- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2001

Yes, George Washington slept here. So did Abigail Adams, wife of the second president.

"Here" is Montpelier Mansion in Laurel, a 70-acre site that features a slice of early American history amidst an eye-pleasing array of boxwood and large trees. Montpelier Mansion dates back to 1770, when original owner Thomas Snowden bought 400 acres from his father.

The mansion was built during the 1780s and survives today as a National Historic Landmark. The mansion also has the only original 18th-century summer house in Maryland, according to Mary Jurkiewicz, Montpelier's facilities manager and historian.

"It's a beautiful house, and it's on beautiful property," Mrs. Jurkiewicz says.

The mansion is open every Sunday from noon to 4 p.m., with guided tours leaving at 1:15 and 2:15 until March, when they will leave every 15 minutes. Tours explore just about every room in the mansion. Mrs. Jurkiewicz says tours also can be arranged during the week if visitors call ahead and have a large enough group eight to 10 is preferable.

Montpelier Mansion hosts several regular activities for children, including Colonial Mornings at Montpelier on Saturdays in January and February. Afternoon teas are held year-round on Fridays at 3 p.m.

"I like to tell people the room they're having tea in is more than 200 years old," says Valerie Peacock, who runs the mansion's gift shop, called the Little Teapot, and oversees the teas and other social activities at the mansion. "It's fun to watch their faces when it sinks in."

Throughout the month of March, the mansion will hold a woodworking exhibit in which visitors will see bowls, vases and platters created by local artisans and watch them demonstrate their craft. All of it will be free.

"It will be a good opportunity for people to see a little bit of the mansion's history on display," Mrs. Jurkiewicz says.

Much of that history was based on tobacco and iron ore. The Snowden family earned most of its money from ironwork, which helped fuel the young country's expanding economy after the Revolution.

George Washington, in fact, ordered iron implements for his Mount Vernon estate from the Snowdens. He visited the mansion twice, on his way to and from the Constitutional Convention in 1787. His wife, Martha, stayed at the mansion in 1789 on her way to New York for her husband's presidential inauguration.

The mansion was sold by the Snowden family in the late 1800s, and in 1901, it was bought by Edmund H. Pendleton, an author. After another series of ownership transfers, Breckinridge Long, a diplomat under President Woodrow Wilson, bought the mansion in 1928 and added another industry to the mansion's history horse racing. Many of Mr. Long's thoroughbreds roamed Montpelier's pastures.

Mr. Long's daughter, Christine Willcox, wanted to preserve the property's history and arranged for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission to take it over in 1961. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.

Many pictures and drawings of the mansion and the changes it went through under its various owners are all on display at Montpelier. Some of the furniture was donated by the Snowden family and dates back to the 1830s. Of course, one particular piece of furniture always interests children who take the tour.

"They all want to know how people went to the bathroom," Mrs. Jur-kiewicz says with a chuckle. "We show them the chamber pots, and they all say the same thing 'yuck.' "


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