Georgetown Walking Tour Part 4

Christ Episcopal Church is located on 3115 O Street NW. It was founded in 1817 by Episcopalians, who lived in Georgetown. Francis Scott Key was one of the founders. The church was rebuilt and enlarged in 1867 and in 1885. During the Civil War the members of the church were mostly southern sympathizers as well as the minister, Dr. William Norwood. Dr. Norwood was ordered by the Bishop of Maryland to say after each sermon: “God bless President Lincoln and God bless the United States.” He was also ordered to pray for Union victory and for President Lincoln. He refused and had to leave.

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However, service had to be performed at the church weekly and the Bishop sent another minister to do that. Each time the new minister blessed the President and the Union Army he was booed by the parish. But everything changed after President Lincoln’s death. Even the most ardent southern sympathizers mourned over his death. The church was draped in black cloth for 30 days and the bell on the top of the church’s tower tolled for two hours in Lincoln’s honor.

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The house on 3053 P Street NW was rented by Joe and Rose Kennedy during their son’s inauguration.

Tudor Place
Tudor Place

Tudor Place, located on 1644 31st St NW, is actually a mansion. Thomas Peter and his wife Martha Parke Custis Peter, a granddaughter of Martha Washington and a step-granddaughter of George Washington, purchased this property in 1805. The money used for the purchase, $ 8,000, came from George Washington’s will. Additionally, Martha Peter inherited 90 slaves from her grandmother, which were sold at auction to help finance the purchase of the 5 ½ acres estate and the mansion. The design of the mansion was created by Dr. William Thornton, who also designed the U.S. Capitol. A beautiful garden was laid out around the mansion located on the top of the Georgetown Heights. Six generations of Martha Washington’s descendants lived here. It has the largest collection, after Mount Vernon, of Washington memorabilia, decorative art items, and historical artifacts. The museum is open to the public and has guided tours.

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The house on 3322 O Street NW belonged to Baron Alexander de Bodisco. The current owners are Teresa and John Kerry, who served as the Secretary of State under President Obama. Baron Alexander de Bodisco was an ambassador from Russia for Tsar Nicholas and served in this position for 17 years.

Baron de Bodisco liked to throw lavish parties for his neighbors in Georgetown. One Christmas he arranged a Christmas party for his nephews, who attended Georgetown College, and invited all the children from the neighborhood. Only Harriet Williams was not invited by mistake.

Baron personally went to apologize and to deliver an invitation. Harriet opened the door and when Baron saw her, he fell in love. He waited for her outside her home every morning to take her to her class at Miss English Seminary for young Ladies.  Together they rode in his white carriage, drawn by four black horses, which he usually used to ride to the Russian Embassy.  He carried her books into and out of her class at the Seminary. He also drove her home from the Seminary.

After a few months of courtship he proposed to her and she said yes. Even though her family was against this marriage at first, they eventually gave their blessings. The bride was 16 years old and the groom was 61. Harriet was a beautiful girl and Baron was a stout, whiskered man, ugly but very charming and extremely gallant.

Many politicians and dignitaries were invited to their lavish wedding. The groom’s friends were mostly men of a mature age and the bridesmaids were teenage girls. The couple lived happily there after until the Barons death and had seven children together. A year after the Baron’s death, Harriet married a British officer, Captain Douglas Scott.

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The house on 3307 N Street NW, built in Federal style, was home for John and Jackie Kennedy. They lived in the house when JFK ran for his presidency and then moved to the White House in January 1961.

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Our last stop was at Georgetown University, which was founded in 1789 and is the oldest Catholic and Jesuit University in the U.S. The majority of the students, however, are not Catholics. University alumni are known for ranking highly in the number of graduates working in the U.S. Congress, in the field of foreign affairs, in the financial and banking industry and on Wall Street. Famous alumni include Bill Clinton, Anthony Scalia, George Tenet, a CIA director, and King Felipe VI of Spain.

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The founder of Georgetown College was John Carrol, who was the first head of the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. Interestingly enough, in order to raise money for Georgetown College, Jesuits in Maryland sold all of their 272 slaves to two Southern plantations in Louisiana in 1838.

During the Civil War 1,141 students and alumni were enlisted in both the Union and Confederate armies. Enrolment was very low after the war.

In 1873 Patrick Francis Healy became President of Georgetown College. He was born in the South as a slave by law, because his mother was a slave and was half-black. His father was an Irish immigrant and a plantation owner. Patrick was smuggled to the North and was introduced as an Irishman because of his light color of skin. He was the first person of African descent, who became President of a mostly white students’ college. He was the first African American who ever earned a Ph. D and the first African American, who was ordained to become a Catholic priest.

Healy was educated in a Catholic school in New York and at College of Holly Cross in Massachusetts. Then he entered the Jesuit Order. The Order sent him to the Catholic University in Belgium, where he earned a Ph.D. He returned to the U.S. and taught Philosophy at Georgetown University in 1866.

He accomplished a lot after being elected as President of the University. He reformed the curriculum, lengthened the law and medical programs, created the Alumni Association, and constructed a large major building, named Healy Hall in his honor. He is considered a second founder of Georgetown University.

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Healy Hall was built in Neo Medieval style and looks impressive and classy with turrets, a high pointed clock tower and vaulted large windows. Its grey granite masonry is rough and uneven and looks like a medieval castle wall. Large vaulted windows give the building a cheerful look and lots of light inside the classrooms.

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Our guide told us about two other interesting attractions: the Exorcist steps and Martin’s Tavern, located at 1264 Wisconsin Avenue.

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There are 75 steps in the Exorcist steps and they were featured in the movie called The Exorcist. It was one of the famous movies shot in Georgetown. A girl, who became possessed by a demon, lived in a house next to these steps. The priest, who tried to rid the girl from the demon, hurtled down these steps to his death. The film went public in 1973. It was based on a story written by a Georgetown University graduate, William Peter Blatty.

Our guide highly recommended Martin’s Tavern for its delicious Irish cuisine, particularly for “mash and bangers.” It’s also not uncommon to see famous people there. Obama and his family are one of the patrons. Some said that John F Kennedy proposed to Jackie in one of the tavern’s booths on June 24, 1953.

 

Resources used: Georgetown Notable Homes/Blds

https://www.flickr.com/photos/bootbearwdc/sets/72157594236684793

 

8 comments

  1. As a DC local, I really love this series! I actually sang with my school choir in that church. It’s so fun getting to know the history behind these houses that I see on a regular basis!

    Liked by 1 person

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