• November 2011

Five Historic Event Sites That Provide a Timeless Retreat

By Roxanne Rukowicz Ladd
Behind the Scenes Events

You may be surprised to know that many of our national treasurers are available to host special events.

From museums and unique spaces, to private homes and estates, Washington, DC, and its surrounding counties offer a vast array of possibilities to add a historic element to special affairs.

Historic venues add an element of antiquity and elegance to any party. These special finds are worth the work as well as the restrictions they come with. Your guests will appreciate the added level of attention you offered them and will look forward to your next function.

For an experience that is sure to take guests back to a by-gone era, below are five of the oldest landmarks available for rent in the Greater Washington region.

1. George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, 1674

Just 16 miles south of Washington, DC, George and Martha Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate offers historic ambience for special events. Home to America’s First Couple for more than 40 years, the buildings and their grounds have undergone extensive renovations over the last several years.

Rental of the East Lawn, highlighted in Walt Disney’s “National Treasure: Book of Secrets,” offers access to both the grounds and the historic areas, while boasting spectacular views across the Potomac River creating a perfect setting for a quintessentially Washington affair for up to 1,200 guests.

For those seeking something similarly authentic but a bit smaller, the George Washington Distillery and Gristmill (that still produces batches of Washington’s original whiskey recipe) is available for tented events with up to 250 guests.

Unfortunately, none of the venues in the historic Mount Vernon complex allow political or fund-raising events, or events of a personal nature (such as weddings). For those looking to add a Colonial feel to their nuptials, check out the Mount Vernon Inn, an intimate setting where staff dress in period costumes to add to the fun.

Click here for more information: www.mountvernon.org

2. Old Stone House, 1765

Blink and you’ll miss The Old Stone House on M Street in Georgetown. Built in 1765 as a one-room, one-story home, it is the last Pre-Revolutionary (Colonial) building standing in Washington, DC, on its original foundation.

Weddings are permitted in the garden area by contacting the permits officer of Rock Creek Park. The property, a 339-feet deep by 76-feet wide lot is host to a lush English-style garden. The space is also a wonderful respite from the busy Georgetown streets, open daily to the public for those who want to enjoy a quick lunch or leisurely coffee. Do note: guest parking is limited in this busy section of town.

Click here for more information: www.nps.gov

3. Dumbarton House, 1800

Few historic estates in Washington, DC, have seen the care and upkeep that Dumbarton House has, compliments of The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America, who purchased it 1928. Today, this Federalist-style home is a perfect location for weddings, receptions, teas, and intimate dinners.

This venue is an absolute treat. Use the entire estate and grounds, including the well-kept gardens and stone terraces for weddings, receptions, and corporate affairs. Décor needs are minimal, allowing guests to enjoy the understated elegance of a by-gone era.

Estates like this one, located in Upper Georgetown, do require a bit of extra care. Smaller, crowded city streets allow for minimal guest self-parking; the home’s proximity to other residences demands late-night noise restrictions; and, as usual in homes of this age, red wine and sauces may only be served at seated affairs.

Click here for more information: dumbartonhouse.org

4. Sewall-Belmont House and Museum, 1800

If you’re looking to host a private event on Capitol Hill, you’ll quickly discover the Sewall-Belmont House is on your short list. Built in 1800 by Robert Sewall, the building was sold to the National Women’s Party in 1922 and is the only historic home and garden available today for rent in the neighborhood.

The house is also a museum that houses many banners, documents, pieces of furniture, and other artifacts of the women’s suffrage and equal rights movement, as well as sculptures and portraits of women involved in the movements.

The venue enjoys close proximity to the Senate and House offices, the Supreme Court, and the Capitol, and it includes use of the interior terrace, exterior terrace, program rooms, and tent/garden areas for up to 200 guests standing or 150 seated.

Click here for more information: /www.sewallbelmont.org

5. The Octagon Museum, 1801

A short block from the White House stands The Octagon House. One of the first homes built in the nation’s capital, it is a landmark of America’s architectural and political history. Built between 1798 and 1800, The Octagon House was designed by Dr. William Thornton, the architect of the US Capitol.

Full of history, this treasure was used in 1814 by President James Madison and Mrs. (Dolley) Madison for a temporary “Executive Mansion” after the burning of the White House by the British. Madison, who used the circular room above the entrance as a study, signed the Treaty of Ghent there, which ended the War of 1812.

The Octagon House became the home of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1899. The house has undergone extensive renovation since 1996, culminating in efforts to restore it to its original period appearance. Select rentals of this unique venue are available by contacting the American Architectural Foundation directly.

Click here for more information: www.archfoundation.org/octagon

About Roxanne Rukowicz Ladd

Ranked one of the top meeting and event planners in Washington, DC, for 2009, 2010, and 2011 by the Washington Business Journal, Roxanne Rukowicz Ladd’s Behind the Scenes Events, opened its doors in July 2008. Her goal is to offer organizations and individuals access to affordable, full-service meeting and event-planning solutions.

Ladd has worked in the DC meeting and event industry for more than a decade, starting her career in 1999 at the Greater Washington Board of Trade.

Her extensive association and nonprofit planning skills are accented by experience working in the social and entertainment markets. Positions with the Walt Disney Companies and as a freelance wedding and special-event coordinator give her experience with A-list celebrity clients and top-ranking government officials.

For more information, visit Behind the Scenes Events.