History for Sale: Cleveland Park's Rosedale Farmhouse

Said to be the oldest home still standing in Washington, this historic property is on the market for $5.3 million.

By: Kathleen Bridges

When you walk into a home that dates to 1730, you encounter some things you might expect to find in a 262-year-old property: uneven plank flooring, creaky baseboards, wooden beams. What you don't expect to find, however, is a space that feels modern, even luxurious--which is exactly what we discovered when we took a recent tour of the Rosedale Farmhouse.

If you live in or near Cleveland Park, you've probably wandered past the rough-hewn wooden fence that surrounds the Rosedale Conservancy, a neighborhood-funded, three-acre greenspace on Newark Street. You may not have realized, however, that the yellow farmhouse tucked away on the property is actually a private residence, and is thought to be the oldest home still standing in Washington. The 5,200-square-foot farmhouse hit the market two weeks ago, the first time it has been listed since undergoing a massive, historically accurate restoration.

"We call this section of the house the Stone Cottage," explains listing agent Marin Hagen as she ducks her head to fit through an 18th-century doorway. Hagen says this section of the house--two small rooms, one with a kettle hanging in the original brick fireplace--was built around 1730 as a small, three-room dwelling for a Maryland colonist. Back then, the area was country, a respite from the bustling, noisy port of Georgetown. More than two and a half centuries later, the cottage looks much like it did when it was built, thanks to a careful restoration by the current owners, who managed to preserve the original walls and ceiling.

Stepping back through the Stone Cottage's doorway, you enter a more recent addition to the house--if you can call 1794 "recent." This portion of the house was built for General Uriah Forrest--a Revolutionary War hero who served under George Washington--and his wife, Rebecca, who named their home Rosedale. They entertained many notable District denizens, including John Adams, Pierre L'Enfant, and Aaron Burr.

Rosedale remained in the Forrest family until 1917, after which the property changed hands several times; it did a stint as a dormitory for the National Cathedral School and as the headquarters of the nonprofit Youth For Understanding. Ten years ago, neighbors came together and raised money to create the Rosedale Conservancy. Today the front portion of the property is preserved as public greenspace, while the farmhouse is still a private residence.

"The current owners wanted to restore the house to its original floorplan, which is exactly what you see here," says Hagen, standing in a high-ceilinged, light-filled kitchen and breakfast area. It's remarkable how well that floorplan works today, thanks to an open kitchen, a large pantry, a cozy library, an office, and gracious entertaining spaces on the lower level.

The restoration, headed by architect Stephen Muse, kept as much of the original structure intact as possible. Hagen points out a foyer floorboard peppered with holes near the stairway. "Those holes are from a rudimentary pulley system the Forrests had installed to enable the General--an amputee--to get from the first floor to the second," she says.

Upstairs, you'll find a master suite with a sitting room and office, and two bedrooms, both with sitting rooms and full baths.

Out back, the owners added a 60-foot heated pool, a poolhouse, a hot tub, and a shared tennis court--all with stunning views of the National Cathedral. There's parking for multiple cars on a gravel parking pod, and the house maintains an easement that ensures right of use to the Newark Street entrance. The front of the property empties into the terraced greenspace maintained by the Conservancy.

For more information on the Rosedale Farmhouse, view the virtual tour, or contact listing agents Marin Hagen and Sylvia Bergstrom of Coldwell Banker. The house is listed for $5.3 million, and is shown by appointment only.