Hidden in Plain Sight: Visit Prospect House, Sept. 21

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If you are going to the Trees for Georgetown reception Sept. 21, you’ll be able to visit a richly historic and famed Georgetown mansion not so well-known or visited anymore. The Citizens Association of Georgetown fundraiser will show off Prospect House at 3508 Prospect St. NW.

Built in 1788 by Revolutionary War hero James Lingan and designed by William Thornton, architect of the U.S. Capitol, Prospect House boasted grounds that extended all the way to Bridge Street (present-day M Street). Famous visitors to the house include John Adams and the Marquis de Lafayette.

More recently, it was owned by Josephine Ogden Forrestal, wife of James E. Forrestal, the first secretary of defense. After his suicide in 1949, Mrs. Forrestal leased the house to the U.S. government as a guest house for foreign dignitaries. In 1951, she sold Prospect House to Rep. Thurmond Chatham (D-North Carolina). Chatham and his wife Patricia Firestone Chatham restored and remodeled the house and grounds.

Prospect House is considered a mix of Georgian and Victorian architecture — a top floor was added in the 19th century and, in the 20th century, a service entrance and garage as well as a large bay window on the east. The property contains gardens, a veranda, a gazebo — and a pool. The interior’s U-shaped stairway runs from first to third floors and
is notable.

The house was rented by the movie production team working on the 1998 film, “Deep Impact.” The Georgetowner provided copies of its newspaper to be used as props in the sitting room of Prospect House. Last year, Wagner Roofing replaced the roof, and masonry repair was done. Its present owners are from the Middle East.

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