Cutts-Madison House - Atlas Obscura

Cutts-Madison House

After James Madison's death, his wife and former First Lady Dolley Madison lived in this yellow building near the White House. 


Also known as Dolley Madison House, this colonial-style dwelling is best known as the home of former First Lady Dolley Madison between November 1839 and her death in July 1849.

The house was constructed in 1818-1819 by Richard Cutts, for himself and his wife, Anna Payne Cutts (Dolley Madison’s sister). It was considered one of the most “pretentious” houses in Washington, D.C. at the time.

In August 1828, the bank holding the mortgage on the house sold it to former President James Madison. Upon his death in 1836, he left the house to his wife, Dolley. Unable to afford to live elsewhere and maintain the home, Dolley moved into the house in 1837. She was also trying to manage Montpelier remotely, and moved there for a brief period, but had to sell that property in 1844.

Some time in 1845 or 1846, arsonists tried to burn down the house and Ms. Madison had to be awakened and rescued from the house by one of her servants. The fire caused only minimal damage.

Upon her death on July 12, 1849, she passed the house to her only child, John Payne Todd, and he sold the house to Rear Admiral Charles Wilkes in 1851. The house was home to numerous residents until ultimately being sold to the Cosmos Club in 1886. The Cosmos Club moved to a new location in 1952, and Cutts-Madison House was purchased by the government for use as offices. Today, it is ipart of the U.S. Courts complex.

Know Before You Go

The tan portion next to the yellow house is the addition built by the Cosmos Club after the bought the property.

Dolley Madison House was added to the National Register of Historic Places on August 29, 1970.

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March 8, 2024

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