Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Bentley Property

Brookeville, Montgomery County, Maryland
Residence of Caleb and Henrietta Bentley, c. 1798-1819

Information:


Photo courtesy of Sandra Heiler.
Now known as the "Madison House," the Thomas-Bentley House was constructed in approximately 1798 by Richard Thomas Jr., the founder of the town of Brookeville, located in Montgomery County, Maryland.1 Later that year, Thomas sold the house and several surrounding lots on Market Street to Caleb Bentley.2  Because the Bentley property lines were determined before the town of Brookeville was laid out, the abnormal property shape encompasses lots 2 through 4, as well as parts of lots 31 through 34. 

Bentley served as the Postmaster of Brookeville from 1802 to 1815, and again from 1816 to 1818. During those times, the east wing of his house served as Brookeville's post office and general store.3 According to 1813 tax assessments, the property that the Madison house lies on was valued at $850, which was a considerably higher value than other houses in Brookeville, which were valued between $150 and $450.4 The house "is significant architecturally as a vernacular expression of the Federal style, although still in keeping with the Quaker tenet of simplicity embraced by" Richard Thomas Jr. and Caleb Bentley.5

By August of 1814, the War of 1812 had been ongoing for two years, and the British military presence in America was beginning to spread. On August 24, 1814, British troops captured Washington, DC and burned several important structures, including the Capitol and the White House, forcing President James Madison to flee the city. On the evening of August 26, Madison and his entourage arrived in Brookeville. There, he found refuge for himself and his entourage in Caleb Bentley's house and surrounding property, where they remained until the following morning. The events of that August night have since lent the popular "Madison House" title of Bentley's former home, and gave Brookeville the title of the "United States Capital for a day."6 After Madison's stay, Bentley continued to live in the home until 1819, when he sold it to Thomas L. Reese. (Image courtesy of Sandra Heiler)

Kyle Bacon, DAR Research Fellow, 2012

Notes:

  1. Catherine C. Lavoie, "Thomas-Bentley House (Madison House)," Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS No. MD-1375) Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 2011, p. 3. This record provides a comprehensive description of the Bentley property, as well as the founding of Brookeville.
  2. MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) 1797-1799, Liber H, pp. 116-117, Richard Thomas Jr. To Caleb Bentley, House in Brookeville [MSA CE 148-9].
  3. United States Postal Service. Postmaster Finder, Postmaster by City: Brookeville Post Office, Montgomery County Maryland; HABS Report p. 2.
  4. MONTGOMERY COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF THE TAX (Assessment Record), 1813 Tax Assessment (District 4), Lots and Houses in Brookeville, MdHR 20,115-3-1 [MSA C1110-3, 01/18/14/019]. The values stated in tax assessments do not necessarily represent true property values, and likely understate values significantly.
  5. Lavoie, HABS Report, p. 1.
  6. HABS Report, p. 5.

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