rooms and other facilities serving its purpose. The Naval Historical Foundation was organized in 1926 as a repository for the "vanishing sources of our maritime history and traditions," and it is accumulating an ever-increasing store of documents, mementoes, pictures, weapons, uniforms, ship models and other relics.

"When Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, head of the Foundation, asked me if I did not have some space in the slave quarters or the stables where they could open a small museum, it seemed to me impossible. I kept my motor in the carriage house giving on H Street and thus was able to walk, through the house to enter the motor in case of bad weather. And all sorts of things were stored, firewood, garden furniture, tools and, as always where there is plenty of space, much trash. I finally decided that it could be done and that I would use the space giving on the alley for my garage. We then drew up a lease giving the Foundation the use of the property opening on H Street in consideration of a dollar a year. This has enabled them to display in rotation the material of their large collection. Every three or four months they put on a new show and having already attracted over 100,000 visitors, they find their


Portrait: Marie Beale
Marie Beale

membership increasing. The cost of adapting the building was defrayed by public subscription and the museum is now open daily without charge." The Naval Historical Foundation holds a 99-year lease to the Museum.

In 1956, Mrs. Beale bequeathed the Decatur House to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It is just now finishing a complete renovation primarily in the interest of preservation and restoration and also conversion of the wing and third and basement floors to offices for the Trust itself.

The museum rooms, when they are reopened in the fall of 1967, will reflect the reconciliation of time and personalities. On the basis of recently discovered inventories, the first floor rooms will be furnished to reflect Stephen Decatur's time with actual furnishings belonging to the Decaturs shown through the generosity of Decatur descendents, together with selected items from the other tenancies of the pre-Civil War period. At the same time, the Trust has been fortunate in receiving on gift or loan a number of items Mrs. Beale had willed to others, and these have formed the core of materials used by the Trust in interpreting the second floor furnishings through documents of the post-Civil War period.


Acknowledgement: The Naval History and Heritage Command gratefully acknowledges the Naval Historical Foundation for their support and encouragement in posting this online edition.






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