“Martha and I bought the property not knowing exactly what we were going to do with it,” Steven said. “But when you have [a chance] to buy George Washington’s property, I said we’ll figure something out.”
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George Washington purchased a lot in Alexandria for 10 pounds 10 shillings on May 9, 1763, according to the website “New to Alexandria.” Washington designed and built the house for himself and Martha as a pied-à-terre for when they were in Alexandria. During the Revolutionary War and his presidency, he often rented it or lent it to friends and relatives. It was the first piece of property listed in his will and the only one he left outright to Martha, who later bequeathed it to a nephew. The house eventually fell into disrepair and was demolished around 1855.
When Washington built the house, the kitchen was a separate structure — as many kitchens were in those days. It is that kitchen that is believed to have been incorporated into the 1815 house that the Petersons bought.
Because of the regulatory obstacles to operating a bed-and-breakfast or an inn in Old Town Alexandria, the Petersons chose to make it an Airbnb property called the George. Reconfiguring the building for guests was a challenge.
“There was a bedroom and kitchen in every room,” Martha said. “We had to take it back to its original, actual house.”
Because few historical elements remained in the house, Martha and Steven went to Mount Vernon for inspiration.
“They let us tour the property for two hours,” Steven said. “We went through to pick out ideas of what we could add to the George.”
The fireplace mantel in the living room is a reproduction of one at Mount Vernon. The paint for the dining room was matched to a color at Mount Vernon. The dentil molding in the foyer is copied from the foyer at Mount Vernon.
The project was a family affair as their son Chase joined in the design decisions.
“It’s a blast to work with him on these properties,” Martha said. “It’s funny. You’d think I’d be the one with the old woman taste and he’d be [more modern]. It’s the complete opposite. He loves antiques. I like white. I like clean lines. We kind of meet in the middle.”
“There’s none of this ‘meet in the middle.’ He won,” Steven said.
“He does win,” Martha said. “My kids always win.”
The entry hall has to be one of the more dramatic in Old Town. The wallpaper on the walls is a pastoral scene featuring George Washington on his horse. The wallpaper on the ceiling is gold leaf.
Besides the ornate public rooms, there are eight bedrooms that the Petersons have named after the eight presidents who were born in Virginia: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor and Woodrow Wilson.
The Petersons were enjoying running the George, and then the pandemic hit.
“We had more fun with the people staying there,” Martha said. “Everybody has been fantastic. Our reason to sell just came about during covid. When we had to shut down, it kind of broke our hearts for the house. I hated that house just sitting there.”
Even though it has been an Airbnb, it doesn’t have to remain one. Because of its size, Steven said, it would make a great embassy or ambassador’s residence or a very nice home.
“It’s a great entertaining house,” Martha said. “Anybody can make of it what they want.”
The eight-bedroom, nine-bathroom, 5,132-square-foot house, with five parking spaces, is listed at just under $4 million.
Listing agent: Chase Whitley, TTR Sotheby’s International Realty