The Old Stone House, the oldest structure still on its original foundation in Washington, D.C., closes today to begin about one year of renovations.
The renovations will install a new fire suppression system, stabilize the building’s foundation, fix the exterior stonework and upgrade the plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems, according to the National Park Service.
Built in 1765 by a cabinetmaker as a shop and residence, the Old Stone House served as a shop and residence until 1953, when the federal government purchased the it to preserve it as a historical site following advocacy by Georgetown residents.
The NPS opened the M Street property to the public in 1960, having restored the interior of the building to its original splendor.
Georgetown historical groups support the continued preservation of the house. Peter Jost, president of the board of trustees of The Foundation for the Preservation of Historic Georgetown, said the Old Stone House is one of the most important historical sites in Georgetown.
“It’s a very important historical site. So, from our point of view, we are advocates of any kind of preservation,” he said.
Legends of the Old Stone House’s importance during the Revolutionary War saved the building from destruction before it became a recognized historical site. Rumors that George Washington stayed in the Old Stone House or used it as engineering headquarters inspired Georgetown residents to maintain original parts of the building to commemorate Georgetown’s role in founding the nation’s capital.
Washingtonians once believed that the Old Stone House was the site of Georgetown’s Fountain Inn, colloquially known as Suter’s Tavern, where Washington and urban designer Pierre L’Enfant stayed during one of their meetings to plan the layout of the District in 1791. However, historians now believe that the true Suter’s Tavern was located on the corner of 31st and K streets.
The Old Stone House actually served as a shop and residence for John Suter’s son, also John Suter, who sold clocks out of the building. The men’s shared name and familial relationship led to confusion about which structure housed Washington and led Georgetown residents to preserve the Old Stone House to memorialize the general’s supposed stay.
Even though the Old Stone House did not necessarily play a role in the founding of D.C., it is an example of pre-Revolutionary War architecture and a window into the lives of middle-class colonialists.
Jacob Schmidt, a spokesperson for the Citizens Association of Georgetown, wrote in an email to The Hoya that the CAG also commends the restoration of the Old Stone House.
“We applaud the NPS in undertaking work to preserve this artifact from the period of America’s struggle for Independence,” Schmidt wrote. “We look forward to the reopening of the Old Stone House upon completion of its restoration.”