Robert W. McGuire, Jr.

Woodley Mansion

Woodley is a Federal-style house in Georgetown Heights, a short distance north of Normanstone. In 1801 Woodley was built by Phillip Barton Key, uncle of Francis Scott Key—author of the “Star Spangled Banner”. It was home to many well-known residents after Key including President Martin Van Buren, Lorenzo Thomas, Robert J. Walker, Francis Newlands, President Grover Cleveland, Willaim “Billy” Phillips, Sallie Long Ellis, George Patton, Henry Stimson, and Adolf Berle. It presently is the site of the Maret School.


General Thomas bought Woodley in 1852, and the next year bought slave Lucy Berry to be his cook and laundress at the estate. She continued to live there with two young sons until they were freed in April 1862 by the District Emancipation Act.


In 1866 Robert Walker, who served as lobbyist   for the Czar of Russia in the sale of Alaska, purchased and enlarged Woodley.



Phillip Barton Key, who built Woodley, was born into a prominent family of Maryland planters. During the Revolution, he went to Philadelphia to join a regiment of Maryland Loyalists. After the war, he sailed for London where he gained friendships with a number of powerful British aristocrats. In 1786, he returned to the United States. He married the youthful Ann Plater whose father, George Plater III, was a close friend of George Washington, and very wealthy.


In 1806, he turned over his law practice to his nephew, Francis Scott Key, and won election as Congressman representing the Third Congressional District of Maryland, becoming the only former Loyalist to serve in Congress.


Key built Woodley , like Normanstone, high on a hill in Georgetown overlooking Rock Creek and the Potomac River. Much of the land was cleared of the valuable timber, leaving a breathtaking view of river traffic and the developing capital city beyond.


Contemporary newspaper articles stated that James Buchanan used Woodley  as his summer White House.