George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 1 February 1790]

Monday 1st. Agreed on Saturday last to take Mr. McCombs House, lately occupied by the Minister of France for one year, from and after the first day of May next; and wd. go into it immediately, if Mr. Otto the present possesser could be accomodated and this day sent My Secretary to examine the rooms to see how my furniture cd. be adapted to the respective Apartments.

By the beginning of 1790 GW concluded that the house owned by Samuel Osgood which he had occupied since his arrival in New York City (see entry for 1 Oct. 1789) was no longer commodious enough to accommodate his family and staff and to maintain the dignity of the presidential office. In spite of the fact that it was expected that Congress might move the capital from New York City, GW decided to lease Alexander Macomb’s mansion at Nos. 39–41 Broadway. “It was one of a block of three houses erected in 1787 and was four stories and an attic high, with a width of fifty-six feet. From the rear of the main rooms glass doors opened onto a balcony giving an uninterrupted view of the Hudson River. On entering, one found a large hall with a continuous flight of stairs to the top of the house. On each side of the hall were spacious, high-ceilinged rooms, used for the levees and dinners and always referred to by Washington as ‘public rooms’” (DECATUR description begins Stephen Decatur, Jr. Private Affairs of George Washington: From the Records and Accounts of Tobias Lear, Esquire, his Secretary. Boston, 1933. description ends , 118, 148). Col. John May, who had visited the houses while they were still under construction in April 1788, noted “they are by far the grandest buildings I ever saw and are said to excel any on the continent. in one of the entry’s I travelld up 5 flights of stairs” (MAY description begins Dwight L. Smith, ed. The Western Journals of John May: Ohio Company Agent and Business Adventurer. Cincinnati, 1961. description ends , 28). The Macomb house had been occupied by the comte de Moustier and, after his departure for France, by Louis Guillaume Otto, chargé d’affaires of the French embassy. Otto had served in the United States since 1779, and after his return to France in 1792 he was in charge of the political division of the department of foreign affairs until he lost his position with the fall of the Girondist regime. On 2 Feb. GW paid Samuel Osgood £253 10s. “for 3 quarter’s Rent of the House & Tenements occupied by the President” and before he moved paid £665 16s. 6d. to purchase for the new house furniture and china left by Moustier (CtY: George Washington’s Household Accounts, 68–74). GW requested that some alterations and additions be made to outside buildings (see Tobias Lear to Alexander Macomb, 4 Feb. 1790, owned by Mr. Sol Feinstone, Washington Crossing, Pa.). Preparations continued throughout the month, and the presidential household moved to the new residence on 23 Feb.

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