Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Announcing the First Quondam Washington Readers' Challenge: Who Was This Mysterious Georgetown Trio?

Can any of my readers help identify the trio and/or the house described in this wonderfully-romantic article from the Washington Post (April 29, 1888, pg. 9.)? Could its be the Sims House on M Street, here pictured?


Toward the upper part of Bridge Street, near the newly-finished bridge, stands a stately mansion of a long past style, from which the stucco has peeled away in places, leaving a staring surface of greenish-looking brickwork. The upper part of the house—the Taylor Mansion as it is called—is always closed from the front. Heavy blinds effectively shut out the light and the solid oaken doors are seldom opened.

A mysterious looking and non-talkative Negress is the only attendant, and by many of the conservative inhabitants of Georgetown, is considered the only occupant. There are other inmates, however, whose peculiar habits and mysterious ways have ever been a source of wonder to the average citizen of the burg across the creek.

Their names, it has been said, are Weston, but whence they came, how long they have lived in Georgetown, or who they are, no one seems to know. They are three in number. First, there is an ancient looking and sedate appearing gentleman, who looks as though he had just stepped from the pages of Cervantes. His pure white hair is fashioned in silvery curls about his head, and adorns a face of patrician outline that, though weak in character, is strengthened somewhat by a firm aquiline nose. The air of courtly grace that is suggested by every movement strikes on in harsh contrast to the quaint-looking garb he wears. One could better imagine him in the doublet and hose of a courtier. The other members of the household are equally striking. The daughter, wherever and whenever seen, is not easily forgotten. Attired always in a manner to attract attention by the oddity of her style, she is rendered even more striking by the voluminous mass of thick hanging curls that fall about her head and upon her shoulders. In winter she dresses invariably in white, flimsy material and in summer in furs. These two, the father and daughter, are often seen upon the streets of Georgetown, but their habits are so exclusive that few of the inhabitants have ever spoken to them. Their accent is decidedly foreign and has given rise to many strange rumors about their origin.

As they walk the streets, one may hear the passers by exclaim, “There goes the Countess,” or “There is the Spanish exile,” these remarks being occasioned by the stories in vogue concerning them.


One is that the old gentleman once held a proud position among the nobles of Spain, but receiving a slight from the king, he organized a force of insurgents and was about to proceed against his ruler when the plot was discovered, and barely escaping with his life, he fled to America. Another is that the daughter was at one time a woman of such remarkable beauty that in Italy, the land of her birth, she was famed far and wide. The stories of her beauty coming to the ears of a noble high in power, he contrived to meet her and at once he became wildly enamoured of her charms. His regard was reciprocated, but upon learning that his daughter’s suitor was already married, the distracted father, taking his wife and daughter, left his sunny clime, resolved to spend the rest of his days in an alien country. The inside of the house has been seen by but a few Georgetownians besides the attendant, the circumstances being as romantic as the rest of this history.

One evening late in June, four Georgetown youths returning from a fishing expedition to the Great Falls happened to be going along Bridge Street past the Taylor Mansion when the sound of music from the balcony of the house attracted their attention. Just below this balcony is a handsome flower garden, and the soft perfume of the many flowering plants was borne upon the air. Seated in the balcony mentioned was the daughter arrayed in a pure white garment of aesthetic Greek cut, while her fingers strayed softly over the strings of a guitar or mandolin. A soft soprano voice was raised in a song of superb tenderness. As she finished, a hush fell upon the young men.

“Spanish, isn’t it?” said one.

“No, Italian,” said another.

No one really knew, and no one knows yet.

“I am going to see inside of that place,” said one of the party, and as he made the remark, there was a slight noise, and on looking up the balcony was found vacant.

A few minutes later, the party crept over the railing and by a dint of considerable exertion, climbed upon the balcony. A light shone out through the crevices, and on looking through into the room beyond a strange sight met their eyes. Seated in a large throne chair, with rich purple hangings, was an elderly woman, one whose broad white clustering ringlets fell in such rich profusion, but whose eyes had a vacant unmeaning stare.

At her feet sat the daughter, still playing on the same soft instrument, while the old patrician sat near her with his head buried in his hands.

The light of a shaded lamp cast a shadow upon the sad scene, which so surprised the adventurous youths that they cautiously withdrew, and it was long before they would speak of their strange adventure.

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