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Antiques Considered - January 12, 2011

This past Saturday we made a family trip to the Washington Winter Show at the Katzen Center at American University.  It is the pre-eminent annual antiques show in the mid-Atlantic region, and this year’s offerings were especially fine.  Forty-four eminent dealers from across the country came with their finest wares, all arranged in spectacular booths on three floors of the center.
Each year the show features an exhibit of scholarly proportions at the entrance to the dealers’ displays.  The theme this year was entitled, “Georgetown: Over 200 Years of Style,” which featured the collection of the Peter Family at their mansion Tudor Place, one of the greatest neo-classical buildings to survive from the founding of the Nation’s Capital.

The architect for the house, which was built in 1816, was Dr. William Thornton, who imbued it with the prevailing taste of the Early Republic’s inspiration from the ancient world, particularly that of Rome.  Six generations of the Peter family have lived in the house, and four have owned it.   In 1983 the last owner gave the home and 5-and-a-half acres in the heart of Georgetown along with its contents to a foundation that he established to preserve and maintain the history of the place.
We were fortunate to arrive while Ms. Leslie Buhler, the Executive Director of the foundation was present, and she personally took us through the exhibit, explaining the significance of each item brought from the collection to the show.  The first owners were Thomas Peter and his wife, Martha Parke Custis Peter, the granddaughter and namesake of Martha Washington.  The items displayed from her tenure included a Chippendale chair and a splendid cross section of the family silver collection.
The next owner was Britannia Peter Kennon, who lived from 1815 to 1911, and who left her own mark on the family collections.  She was followed by Armistead Peter, Jr., and Anna Wright Williams, and finally by Armistead Peter, III, and Caroline Ogden-Jones Peter, the last private owners.  One of the last items on display was a magnificent shotgun made by Parker Bros. in Meriden CT in 1919 in its original Abercrombie and Fitch box.
The exhibit was a microcosm of the Peters’ vast collection found in Tudor Place, itself a microcosm of the history of the Federal City.  I have not visited the home for many years, but seeing the selected items on exhibit has whetted my appetite to return to this private museum, which is any antiques collector’s dream of perfection.
Next week we will take a look at some of the dealers and the choice pieces from their collections that they offered for sale at the show.
Lisa and Henry Hull operate Commonwealth Antiques and Appraisals, Inc. at 5150 Jessie DuPont Hwy. 22570. (P.O. 35). Wicomico Church, VA 22570. Write to them or e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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