Thomas Peter and Martha Parke Custis, then 17, married at Hope Park on Twelfth Night, January 6, 1795, the same day and month in which Martha and George Washington had married. Martha Parke Custis brought into the marriage a Custis patrimony of sixty-one slaves as well as livestock. Some of these slaves were sold while others were sent to farms or remained at Tudor Place serving the family. One of them, Barbara Twine Cole, took care of the Peters’ children. Her mother was Sal Twine, who worked on George Washington’s Dogue Run Farm in Fairfax County. Barbara’s daughter, Hannah, worked at Tudor Place and was part of the dowry for the Peters’ daughter, Britannia, who would later sell her to Colonel John Carter. Hannah married one of Carter’s slaves, Alfred Pope, and was manumitted upon Carter’s death.
The newlyweds, following a stay with Robert and Elizabeth Peter at Peter’s Square in Georgetown, moved to a residence built about 1795 by Robert Peter (today 2018 K Street) and given to them upon their marriage. One of three brick town houses built by Robert Peter, it was among the first to conform to the streets of the new city. Martha’s sister Nelly and other family members visited, spending long periods of time with the Peters. George Washington often dined and stayed with Martha and Thomas while engaging in business related to the fledgling Federal City. On November 9, 1799, he spent his last night in the Peters’ home; he died the next month. “Morning and whole day clear, warm and pleasant,” he had written in his diary. “Set out a little after 8 oclock, viewed my building in the Fedl. City, dined at Mr. Law’s and lodged at Mr. Thos. Peter’s.”4
On May 22, 1802, Martha Washington died at Mount Vernon. She bequeathed to her granddaughter Martha Peter “my writing table and the seat to it standing in my chamber, also the print of Genl. Washington that hangs in the passage” and added, “It is my will and desire that all the wine in bottles in the vaults to be equally divied between my grand daughters and grandson to each of whom I bequeath ten guineas to buy a ring for each.” Martha Peter had been one of four witnesses to her will, and Thomas Peter was appointed one of the executors of her estate.5 As stipulated in the will, many items from Mount Vernon were sold, first in a private sale to family members and later in a sale open to friends and associates. An advertisement in the National Intelligencer on November 24, 1802, announced: “For cash at the stone hse, prop of Mr. Robt Peter, nr the county wharf, kitchen articles, 3 large paintings, remainder of furniture offered at Mt Vernon sale.”6
The City of Washington was hardly a city in the early 1800s, and Georgetown was a separate entity within the District of Columbia. It was where visitors and members of Congress were most likely to find amenable lodgings. During the administration of John Adams a French lady described Georgetown as “a town of houses without streets, as Washington is a town of streets without houses.” 7
Georgetown prospered and grew as the Federal City struggled to develop. An early twentieth-century historian compared the two: “A gay and fashionable society had grown up there [in Georgetown], trade had prospered, wealth had accumulated, and there had come an ease and culture to its inhabitants that attracted men of fashion and distinction. In this way Georgetown took the national capital under its wing and became the centre of social and diplomatic society.” 8
Up the hill from Georgetown’s waterfront large lots were sold from Colonel Ninian Beall’s Rock of Dumbarton tract to create handsome country seats overlooking the river. The grand houses had formally designed landscapes, orchards, kitchen gardens, smokehouses, and other outbuildings. One of the grand houses was built by Thomas and Martha Peter.
On June 5, 1805, Thomas Peter purchased 8 1/2 acres of the Rock of Dumbarton tract from Francis Lowndes, formerly of Bladensburg, Maryland, to establish his family’s seat. The Peters needed more space than their town house afforded as their family was growing, eventually to ten children, five of whom survived to adulthood. Already on the property were a brick house, brick stable, smaller dwelling, brick kitchen, smokehouse, and other outbuildings. The Peters called their estate Tudor Place.