Decatur House, to be built as “sturdy as a ship” according to Commodore Stephen Decatur, was designed by Henry Latrobe with simplicity and urbanity. Constructed and built in 1818, Decatur House was the first private residence in the White House neighborhood.
In 1956, after the home had been in the Beale family for 84 years, Marie Beale bequeathed the Decatur House to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In 2010, the White House Historical Association established the David M. Rubenstein National Center for White House History at Decatur House, a National Trust Historic Site owned by the National Trust and operated by the White House Historical Association.
Current President, Stewart McLaurin, and Board Members, hired Franck & Lohsen Architects to renovate the foyer and two parlors of the first floor which had been previously used for special exhibits and meetings. The intent of the renovation was to bring the spaces into a useful environment where a harmony between old and new could exist and be used for receptions and meetings in a space harkening to the original prestige of the home. Antique furnishings, artifacts from Decatur House and National Trust storage were selected. Modern reproductions of furniture and furnishings were obtained to be capable of withstanding human usage. Therefore, the spaces now represent the history of the home while being fit for usage.
The 1870s foyer floor was fully restored, plaster repairs and painting, carpets and carpeting installed, antique chandeliers, newly upholstered furniture, draperies, etc. were installed to showcase the period and artifacts to allow this prestigious home to, once again, be the center of important activities in the President’s Neighborhood.
Photography: Bruce White / © White House Historical Association