Thomas Law House


Thomas Law House, 6th Street SW, Washington DC

Thomas Law House, 6th Street SW, Washington DC

–  Click on the image to enlarge or purchase  –

Thomas Law House

Washington D.C.’s Southwest neighborhood is best known for it’s iconic fish market, one of the few surviving open air seafood markets on the east coast of the US.  The Maine Avenue Fish Market, as it is officially known, is the oldest continuously operating fish market in the United States, seventeen years older than New York City’s Fulton Fish Market, having started in 1805.  For the story of the fish market, please see this article from Washingtonian Magazine – Washingtoniana: What’s With the Fish Market? – which gives the history behind the market and how it came to be located where it is.

D.C.’s Southwest neighborhood is now mainly full of 1950s and ’60s condos that were part of a push for urban renewal that swept the quadrant.  One of these, the Tiber Island Cooperative Homes, built in 1966, includes an important historic building as their community center: the Thomas Law House. The Federal style house was designed by William Lovering in 1794 for businessman Thomas Law and his bride Eliza Parke Custis, granddaughter of Martha Washington.

Early on it was known as “Honeymoon House”. Originally the house stood at the foot of Sixth Street overlooking the Potomac. Since then, time and engineers have changed the shoreline, so the house now sits farther from the water.
After the Laws’ time, the area around the house grew commercial.  During the Civil War the house became the Mt. Vernon Hotel, where guests saw Union troops embarking for the South from the busy Sixth Street wharf.  They also witnessed the arrival of stunning numbers of wounded soldiers.

“Quite often,” recorded poet Walt Whitman, “they arrive[d] at the rate of 1,000 a day”. Here President Lincoln greeted Union reinforcements arriving to defend the city’s Fort Stevens from Confederate attack in 1864.  At the war’s end, Washington’s own regiment of the U.S. Colored Troops marched triumphantly up Seventh Street to the cheers of well-wishers.

Around 1913 the Law House became the Washington Sanitarium’s Mission Hospital, ministering to the area’s working class and poor, black and white.  In 1923 Dr. Henry G. Hadley purchased the house to operate as a clinic.  According to Southwester Phyllis Martin, he “was a family doctor to all of the people of Southwest”, who frequently neglected to take payment for his services. In 1952 Hadley built Hadley Memorial Hospital in far Southwest, named to honor his mother. The Hadley Clinic closed in 1961 during urban renewal.

Today the house sits inconspicuously back from the Potomac and serves as the community center for the Tiber Island cooperative housing complex, which it abuts. The house is one of only a few from the era that survived the sweep of urban renewal that changed the face of the neighborhood 60 years ago.  Today the house is closed to the public, but sits on a grassy, accessible lawn that is steps from Southwest’s handful of shoreline restaurants and a brief walk from the fish market.

Thomas Law House, 6th Street SW, Washington DC

Thomas Law House, 6th Street SW, Washington DC

–  Click on the image to enlarge or purchase 

One of the best architectural features of the house is the wrought iron stairs to the elevated front door.  Although these stairs have seen better days and need some of the supports for the railings replaced, what is left still shows the great craftsmanship.  This entrance provides an insight into how visitors would have first seen the imposing house as they rode along the cobble-stoned drive to the front of the building.

Both of today’s images are from single raw files which have been processed three times in Lightroom 4.1 (-2.0, 0, +2.0 EV).  The three different versions were then combined in Nik HDR Efex-Pro.  The resultant file was then finished using OnOne Software’s Perfect Effects which I use through Photoshop CS6 rather than via the Lightroom Plug-in as it allows me greater control in combining the various effects.  To read more about how I use this combination of processing software, please see Green Barn with Stables.

Article Name
Thomas Law House
Federal style house was designed by in 1794 for businessman Thomas Law and his bride Eliza Parke Custis, granddaughter of Martha Washington.
Publisher Name
Mark Summerfield
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  1. Interesting history, Mark. Beautiful building and nice that it is still there. Great images also. I really like the composition and processing of your second shot.

  2. Wonderful and informative post Mark. That second image details, textures and leading line really rocks.

  3. great history and superb details you brought out here Mark, nice work!

  4. Both of these images are fantastic, Mark. Outstanding detail in the 2nd one and a beautiful scene in the 1st.

    As always, I enjoy reading the history of these old places and how they relate to today’s world. Nice write-up, man.

  5. Great shots Mark. I really love the shadows that are forming on the building from the trees. Beautifully processed.

  6. What a beautiful old building. I love the details you brought out in the second shot.

  7. WOW! I love the second image. Very well done and colorful. It’s very sharp as well.

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