About This Lesson
This lesson is based on the National Register of
Historic Places registration file for Decatur House (and photographs) and related materials prepared by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which preserves Decatur House as a historic house museum. It was written by Robin Fogg Schuldt, former Curator of Education for Decatur House Museum. TwHP is sponsored, in part, by the Cultural Resources Training Initiative and Parks as Classrooms programs of the National Park Service. This lesson is one in a series that brings the important stories of historic places into the classrooms across the country.
Where it fits into the curriculum
Topics: This lesson could be used in units on the early national period, including the War of 1812 and the growth of the federal city. It examines the life of Stephen Decatur, a naval hero who died as a result of a duel in 1820, and considers the role the house he built played in the political and social scene of the nation's capital up to the 20th century.
Time period: Early 19th century to early 20th century
Relevant United States History Standards for Grades 5-12
Relevant Curriculum Standards for Social Studies
Find your state's social studies and history standards for grades Pre-K-12
Objectives for students
1) To describe how Stephen Decatur acquired his wealth and influence to become a hero in his own time.
2) To examine the practice of dueling in early 19th-century America.
3) To explain the significant role the Decatur House and its residents played in the social and political life of Washington, D.C. during the 19th and 20th centuries.
4) To identify heroes in their own community and the places that represent their heroic deeds.
5) To examine the process of gaining access to politicians at the state and local level.
Materials for students
The materials listed below either can be used directly on the computer or can be printed out, photocopied, and distributed to students. The maps and images appear twice: in a low-resolution version with associated questions and alone in a larger, high-resolution version.
1) one map and drawing of Lafayette Park and its surroundings;
2) four readings that describe Stephen Decatur's rise to fame and fortune, his early death, and the subsequent history of the house he planned and built;
3) one historical painting and photo of Decatur House;
4) floor plans of Decatur House.
Visiting the site
Decatur House is a museum property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The house is located at 748 Jackson Place, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006. It is within easy walking distance of Farragut West and Farragut North Metro stations. The house is open Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 4 p.m. It is closed on Mondays, New Year's Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. For additional information,
visit the Decatur House web page.