Decatur House
Decatur House
4.5
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Monday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Tuesday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Wednesday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Thursday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Friday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
About
Right across from the White House, this is one of the oldest surviving homes in Washington DC and was designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe.
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The area
Address
Neighbourhood: Upper Northwest
How to get there
  • Farragut West • 2 min walk
  • Farragut North • 4 min walk
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Most Recent: Reviews ordered by most recent publish date in descending order.

Detailed Reviews: Reviews ordered by recency and descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as waiting time, length of visit, general tips, and location information.

Popular mentions

4.5
4.5 of 5 bubbles41 reviews
Excellent
22
Very good
12
Average
6
Poor
1
Terrible
0

Jason B
1 contribution
2.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2023 • Friends
Disappointing experience. It is a neat property designed by the great Benjamin Latrobe and has a lot of rich history. Unfortunately, the guides from the White House Historical Association don't share that history very well.

Hardly anything was discussed relating to the great naval commodore Stephen Decatur for whom the home was built for. A naval hero of the War of 1812.. the man who during the 1st Barbary War snuck aboard a captured US frigate and set her on fire to prevent the Barbary pirates from using her. Certainly many tales to be told about this American legend.

Instead.. you get a quick walkthrough of the main structure which, while architecturally exquisite, feels empty. A lot of space could be better utilized.

The majority of the tour is spent in the slave chambers.
While something worth hearing about, I wish I did not spend money to go to a house rich with so much history to spend the majority of the time hearing speculation about the slaves that worked there.

Yawn.
Written 30 December 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

kammy horne
1 contribution
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2022 • Business
Wow! Here for business and this unexpected tour was one of the best tour experiences of my life! Brenda was thoughtful, knowledgeable, funny, kind, interesting…awesome! She kept up the energy and excitement of the house and the stories from history. Bravo Brenda!
Written 28 March 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

J D
Sterling, VA173 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2020
This less-familiar historical site is across from Lafayette Square in D.C. and close to a church, both of which are famous for well-known leaders of our country. Blair House is visible from one of its windows and it is quite near the White House. The Decaturs lived in this house for a little over a year before Decatur, a naval hero, was killed in a duel. Thereafter, it was leased to many other families and finally turned over to the White House Historical Society more recently. It is located on a corner and pedestrians could walk right by it and not realize that it's a good place to visit. Parking is difficult to find. The Smithsonian metro stop is the closest transportation, I believe. Visitors must purchase a timed ticket and are led around the house and the attached slave and staff quarters by a docent. There is a very good gift store also on site, as well as original brickwork and beams, flooring, photos of past residents, beautiful Asian art, and lovely objects and furniture to appreciate. Restrooms are also included inside the building and snacks can be purchased nearby and eaten in Lafayette Square. It is a good place to visit and it's a walk back in history for a few hours.
Written 4 March 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Maggi713
Baltimore, MD12,096 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Dec 2019
We look forward every year to be invited to the Members’ Holiday Party held at the Decatur House for the White House Historical Association. We drove over from Baltimore, which took us an hour and a half each way. When we arrived we were disappointed to see that the Decatur House had minimal decorations. What was more disturbing was the fact that in the upstairs rooms where the party was held, they were only 9 chairs for a group of 120. We decided to leave even before the talks because we could not stand up any longer. I really hope that they will do something in the future to have seating for their guests.
Written 30 December 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Turner S
1,471 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2019
The Decatur House was home to Stephen Decatur. He was an early American naval hero. He very likely would have become president had he not died in a duel. He was one of the most famous Americans in his day and yet we hear little about him now. The house was designed by America’s first professional architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe. It is one of only three residences designed by Latrobe that still exist in America. Their is a lot of great history around this house. Unfortunately the tours are only on Mondays at 1100, 1230, and 2pm. The tour is only an hour. If you can make the tour, at least take a moment to appreciate it while walking though Lafayette Square. You can also buy White House Christmas ornaments in the gift shop.
Written 19 August 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

749melaniel
Washington, DC13 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2019 • Family
Decatur House is located on the northeast side of Lafayette Square near the White House. It was the site of many high end parties, gatherings, celebrations, and receptions in the inner circles of DC social life. But when Commodore Decatur died in a duel, his wife could not maintain the lavish lifestyle she knew. She rented it out to visiting dignitaries and it houses today the White House Historical Association and it’s fine gift shop. Check out books about the artworks found in the White House, fine porcelain, and toy stuffed animals representing White House pets. Get the White House Christmas ornament.
Written 6 August 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

interceptpubs
Columbus, IN1,026 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2019 • Solo
Stephen Decatur, the Decatur for whom this house is named, was perhaps the first post-Revolutionary War American hero. Named after his father, a commodore who commanded warships during the Revolutionary War, Decatur himself joined the Navy at 19 as a midshipman. He served with distinction during the Quasi-War with France, being elevated to the rank of lieutenant. When the hostilities with France ended, the Navy was greatly reduced in size, but the young Decatur had so impressed his superiors that he was one of the few officers retained on active duty.

However, Decatur soon rose from just being an excellent naval officer on the rise to being a national hero. During the First Barbary War, USS Philadelphia ran aground while chasing down a enemy ship and was captured. The thought of a powerful warship in the hands of pirates wasn't acceptable, so Decatur came up with the bold idea of covertly entering the port where Philadelphia was being held to board and set the ship afire, robbing the pirates of their prize. Decatur and his volunteer crew successfully executed his daring plan, destroying Philadelphia and escaping back to safety. No less than the Royal Navy's own hero Lord Nelson praised the Americans for "the most bold and daring act of the age." Decatur was soon promoted to captain - at 25, the youngest man in Navy history to reach that rank.

He added to his fame during the War of 1812 by capturing the Royal Navy's HMS Macedonian and further still during the Second Barbary War by capturing the flagship of the Algerian fleet and parlaying that to set the terms for the ultimate resolution of the conflict, earning him the title in some circles of "conqueror of the Barbary pirates."

Now back in Washington, Decatur was elevated to the rank of commodore and given a senior position within the Navy. With this new position in the city, Decatur decided to build a fitting home, choosing a piece of land near the White House and picking Benjamin Henry Latrobe, designer of the U.S. Capitol, to come up with a house "fit for entertaining." The resulting three story brick structure was the first private residence in the White House neighborhood. Decatur and his wife moved into the new house in 1819, but their enjoyment was cut short as Decatur was killed in a duel in 1820.

Unable to secure a pension (the government finally relented in 1837 paying her retroactively from his death), Decatur's wife was forced to rent out the house. For many years, it was the unofficial residence of the Secretary of State, among these being such notables as Martin Van Buren and Henry Clay.

In 1836, the house was purchased by John Gadsby, a wealthy hotel and tavern owner, who added a two story structure at the house's rear for his slaves - thus, providing lasting proof that slaves once lived in sight of the White House. Following Gadsby's death, the house again became a rental property for a number of years, mainly for congressmen and senators. During the Civil War, it is was used for office space for the Union Army after which it sat empty for several years.

In 1872, the house got its third and final private owners, the Edward Fitzgerald Beale family. Beale was a well known figure in the 19th century - naval officer, general, explorer, rancher, diplomat, etc. with friends like Kit Carson, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Ulysses S. Grant. He died in 1893, but his son's family continued to live in the house until 1956 when his daughter-in-law bequeathed it to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Today, the house (expanded by connecting it to adjacent buildings) is the headquarters for White House Historical Association.

Fortunately, the historical association opens the house for tours, but only on Mondays. We have a thing for Federal Style architectural as well as naval history and have wanted to take the tour for many years, but our schedule and the house's never quite aligned until our most recent trip to Washington. We took the tour with a small group of about half-a-dozen people on a rainy Monday morning. The tour covers the first two floors of the house as well as the former slave loft in the addition added by John Gadsby - the top floor, which had been the bedrooms in the original house, is now office space.

The interior is indeed very fine and "fit for entertaining." It is finished with appropriate furniture and artwork, and certainly is a beautiful example of the Federal Style. Our only complaint (and why we docked our review by a "star") is that the room with all of the Decatur artifacts - his presentation sword and other items presented to him for his exploits as well as his desk - is about the only room on the first two floors where visitors are not allowed to enter so all one can do is look at these historic artifacts from the doorway. We understand that, as these items are not in cases, they possibly don't want people to disturb them, but that is still a big detractor to a tour of the Decatur House!

The tour takes around an hour and is free, and they do have a nice gift shop with various publications by the association as well as souvenirs, Christmas ornaments, etc.
Written 18 June 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

FPAdventurer
Miami, FL369 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Apr 2019 • Business
If you have seen all the monuments, museums and capital hill then it is a nice historic house to visit. It is the closest house to the White House and was built in 1818.
Written 8 May 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Peter H
Fredericksburg, VA985 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Apr 2019 • Solo
Make sure if you want to go to this museum, you go on a Monday. Unknowingly, it’s only open on Monday. There is a nice gift shop. It has a nice display of Presidential Christmas ornaments for sale. The most recent ornament is Eisenhower.
Written 10 April 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Maggi713
Baltimore, MD12,096 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Dec 2018 • Couples
We were invited to a Member Holiday Party for the White House Historical Association to be held in the historic Decatur House. What a beautiful setting for a holiday party! The house was decorated to the hilt. We were treated to light refreshments and holiday songs being played by a pianist.

Decatur House sits right on Jackson Place on Lafayette Square – down the street from The White House. It is named after its first owner and occupant, Stephen Decatur. The house was designed by the father of American architecture, Benjamin Henry Latrobe and was completed in 1818 making it one of the oldest surviving homes in DC.

Today, the home is the David M. Rubenstein National Center for White House History. It houses historical documentation, supports research efforts, and provides education programs related to the study and history of the White House. The first floor showcases the living room and dining room.

As an added bonus to the evening, we were given a tour of the slave quarters by Stephanie, who was a wealth of information on the history of the home. The Decatur’s did not own slaves, the slaves belonged to John Gadsby, the second owner of Decatur House. We were shown the second floor. On the first floor wing, you can see where the slaves lived and worked. It runs along the H street side and now serves as the exhibit gallery and gift shop.
Written 22 December 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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