Washington, D.C. is home to an array of historic house museums that showcase the life and contributions of some of the nation's most iconic figures. Visitors can step inside the property that was once home to notable leaders like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and Clara Barton. These museums are special places to visit and generally less crowded than the larger attractions on the National Mall. When you visit the nation's capital, tour a variety of historic estates and learn about the early Americans who shaped our democracy.
The 500-acre estate of George Washington and his family includes a 14-room mansion that is beautifully restored and furnished with original objects dating back to the 1740's. Visitors can tour the mansion as well as the outbuildings, including the kitchen, slave quarters, smokehouse, coach house, and stables. The historic site is located along the shores of the Potomac River and is the most scenic tourist attraction in the Washington, DC area. The estate includes the Ford Orientation Center & Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center, which tells the story of Washington's life through state-of-the-art exhibits. Additional amenities on the property include a food court, gift shop and bookstore and the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant.
Abraham Lincoln lived in the Cottage at the Soldiers' Home from June-November of 1862, 1863 and 1864. He was living here when he drafted the preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation and deliberated critical issues of the Civil War. Lincoln used the cottage as a quiet retreat from the White House and crafted important speeches, letters, and policies from this site. The cottage was restored and opened to the public in 2008. Visitors get to see an intimate view of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency and family life. A free one-hour guided tour of the cottage is offered daily. The visitor center features exhibits and displays Lincoln-related artifacts.
Frederick Douglass, the famous abolitionist, and advisor to Lincoln, bought this house that he called "Cedar Hill" in SE Washington, D.C. in 1877. The year that it was built is unknown. The National Historic Site was restored and reopened in 2007. The home and the grounds area open to the public. Reservations are required. Each February, the museum hosts a birthday celebration for Douglass featuring an array of programs and activities dedicated to increasing the public’s knowledge of his life.
Located in the heart of Georgetown, the oldest known private home in Washington, D.C. was built in 1765 and today is preserved to demonstrate everyday life for the average citizen during the 19th century. The historic house is maintained by the National Park Service and is open to the public. With its location at 30th and M Streets, it is easy to stop for a visit while shopping or sightseeing in this popular part of the city.
The historic house in Georgetown was originally the home to Joseph Nourse, first Register of the U.S. Treasury. Today it is owned by The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America and serves as a museum displaying an outstanding collection of Federal period (1790-1830) furniture, paintings, textiles, silver, and ceramics. The museum hosts a year-round calendar of public events, lectures, concerts, balls, exhibitions, family activities, summer camps, and rental events. Guided tours are available by appointment.
The federal era mansion was built by Martha Washington's granddaughter, Martha Parke Custis Peter and was the home to six generations of the Peter family. The 5-acre estate is one of Washington, D.C.'s hidden gems located in Georgetown's Historic District. The Tudor Place collection includes more than 8000 objects from the period 1750-1983, including silver, ceramics, jewelry, paintings, drawings, sculpture, photographs, manuscripts, and furniture. The early 19th-century style garden features a Bowling Green, Tennis Lawn, Flower Knot, Boxwood Ellipse, Japanese Tea House and Tulip Poplar. The historic home is open to the public and offers house tours, garden tours, and special events.
Clara Barton National Historic Site
Located adjacent to Glen Echo Park, the Clara Barton National Historic Site commemorates the life of Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross. The historic home served as the headquarters and warehouse for the American Red Cross where she coordinated relief efforts for victims of natural disasters and war from 1897-1904. The house is shown by guided tour only.
Hillwood Museum & Gardens
The former estate of art collector and philanthropist Marjorie Merriweather Post, the heir to the Post cereal fortune is located near Rock Creek Park in NW Washington, D.C. The historic property showcases an impressive collection of 18th- and 19th-century Russian imperial art. Post was a passionate art collector who assembled a superb collection of Russian art including paintings, furniture, Fabergé eggs, jewelry, glass, and textiles. The 25 acres of gardens include a circular rose garden; a formal French parterre, a large crescent-shaped lunar lawn; a traditional Japanese-style garden and waterfall and a greenhouse for orchids. Hillwood offers a variety of programs throughout the year including lectures, garden walks, workshops, and musical and theatrical performances.
Washington's only presidential museum was the final home of our 28th President. Furnished as it was in Wilson's time, the 1915 Georgian Revival home near Dupont Circle is a living textbook of modern American life in the 1920s. Wilson led the nation through World War I, won the Nobel Peace Prize and created the League of Nations. The Woodrow Wilson House is situated in the Kalorama – Embassy Row area that has long featured stately mansions and townhomes. The property includes many remarkable features, including a marble entryway and grand staircase, Palladian window, book-lined study, dumb waiter and butler’s pantry, and solarium overlooking the formal garden.
Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA. The home of Robert E. Lee and his family before the Civil War sits atop a hill, providing one of the best views of Washington, D.C. Built by George Washington Parke Custis and his slaves between 1802 and 1818, the house and grounds have served many purposes over the last 200 years: a family home for the Lees and Custises, a plantation estate and home to 63 slaves, a monument honoring George Washington, a military headquarters for Union troops, a community for emancipated slaves and a national cemetery. The story of Arlington House connects to many important figures, issues, and events in American history. About 200 acres of the land that occupies Arlington National Cemetery was originally the property of the Lee family.