George Washington Townhouse (508 Cameron St.)

posted Mar 3, 2014, 4:34 PM by Laura Jepsen

When Alexandria was founded in 1749, the town ran west only as far as Royal Street.  However, the town was doing so well by 1763 that several more blocks were added. 

On May 9, 1763, George Washington purchased a quarter-block lot (Lot 118), for ten pounds, ten shillings.  George designed and built the house on this site in 1769 for himself and Martha, as they need to visit Alexandria frequently (for political reasons, to visit friends, to attend services at Christ Church, among other things) and the ten mile journey from Mount Vernon was considerable and took nearly half the day by horse.

From 1769 to 1771, a modest one and half story dwelling, a stable, and other necessary buildings were constructed as a sort of pied-à-terre to Mount Vernon.  The town house was the only house built by Washington for his own use.  Prior to the Revolutionary War, he used it often when he was in Alexandria.  During the war and his Presidency, the place was often rented or lent to friends and members of the family.  Dr. William Brown rented the house for about ten years; Martha Washington’s favorite niece, Fanny Bassett Washington, lived here with her two boys for a little over a year in 1794-95; and Colonel Philip Marsteller, one of Washington’s pall bearers, lived here in 1797. 

It is the first piece of property listed in Washington’s will, and it was the only piece of property that he left outright to his wife Martha when he died.  At her death, Mrs. Washington left the property to her nephew, Bartholomew Dandridge.  Unfortunately, the dwelling fell into disrepair and the derelict dwelling was demolished in 1855 and replaced with a garden. The original half-acre purchase, bounded by the corner of Pitt and Cameron Streets, is now divided into seven lots.  Some believe that George Washington’s town house kitchen building is incorporated into the rear of the 1817 house at 506 Cameron Street. 


In 1960, Gov. and Mrs. Richard Lowe (he was governor of Guam) had the house reconstructed (Alexandria’s only architectural replica of a historic building) based on existing accounts and rebuilt on the original foundation using bricks and stones excavated from the site. No original plans are known to exist for the interior, but the reconstruction of the exterior of the house was based on a rough drawing of a neighbor Mary Jane Stewart.  The home has changed hands a few times since the Lowe’s, but remains at private home. It is claimed that Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac at one time rented the house.

Today, the townhouse owners have fun and display their sense of humor by dressing up a plaster bust of George Washington in the first floor window for special holidays, events, and political commentary. I try to share these comical modern GW outfits with you in the "By George" posts.


Works Cited
Bailey, Worth. "A Documentary Study of George Washington's Town House." Historic American Buildings Survey - National Park Service (1961): n. pag. Web. 3 Mar. 2014. <http://lcweb2.loc.gov/pnp/habshaer/va/va0200/va0235/data/va0235data.pdf>.
"George Washington." Tour Alexandria VA. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2014.
"George Washington's Town House. 508 Cameron Street - History." George Washington's Town House. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2014.
Uhler, Alfred G. "Washington's Town House or Office." Washington's Town House or Office. Library of Congress Images, n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2014.
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