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Decatur House

39 Reviews

Decatur House

39 Reviews
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748 Jackson Pl NW, Washington DC, DC 20006-4912
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Farragut WestWashington DC Metro2 min
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Half-Day Grand Tour of Washington DC
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Half-Day Grand Tour of Washington DC

106 reviews
Avoid the stress of renting a car and navigating on your own on this bus tour of Washington DC. A guide provides entertaining historical context, as you pass more than 50 of the city’s iconic landmarks, including the White House, Capitol Building, Lincoln Memorial, and National Mall. Unlike most city bus tours, a small group size ensures you have the guide's full attention for questions and comments.
$53.42 per adult
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J D wrote a review Mar 2020
Sterling, Virginia173 contributions119 helpful votes
This less-familiar historical site is across from Lafayette Square in D.C. and close to a church, both of which are famous for well-known leaders of our country. Blair House is visible from one of its windows and it is quite near the White House. The Decaturs lived in this house for a little over a year before Decatur, a naval hero, was killed in a duel. Thereafter, it was leased to many other families and finally turned over to the White House Historical Society more recently. It is located on a corner and pedestrians could walk right by it and not realize that it's a good place to visit. Parking is difficult to find. The Smithsonian metro stop is the closest transportation, I believe. Visitors must purchase a timed ticket and are led around the house and the attached slave and staff quarters by a docent. There is a very good gift store also on site, as well as original brickwork and beams, flooring, photos of past residents, beautiful Asian art, and lovely objects and furniture to appreciate. Restrooms are also included inside the building and snacks can be purchased nearby and eaten in Lafayette Square. It is a good place to visit and it's a walk back in history for a few hours.
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Date of experience: March 2020
2 Helpful votes
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Maggi713 wrote a review Dec 2019
Baltimore, Maryland10,230 contributions1,133 helpful votes
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We look forward every year to be invited to the Members’ Holiday Party held at the Decatur House for the White House Historical Association. We drove over from Baltimore, which took us an hour and a half each way. When we arrived we were disappointed to see that the Decatur House had minimal decorations. What was more disturbing was the fact that in the upstairs rooms where the party was held, they were only 9 chairs for a group of 120. We decided to leave even before the talks because we could not stand up any longer. I really hope that they will do something in the future to have seating for their guests.
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Date of experience: December 2019
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Turner S wrote a review Aug 2019
Paris, France773 contributions233 helpful votes
The Decatur House was home to Stephen Decatur. He was an early American naval hero. He very likely would have become president had he not died in a duel. He was one of the most famous Americans in his day and yet we hear little about him now. The house was designed by America’s first professional architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe. It is one of only three residences designed by Latrobe that still exist in America. Their is a lot of great history around this house. Unfortunately the tours are only on Mondays at 1100, 1230, and 2pm. The tour is only an hour. If you can make the tour, at least take a moment to appreciate it while walking though Lafayette Square. You can also buy White House Christmas ornaments in the gift shop.
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Date of experience: August 2019
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749melaniel wrote a review Aug 2019
Washington, DC13 contributions31 helpful votes
Decatur House is located on the northeast side of Lafayette Square near the White House. It was the site of many high end parties, gatherings, celebrations, and receptions in the inner circles of DC social life. But when Commodore Decatur died in a duel, his wife could not maintain the lavish lifestyle she knew. She rented it out to visiting dignitaries and it houses today the White House Historical Association and it’s fine gift shop. Check out books about the artworks found in the White House, fine porcelain, and toy stuffed animals representing White House pets. Get the White House Christmas ornament.
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Date of experience: August 2019
2 Helpful votes
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interceptpubs wrote a review Jun 2019
Columbus, Indiana1,004 contributions475 helpful votes
Stephen Decatur, the Decatur for whom this house is named, was perhaps the first post-Revolutionary War American hero. Named after his father, a commodore who commanded warships during the Revolutionary War, Decatur himself joined the Navy at 19 as a midshipman. He served with distinction during the Quasi-War with France, being elevated to the rank of lieutenant. When the hostilities with France ended, the Navy was greatly reduced in size, but the young Decatur had so impressed his superiors that he was one of the few officers retained on active duty. However, Decatur soon rose from just being an excellent naval officer on the rise to being a national hero. During the First Barbary War, USS Philadelphia ran aground while chasing down a enemy ship and was captured. The thought of a powerful warship in the hands of pirates wasn't acceptable, so Decatur came up with the bold idea of covertly entering the port where Philadelphia was being held to board and set the ship afire, robbing the pirates of their prize. Decatur and his volunteer crew successfully executed his daring plan, destroying Philadelphia and escaping back to safety. No less than the Royal Navy's own hero Lord Nelson praised the Americans for "the most bold and daring act of the age." Decatur was soon promoted to captain - at 25, the youngest man in Navy history to reach that rank. He added to his fame during the War of 1812 by capturing the Royal Navy's HMS Macedonian and further still during the Second Barbary War by capturing the flagship of the Algerian fleet and parlaying that to set the terms for the ultimate resolution of the conflict, earning him the title in some circles of "conqueror of the Barbary pirates." Now back in Washington, Decatur was elevated to the rank of commodore and given a senior position within the Navy. With this new position in the city, Decatur decided to build a fitting home, choosing a piece of land near the White House and picking Benjamin Henry Latrobe, designer of the U.S. Capitol, to come up with a house "fit for entertaining." The resulting three story brick structure was the first private residence in the White House neighborhood. Decatur and his wife moved into the new house in 1819, but their enjoyment was cut short as Decatur was killed in a duel in 1820. Unable to secure a pension (the government finally relented in 1837 paying her retroactively from his death), Decatur's wife was forced to rent out the house. For many years, it was the unofficial residence of the Secretary of State, among these being such notables as Martin Van Buren and Henry Clay. In 1836, the house was purchased by John Gadsby, a wealthy hotel and tavern owner, who added a two story structure at the house's rear for his slaves - thus, providing lasting proof that slaves once lived in sight of the White House. Following Gadsby's death, the house again became a rental property for a number of years, mainly for congressmen and senators. During the Civil War, it is was used for office space for the Union Army after which it sat empty for several years. In 1872, the house got its third and final private owners, the Edward Fitzgerald Beale family. Beale was a well known figure in the 19th century - naval officer, general, explorer, rancher, diplomat, etc. with friends like Kit Carson, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Ulysses S. Grant. He died in 1893, but his son's family continued to live in the house until 1956 when his daughter-in-law bequeathed it to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Today, the house (expanded by connecting it to adjacent buildings) is the headquarters for White House Historical Association. Fortunately, the historical association opens the house for tours, but only on Mondays. We have a thing for Federal Style architectural as well as naval history and have wanted to take the tour for many years, but our schedule and the house's never quite aligned until our most recent trip to Washington. We took the tour with a small group of about half-a-dozen people on a rainy Monday morning. The tour covers the first two floors of the house as well as the former slave loft in the addition added by John Gadsby - the top floor, which had been the bedrooms in the original house, is now office space. The interior is indeed very fine and "fit for entertaining." It is finished with appropriate furniture and artwork, and certainly is a beautiful example of the Federal Style. Our only complaint (and why we docked our review by a "star") is that the room with all of the Decatur artifacts - his presentation sword and other items presented to him for his exploits as well as his desk - is about the only room on the first two floors where visitors are not allowed to enter so all one can do is look at these historic artifacts from the doorway. We understand that, as these items are not in cases, they possibly don't want people to disturb them, but that is still a big detractor to a tour of the Decatur House! The tour takes around an hour and is free, and they do have a nice gift shop with various publications by the association as well as souvenirs, Christmas ornaments, etc.
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Date of experience: June 2019
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