History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

02 October 2008

Bladensburg, bloody Bladensburg

By way of introduction, since this is my first post as an official member of the Hoydens, I thought I'd blog about my neighborhood. Not actually where I live, to be honest (we consider ourselves more upscale), but close by. Besides, my town isn't that old, although we do have a historical marker for a spring that invading British troops used in 1814.

The troops were on their way to the inglorious Battle of Bladensburg, the decisive event of the War of 1812, which ended up with the British marching into Washington and burning the White House and much of Georgetown. My mother, visiting me a couple of decades ago, commented that Georgetown, the extremely upscale, expensive, and historical part of Washington, DC, was "quite nice, but in England we would have knocked it down." We tried, believe me, we tried in 1814.

And in this roundabout way I want to talk about Bladensburg, in Prince George's County, Maryland, a sprawling mixed area, part residential, part industrial and retail, that hides a lot of history. In the colonial and federal eras it held a significant position on the (only) road northward and was also a bustling port town on the Anacostia River.

The Indian Queen tavern, now know as the George Washington House, and home of the Anacostia Watershed Society, still survives. The Society works to clean up the river and its watershed, diligently campaigning, educating, clearing invasive plants, and planting trees. It's hard to believe that this sluggish, shallow river was once used by great ships.

Just outside the tavern is the site of the US's first tethered hot air balloon ascension on June 17, 1784, the invention of Peter Carnes, an enterprising local lawyer and innkeeper. Although he originally intended to have a passenger aboard, a gust of wind damaged the basket, and it wasn't until a week later in Baltimore, with the basket repaired, that Carnes sent a 13-year-old boy aloft.

So where does the "bloody" come in? In the federal era, the town was was known as "bloody Bladensburg," since it was, at two hours' drive outside the city, a popular location for duels. It was the site of the famous duel between Stephen Decatur and James Barron in 1820, which proved mortal for Decatur.

Near Bladensburg is historic Riversdale House Museum, which I've blogged about elsewhere--there was a Ladies Regency Weekend last year where I spent a lot of time washing dishes while wearing my gorgeous silk gown (yes, I wore an apron. Yes, I removed my gloves). Rosalie Stier Calvert, the mistress of Riversdale and the original occupant of the house, took advantage of her proximity to the port to send letters home to her family in Belgium and receive Paris fashions, fancy marble fireplaces, and bulbs for her beloved garden.

For those of you who live nearby, there's a Regency Ladies Day in the Country on November 15--more information here.

Do you live near a place rich in history? Tell us about your neighborhood.

And I can't stop myself. It's pink (very pink) and it's out today in the UK, Australia etc.--the Little Black Dress edition of The Rules of Gentility. See more about it at my Risky Regency post today.

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Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Welcome, Janet. The cover is lovely but I still have a fondness for your Avon cover.

9:32 AM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

Welcome Janet, and congratulations on the British Rules. I agree with Elizabeth about both covers, but my question is whether the British edition contains the lists of Ten Things a Regency Heroine (and Hero) Would Never Say.

While as for historical neighborhoods -- it's more recent in San Francisco, but I'm proud that the Mission District, where I live, has been home to immigrants for more than a century. Mostly from Central America now, but I'm told that in the early 1900s it was largely Irish, and that there used to be something called a Mission accent, which was a lot like a Brooklyn accent because that's where the Irish residents of the Mission had lived before coming west.

11:06 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

I forgot to mention that I live in Hamilton Heights in New York named after Alexander Hamilton whose country house was just moved to St. Nicholas Park. The Morris-Jumel mansion is a short train ride away, and City College is also part of my historic neighborhood.

11:09 AM  
Blogger Janet Mullany said...

Hi Elizabeth and Pam--sadly, no the UK edition does not contain the Ten Things. Avon A, the line that published Rules here, had a special feature that allowed for explanations, extra material, reading group guides, and all that high-falutin' stuff. So I'm going to post the Ten Things on my website. Soon.

11:39 AM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

Welcome, Janet!

My "neighborhood" and home town is New York City, so I could go on forever about its historical significance. But points of interest where I find myself on occasion are (small sample here) the Sheep Meadow in Central Park (the park itself is historical) where, yes, sheep used to graze, the historic Players club on Gramercy Park South which was founded by Edwin Booth, 19th c. America's greatest Shakespearean actor and brother of John Wilkes Booth (who assassinated Lincoln); and a few yards from The Players is a synagogue that was a stop on the Underground Railroad.

11:40 AM  
Blogger Mary Blayney said...

Welcome -- neighbor! I live down the road from you (a road now called so elegantly Pennsylvania Avenue Extended or Rte 4).

One of our marks in the history book is related to yours -- The Battle of St Leonard Creek -- part of the same group of skirmishes that led to the burning of the Capitol. it is reenacted every year, this year complete with tall ships.

I've always meant to write about it....

2:15 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Welcome, Janet! I like the U.K. cover, but I think I agree with Elizabeth and Pam about the Avon cover, which is just beautiful (and so evocative). I too love the Avon A+ extras--like dvd extras for a novel.

My tiny town in the San Francisco Bay Area actually used to be a bit more bustling in the nineteenth century. There was a hotel and racetrack where there is now a Little League Field, restaurant, and post office. The original one room school house is now a private home, replaced for a slightly larger school that I attended through 8th grade. Going back before the 19th century, there would have been Native Americans hero for hundreds of years.

10:43 PM  
Blogger Diane Whiteside said...

Congratulations, Janet, on the British Rules!

My former neighborhood in Centreville, Virginia is the highest point of land between the Blue Ridge and Capitol Hill. Today it's pleasant suburbs but during the Civil War, it was a heavily fortified and ultimately desolate landscape. My home was located midway between the massive central fort and one of the "Quaker gun" emplacements shown in the Matthew Brady photographs.

1:50 PM  

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