In a city where memorials and plaques are dedicated to leaders and events, there stands in Georgetown a stone house that focused on the daily lives of people in colonial America.
The Old Stone House, dating back to 1765, is the oldest structure that remains in Washington, DC. The house withstands despite two centuries of commercial and residential development. The myth of the Old Stone House came about with the connection of John Suter. Suter operated the Fountain Inn when George Washington and Pierre L’Enfant visited to discuss plans to carve out the federal district. It was believed that the house was owned by John Suter and his family. But it is now believed that the Fountain Inn was located elsewhere in Georgetown.
Few records survive from the families who owned the Old Stone House. In 1764, Christopher and Rachel Layman of Pennsylvania along with their two sons began their new life in the house. They bought the property facing Bridge Street (now M Street, NW) for one pound and ten shillings. Construction of the one room house was simple yet functional. The stones protected the family from the harsh winters and the low ceilings conserved heat from the hearth fire. Outside of the house, herbs, vegetables and fruits were planted. Cows, hogs and hens produced the family’s milk, eggs, and meats. The land was often farmed by slaves.
The house was in possession of Mrs. Cassandra Chew, an upper-middle class widow. She owned six enslaved Africans. There were additions to the house. A second and third floor and rear kitchen were constructed in 1775. Her daughter Mary Smith Brumley inherited the house in 1807. According to records, in 1827, she owned 15 slaves. One of the slaves Tabitha purchased her freedom and her child’s freedom at $201. The African-American population—slave and free—made up one-third of Georgetown.
The Old Stone House in the twentieth century accommodated offices and Parkway Motor Company, a used car dealership. The English-style gardens were paved. Residents saw the home as a historical landmark. In 1953, the government purchased the property for $90,000. The home and grounds were transferred to the National Park Service and opened to the public in 1960.
The Old Stone House is located at 3051 M Street, NW. Foggy Bottom is the nearest metro stop. The house is open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is closed on federal holidays. For group tours call (202) 895-6070 Wednesday through Sunday to schedule a program two weeks in advance.
For information about the Old Stone House visit National Park Service at www.nps.gov