Marietta House Museum - Atlas Obscura

Marietta House Museum

A historic Maryland home that once belonged to a man who has been called "the most insignificant" U.S. Supreme Court justice. 

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Marietta, built during the years 1812-1813, is an important example of a Federal-style brick house. It was the home of prominent politician and jurist Gabriel Duvall.

Duvall had a distinguished career as a representative in both the Maryland State Legislature and the U.S. Congress before being nominated to the Supreme Court by President James Madison. Scholars haven’t been particularly kind to Duvall. Debates involving choosing the most insignificant Supreme Court Justice still feature him as a leading candidate for the ignominious title.

Marietta was built on land that had been inhabited by the Piscataway Conoy Tribe long before Duvall’s arrival and a monument to that tribe stands on the property.

Duvall moved from Washington, D.C. to his new home after his lodgings in the district were destroyed during the War of 1812. 

The rich history of Marietta traces a path from the Federal Era and Antebellum years through the Civil War, Jim Crow, and Reconstruction periods up through the rise of the Civil Rights movement. The house and outbuildings sat on a 600-acre tobacco plantation, and the tour of the house and property provides deep insights into the lives of three generations of the Duvall family, and the indentured servants and enslaved people who lived and worked at Marietta.

Many structures that were once located on the property are no longer extant. These include the site where the slave quarters are believed to have stood, which is recognized as hallowed ground. In 2004, Marietta became part of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.

Today, in addition to the main house, two contemporary outbuildings are present: a brick law office and a stone and brick root cellar/harness storage room. The former home of the Prince George’s County Historical Society, Marietta is operated by the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

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