Normanstone was built circa 1830 for Robert Barnard (1786-1852), and was the residence, for a time, of Herman Hollerith (1860-1929), the inventor of census tabulation machinery, and the founder of IBM.
It made way for construction of the residence of the British ambassador, at 3100 Massachusetts Avenue, built in 1930, and for the embassy office building northwest of the residence, completed in 1960.
Gilbert White’s proposal for “Normanstone” circa 1830. (Library of Congress)
“Through Lover’s Lane we went to Normanstone, the home of the two Misses Barnard and their sister, Mrs. Talcott. It was a quaint little house, which stood just about where the British Embassy now is. The name is commemorated by Normanstone Drive. Mr. Robert Barnard built Normanstone in 1830. It was a Devonshire cottage of clay, straw, and pebbles, with walls four feet thick.” (Grace Dunlop Peter, Portrait of Old George Town)
Although its modern address would be 3100 Massachusetts Avenue, it was originally accessed from Georgetown via Parrott’s Lane (now known as Lovers Lane). (Priscilla W. McNeil, “Pretty Prospects: The History of a Land Grant”, Washington History, Fall/Winter 2002)
Robert Barnard (1786-1852), born in England, immigrated 1816-1820. In 1821 he married Sophia Cropley (1796-1872), born England; they had 12 children.
1830 Robert Barnard, secretary of the Potowmack Canal Company and Asst. Clerk of the C&O Canal Company. (Jonathan Elliot, Historical Sketches of the Ten Miles Square, 1830)
Barnard built Normanstone in 1830. There may have been an earlier house because Barnard’s son, Robert William Barnard, born in 1827, is stated to have been born, not in Georgetown, D.C., but in Washington County, D.C..
“For sale, Normanstone, the late residence of Robert Barnard, in Georgetown, 24 acres. Apply to R.S.T. Cissell, or J.J. Barnard, Bridge street, Georgetown.” (National Intelligencer, April 27, 1863)
Inherited by R.S.T. Cissel by 1881: 24 acres.
R.H. Goldsboro testified that he bought Normanstone for $ 60,000 and sold it for 125,000. (Star, August 5, 1891)
Kate R. Barnard (1823-1895), second child, and oldest daughter, lived at Normanstone until her death.
Theodosia (“Thedie”) L. Barnard Talcott Hambleton (1840-1925), youngest child, married Charles Talcott, a Virginia Engineer in 1858. He died of tuberculosis in Georgetown, 1867.
The widow worked at the Patent Office Building as a clerk from 1869 to 1899. After her husband Charles Talcott’s death in 1867, Theodosia continued to live at Normanstone with her mother and sisters until 1899, when she remarried and moved to Maryland.
Theodosia’s daughter by Talcott married Herman Hollerith, inventor of census tabulation machinery, at “Normanstone” in 1890. the couple lived there as a newlyweds, and again during a period of financial hardship in 1895 to 1896.
In 1886 Dr. R.S.T. Cissell of New York sold Normanstone to an investor from Philadelphia, who transferred it to a “syndicate of capitalists”––including Isaac N. Jackson and Richard H. Goldsborough––in Washington. (“A Busy Spring Expected”, Washington Post, February 6, 1887, p.8; “A Syndicate’s Big Purchase”, Washington Post, March 2, 1887, p.1)
The British Office of Works bought the embassy site from Harry Wardman, Thomas Bones and James Hobbs in 1925. The embassy, completed in 1930, was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, and is now the Ambassador’s residence.
The modernist office building north of the residence was completed in 1960, on lots bought by the British government between 1941 and 1953. (My thanks to Mark Bertram, author of Room for Diplomacy: Britain’s Diplomatic Buildings Overseas 1800–2000, Spire Books, 2011)
Judging from 19th century maps, and assuming that Robert Barnard’s house stood on the highest elevation available to him, it is likely that Normanstone stood a little north of the 1930 embassy that succeeded it.
(For additional information on the history of the Ambassador’s Residence and its gardens, see A History of the Gardens of the Ambassador’s Residence, British Embassy, Washington http://washingtonembassygardens.wordpress.com/)
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