Evermay Beginnings

North Entrance The beginning of Evermay dates to June of 1792, when Samuel Davidson purchased 4½ acres of "Thistlebrae" from Thomas Beall of George, who was in need of money. This land, part of Beall’s “Rock of Dumbarton” land tract, had been in the Beall family for the nearly the entire 18th century. Paying £75, Davidson thus began the land transactions that would result, two years later, in the Evermay Estate.

Thus was recorded: Thistlebrae . . . Containing 4½ acres, being part of The Rock of Dumbarton given to me in Compliment by my particular friend, Thomas Beall of George.

Evermay Gardens At the corner of 28th and Q Streets was placed a large stone, indicating the beginning of the survey tract lines for Evermay. This is the beginning of the initial parcel identified as “Thistlebrae” and purchased in 1792 from Thomas Beall of George. The stone reads, Beginning of Evermay 1792. The original of this stone is now in the Ballroom at Evermay. The stone was given to Samuel Davidson by his friend “J. Shaw” who may have been the Annapolis craftsman and furniture maker, John Shaw.

Evermay ParlorBetween 1792 and 1794, Davidson operated a brickyard on the grounds of the future Lafayette Park. Bricks from this industry were sold for many of the new buildings of the City, including 4,000 bricks to Colin Williamson, Master Mason of the President’s House. Over 100,000 bricks were sold to Leonard Harbaugh who was building the new Federal Bridge, intended as the grand gateway from Georgetown across Rock Creek into the Federal City. More than 100,000 bricks were never sold, and we believe were stockpiled for use at Evermay when construction of the home began in 1801.

Evermay South Entry Hall By the end of 1801, Samuel Davidson recorded that he had spent $2,302.82 on his Evermay project. That includes the cost of the land and the legal fee for recording it, $665.67, not forgetting his only expenditures for Thistlebrae, $4.92 spent on a spade and manure; or the $21.15 score at John Trevor’s for the dozen dinners “and club” lost in his bet with Thomas Beall of George. It also includes such items as taxes, stockpiling lumber over half a dozen years, fencing, a 25¢ garden line, and court costs associated with prosecuting trespassers.

Evermay Threatened by Development

Hoping to take advantage of a new wave of city expansion, Francis H. Duehey bought Evermay in 1919 intending to demolish the house and build either a residential hotel or apartment building when the new bridge on Q Street was completed across Rock Creek. The Georgetown citizens, ever vigilant, strenuously opposed the new zoning and obtained a reversal, limiting building heights to 40-feet. Desperate, Duehey sold the estate to F. Lammot Belin in 1923.

The sale was so precipitous that Mott Belin hadn’t even consulted with Frances his wife, an avid tennis player, who preferred the cool of the Abingtons in her homeland of Pennsylvania to the sultry and humid climate of the Potomac River watershed. Thus to soften the surprise of the new purchase, the story is told that he called to tell her that he had “found a tennis court (already located on the property) for her to play on and a billiard room for Peter (their son)” - and then casually added that these new acquisitions happened to also include an estate home and gardens on 3+ acres of land in the heart of the Nation’s Capital!

Historic Preservation in Georgetown

Hon. F. Lammot Belin (1881-1961) International diplomat Ferdinand Lammot Belin, a native of Scranton, Pennsylvania, came to Washington in 1923, after serving in Peking and Paris. With Evermay he embarked upon an ambitious restoration and rehabilitation project between new assignments in Istanbul and London. In 1931 he and his wife, Frances, returned to Washington to complete the restoration of the house and creation of the magnificent gardens. During this period he served at the White House during the Presidency of Herbert Hoover as Chief of the International Conference and Protocol Division and then as Ambassador to Poland in 1933. “Mott” was a founding Trustee and Vice President of the National Gallery of Art, representing it as a founder of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Leading the renaissance of Georgetown, F. Lammot Belin removed Evermay’s Victorian elements in 1924 and restored the house to its Federal-style simplicity. The Belins and their neighbors, Robert and Mildred Bliss at Dumbarton Oaks, reclaimed the historic community and led the Colonial Revival movement locally, which was fueled by the restoration of Williamsburg in the late 1920s. A “sun porch” was added to the east wing ground floor, and the service wing expanded. The grounds were redesigned, and new terracing and walls added. The sensitive restoration is noted for its outstanding attention to detail. With the newly terraced gardens, the Evermay Estate and Gardens began its long association with Georgetown garden clubs continuing today.

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