I ran across an interesting tidbit this morning while reading a post called 10 facts about Martha Washington. It caught my notice that Martha's first husband, Daniel Parke Curtis, already owned his own plantation, White House, at the time of their marriage in 1750.
Although George Washington was our first President, the White House was not completed until 1780. Washington left office in 1797. He died in 1799, so he could not even have stayed overnight in the Lincoln bedroom. (That's a joke, btw.)
It struck me as ironic that our first President may never have lived at the White House, but his wife did, in a manner of speaking.
But, then again, maybe not. After all, Martha would most likely have inherited the plantation after her first husband's death. None of those pesky entitlement rules that so plagued the English aristocracy, at least according to all the Regency romances I've read over the years.
After further research, I found that Martha did indeed inherit her first husband's fortune. According to Mount Vernon, he died without a will, and she was executor of his estate. The post makes it sound as though George courted Martha at her plantation home, but doesn't mention any overnight stays.
|White House Plantation|
Source: Wikimedia Commons
It's possible I suppose. Honestly, I'm not sure about 18th-century mores and customs in this regard. I'm not suggesting that they shared a bedroom, but Williamsburg, where George lived was 35 miles away. And, although George was by all accounts a vigorous man, a horse can only do so much. I doubt he would have traveled there and back all in one day. So, logic tells me he had to stay somewhere.
Maybe there was a close-by village with a lodging inn. Or, maybe it wouldn't have been unseemly for him to have stayed at White House overnight. After all, it was a large home (although not that large if the drawing above is accurate), and it's not exactly like they would have had the house all to themselves. The more I read about the painstakingly proper George Washington, I can't imagine him sneaking down the hall to Martha's boudoir, anyway.
Another post (of somewhat questionable veracity) mentions that George and Martha were married at White House, but not they lived there after they were married. George already had partial ownership of Mount Vernon, but he wouldn't gain sole ownership until 1761, a couple of years after they were already married. All the accounts I've found so far says they lived at Mount Vernon, but they don't specifically mention when they moved in.
How the White House got its name
On a related note, I have to mention this little tidbit I found on Wikipedia, the wellspring of all knowledge and truth. (sarcasm alert!) I was digging for details on White House plantation, and the article ended with this:
1846 daguerrotype of the south
front of the White House
source: Wikimedia Commons
Although George Washington and his wife never lived in the presidential mansion now known as the White House in Washington, D.C., construction of the building started during his term in office, and it is speculated that the name may have derived from White House Plantation, where the couple had shared many pleasant memories.
Funny. I always thought it was because the place was white. Actually, the White House Historical Association seems to agree. "The President's House" wasn't actually whitewashed until 1798, long after the "many pleasant memories" would have been forgotten. (One might note that it's certainly not the last time DC saw whitewashing on such a massive scale.) Finally, the article notes that the name The White House was more of a nickname, as in "We live in the Pink House down the street. You can't miss it." (Analogy mine, not the historical society's.) The name The White House didn't become official until Teddy Roosevelt put it on the stationary in 1901.