Not Your Usual Schoolhouse

By: Garrett M. Graff

The most illustrious house in Washington after the White House and the Vice President’s home at Naval Observatory? Al Kilborne, a history teacher at DC’s Maret School, argues in a new book that it’s Woodley, the 1801 mansion that serves as the school’s headquarters.

Woodley was built by Philip Barton Key, a Tory loyalist who fought against colonists during the Revolution and then became one of the first land speculators in the new federal city—and was the uncle of Francis Scott Key. Woodley housed Martin Van Buren in the 1830s as the President considered it cooler than the White House in the hot DC summers. It later housed James Buchanan after his presidency and then Grover Cleveland.

Up until its purchase by Maret in 1950, the estate had been home at various times to senators and government officials such as Secretary of State Henry Stimson and General George Patton and played host to dinners that included Albert Einstein and FDR—as well as having, as one observer described it, the city’s best croquet lawn.

This article first appeared in the January 2009 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here.

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