Friday, April 18, 2014

Another Writer Field Trip: Georgetown

Sorry this blog is later in the day than usual, but at least I come bearing pictures!  I have been in the Washington, D.C., area for almost a week, visiting my wonderful critique partner and helping some old friends with a writing assignment.  Of course, along the way, I had to sneak in some history.

In my neck of the woods, finding anything that dates before the 1850s can be challenging.  Perhaps that’s why I enjoyed wandering around Georgetown.  Founded in 1751 and incorporated in 1789, Georgetown was joined to Washington, D.C., through a succession of Acts of Congress.  Many of the homes in the area date from the nineteenth century, and a few go back to pre-Revolutionary War time.  Here are some examples of early houses, or reproductions, we saw on our walk.

Which is your favorite?  I must admit to finding the tall, skinny houses utterly charming, but oh, those stairs!

One example of a Federal era house (roughly the same time as the Regency period in which I usually write), is Dumbarton House.  My delightful critique partner and I were fortunate to tour it with a very knowledgeable guide.  Built in 1799 and sold to the Nourse family in 1804, the property achieved some measure of fame when First Lady Dolley Madison, fleeing the British during the War of 1812, stopped to rest in the house.

Alas, no flash photography is allowed so as to protect the materials, and my digital camera is new enough that I wasn’t confident I could turn off the flash, so I have only an exterior shot.  But you can find more information on the house at its website.  

In touring the house and later Carlyle House in Alexandria, I discovered a couple things that require additional research (lovely, lovely research!).  One was that the entry halls were used to host dancing, something I have never heard mentioned in England.  Another was the use of painted sailcloth as a floor covering, again, not something I have ever encountered in a British house.  I will look into both and report more soon. 

Anyone out there visited Dumbarton House?  Or know more about entry hall dancing or painted sailcloth coverings?


J.Grace said...

I really like the third and fourth house you posted. The painted sailcloth sounds interesting.

I took a trip to Washington D.C. and spent most of the trip just driving around. The cold and rainy weather made it impossible to visit or see anything.

Regina Scott said...

Bummer, J. Grace! I traveled to DC many times over the years when I used to do more technical writing. The Smithsonians are amazing (although I would do the American History Museum COMPLETELY differently, starting with tripling it in size), and the architecture often has me craning my neck to see everything. Still, it's very nice to come home to my quiet little house!

J.Grace said...

It was really upsetting, I would have loved to tour the museums and monuments. Perhaps when my kids get a little older, I can plan another trip :)

QNPoohBear said...

Aww you visited my favorite city in the whole world and adopted home town. I never went to that part of Georgetown. I DO know about painted floorcloths. We have one in our dining room and were told it was a colonial idea turned modern design. If you want to make one for your own home, check this out

I found this history of floor clothes. There are further sources to look at

I also read something recently about black and white checkered floorcloths, but I can't find it. I think it was by this blogger

QNPoohBear said...

p.s The NMAH has been renovated twice in the last decade. It's huge and there's so much more to see than there ever was before. They removed some of my favorite exhibits though.

Regina Scott said...

Oh, thank you, thank you, QNPoohBear! I will definitely be checking out those resources! I actually saw one of those checkered floor cloths in one of the houses we visited.

As for the NMAH, it's still too small! I visited it on this trip too and was so very disappointed. Yes, the exhibits are innovative and tell wonderful stories (as my critique partner reminded me), but I want to see the whole panorama of America history, from before the Pilgrims to recent years, not brief disconnected snatches. Very likely that's just my passion for history speaking.

And I can't help thinking about "Night at the Museum" and wondering what treasures are hidden in those vaults below the floor. :-)

QNPoohBear said...

I saw some of those NMAH treasures from the archives during an archives conference. They opened the museum after hours just for us. It was great without lines and crowds of people. They're building more museums all the time so I can see why they chose snapshots of important things. I can't wait for the NM of African-American History. I know some of the people involved in that. I need to visit the NMAI next. The National Archives is amazing too. (Holy Grail dream job at any one of those places).

Regina Scott said...

Okay, I am officially jealous. :-)

I told my critique partner that I just wanted to go into the Library of Congress and smell the air. What I really wanted to do was walk in and find the tiny little corner where the Regina Scott novels were shelved. It was a very sad day when I discovered that you cannot actually see the books. I have visions of them now sitting in a box next to the Ark of the Covenant. :-)

QNPoohBear said...

Special collections libraries are all closed stack. The books are usually rare and/or old so they don't want people to ruin them or steal them. You can request books and they page them and bring them to you. The National Archives has an amazing exhibit space where you can actually see the documents that make America and a new exhibit space in the basement. I haven't been to the LoC to view anything on display but I did do some research there. Such is the life of a busty student!

Next time you're in New England, check out the Mashantucket Pequot Museum. It's an amazing look at the history of the tribe from the ice age to present day. Then you can go to the casino ... for research purposes of course!