Decatur House is one of the oldest surviving homes in Washington, DC and one of only three remaining houses in the country designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, the father of American architecture. Completed in 1818 for naval hero Stephen Decatur and his wife, Susan, its distinguished neo-classical architecture and prominent location across from the White House made Decatur House one of the Capitol's most desireable addresses and home of many of the nation's most prominent figures. Today, visitors hear the compelling stories of this unique site, from elite socializing to a fatal duel to a slave's campaign for freedom, and witness the interior restoration of this remarkable house. Throughout the year, the museum provides guided tours, school programs, changing exhibits, and a variety of special events. Scholars may use the research collections by appointment, which includes particular strengths in Federal architecture and decorative arts and on the Stephen Decatur and Edward Beale families.
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city was built from scratch, Washington's
regular town plan is easy to grasp. Centered
on Capitol Hill and its governmental
monoliths, the District is divided into four
quadrants - northeast, northwest, southeast
and southwest. Dozens of broad avenues , all
named after states, run diagonally across a
standard grid of streets , meeting up at
monumental traffic circles like Dupont
Circle. North-south streets are numbered,
east-west ones are lettered. There's no J
Street, an intentional slight to early
Supreme Court Justice John Jay, or X, Y or Z
Street. I Street is often written Eye
Street. Be sure to note the relevant
two-letter code in any address (NW, NE, SW,
SE), which shows its quadrant; 1600
Pennsylvania Ave NW is a long way from 1600
Pennsylvania Ave SE.
Once in the
city, stop at the
DC Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center ,
Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania
Ave NW (Mon-Sat 8am-6pm, Sun noon-5pm; tel
202/328-4748), which can help with maps,
tours, bookings and citywide information.
Look for visitor information desks at the
airports and Union Station.
The White House Visitor Information Center
, 1450 Pennsylvania Ave NW (daily
7.30am-4pm; tel 202/208-1631), supplies free
maps and handy guides to museums and
attractions; the most useful is the free
Washington DC Visitors Guide .