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Georgetown’s Decatur House Costs $7.9 Million

Georgetown’s Decatur House – not to be confused with the Decatur House on Lafayette Square, home to the White House Historical Association — is on the market for $7.9 million.

Some date the Federal-style house on N Street NW to 1779. The DC Historical Building Permits Database places it at 1813. The architect is unknown.

The first known owner was James Sewall Morsell, a U.S. Circuit Court judge in the District of Columbia. Before being appointed to the court in 1815, Morsell was a lawyer in private practice in Georgetown. He represented a number of enslaved families who petitioned the US Circuit Court for their freedom.

Distinguished Homes for Sale in the DC Area

Georgetown House | The Federal-style house is known as the Decatur House in Georgetown, not to be confused with the Decatur House on Lafayette Square. It’s on the market for $7.9 million. (HomeVisit)

The six-bedroom, seven-bathroom, 7,400-square-foot home takes its name from Susan Decatur. She was the widow of Commodore Stephen Decatur Jr. The Decaturs moved to Washington in 1816, purchased land near the White House, and built the first and last private residence on Lafayette Square. They only lived there for 14 months before Stephen was killed in a duel. After her death, Susan is said to have moved into this home in Georgetown.

Deering Davis, Stephen P. Dorsey and Ralph Cole Hall, who wrote the book “Georgetown Houses of the Federal Period 1780-1830”, are skeptical of the story.

“This house has always been associated with the name Decatur, although no authentic source for the legend is known,” they wrote. “It is said to have been erected in 1779 and it is known to have been the home of Judge Morsell at one time. According to legend, Mrs. Susan Wheeler Decatur came to live here after the Commodore died during his duel with Captain James Barron at Bladensburgh [sic] March 22, 1820.

Davis, Dorsey, and Hall were much more complimentary of the house’s architecture, writing that it is “well known for its beautiful doorway.”

In the past 90 years, the house has only been sold twice. In 1932, Franklin Mott Gunther and his wife, Louisa Bronson Hunnewell Gunther, became the owners. Franklin was the last U.S. minister to Romania before diplomatic relations broke down during World War II. He died in Bucharest of an illness in 1941, 10 days after Romania, allied with Germany, declared war on the United States. His diplomatic postings included Nicaragua, Portugal, Brazil, Norway, Holland, Italy, Egypt and Ecuador.

Because the Gunthers were often abroad, they frequently rented the house out to tenants. Stanley Woodward, deputy chief of protocol at the State Department, lived in the house in 1937. He was followed by John Wesley Hanes, who had left the Securities and Exchange Commission to become an undersecretary at the Treasury Department.

Rodman Wanamaker II, heir to the Wanamaker department store fortune, moved into the house in 1940, and Hanes. World War II fighter pilot J. Averell Clark lived there in 1943.

The Countess of Martino rented the house in 1945. Born Asta Berwind von Kleist, the Countess was the daughter of Baron and Baroness Frederick von Kleist. She came to the United States in 1941 and served as a volunteer paramedic with the American Field Service during World War II.

After her husband’s death, Louisa Gunther returned to live in the house. In 1963, she married Mihail Farcasanu, a Romanian exile and former editor of Viitorul, a Romanian periodical. After her death in 1974, Farcasanu remained in the house until 1987.

The next owners were Frederick H. Prince IV and his wife, Diana C. Prince. Frederick, who died in 2017, was co-trustee of the Frederick Henry Prince 1932 Trust, chairman of CMD Corp. and co-manager of FH Prince & Co. He was a member of the Orange County Hunt and founder of Prince’s Court in McLean, Virginia, which would be the first tennis court to be built in the United States in 74 years.

The entrance to the house is accessed by a small staircase leading from the brick sidewalk. The front door is framed by a fan and side windows. A library with a wood-burning fireplace sits to the right of the central hall. The ceilings on the ground floor are 12 and a half feet.

The 21ft by 34ft living room spans the back of the house. Four sets of French doors open onto a porch. There is a wood burning fireplace at each end of the room. The 17-by-29-foot dining room has a wood-burning fireplace and two triple-hung windows.

The kitchen is on the lower level. A family room, a wine cellar and a bedroom with adjoining bathroom are also found on this floor.

The owner’s suite is on the second floor. The bedroom has doors that open onto a balcony. The bedroom and the dressing room each have a fireplace. This floor also has two additional bedrooms and bathrooms. The upper level has two bedrooms and two bathrooms. An elevator serves three of the four floors, but not the upper level.

A brick path in the gardens leads to a large circular fountain. Off-street parking for two cars is half a block away.

2812 N St. NW, Washington, D.C.

  • Bedrooms/bathrooms: 6/7
  • Approximate area: 7,400
  • Lot size: 0.16 acres
  • Features: The Federal-style house is known as the Decatur House in Georgetown, not to be confused with the Decatur House on Lafayette Square. Some date the house to 1779, others to 1813. The house has only been sold twice in 90 years. It has a 21ft by 34ft living room that extends to the back of the house and a 17ft by 29ft dining area. An elevator serves three of the four levels of the house. Off-street parking for two cars is half a block away.
  • Listing agent: Jamie PevaBeautiful Washington Properties